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Dunbar Center


Friday February 8, 2019: 9:00am to Thursday March 28, 2019: 9:00pm


Downtown Library: 2nd Floor Exhibit


In February 1923, the Dunbar Civic Center first opened in a space rented from the Colored Welfare League in the Kayser Block at 209 N Fourth Ave.  The purpose of the organization, named for black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, was at first to assist black workmen and students in finding housing in the still very racially segregated Ann Arbor.  This mission morphed as the Dunbar Center changed locations, and it wasn't long before it became one of the hubs of social life for Ann Arbor's black community.

Though the Center started in the Kayser Block and shortly moved to a location on Catherine St, there is one locale of theDunbar Center that looms largest in people's hearts and memories:  420 N Fourth Ave, its home from 1937 to 1960.  It was in this building that the Dunbar Center was host to teen dances, a library, music groups, tutoring, meetings, and all manner of other social events.  Ann Arbor's black community gathered at the Dunbar Center in times of celebration and mourning, often building relationships that would last them the rest of their lives.  Many in Ann Arbor still have fond memories of their time as children under the Dunbar Center's roof.

One of the Dunbar Center's greatest strengths was its ability to evolve to respond to community needs.  By the 1960s it had assumed the name "Ann Arbor Community Center", moved into a new home at 625 N Main St, and expanded its reach to the entire populace while continuing to be the heart of the city's black community.  The AACC identified needs and responded to them, creating a daycare, summer camps, and educational programs.  As it continues today to provide community services and host activities, its mission remains true to the spirit that made the Dunbar Center such a crucial part of Ann Arbor life through much of the twentieth century.

To learn more about the Dunbar Center, visit