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AACHM Oral History: Hortense Howard

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 3:30pm

Hortense Howard was born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1927. Soon afterwards, her family moved to Ann Arbor, where she and her sisters became known as the “Bacon Sisters” for their choral performances at sorority houses and other venues. Ms. Howard attended a music school in Detroit because she “wanted to sing like Sarah Vaughan,” and she met many African American singers while working at the Gotham Hotel. She ran her own daycare, Sitters Unlimited Family Day Care, in Ann Arbor for twenty years.

Ann Street Black Business District

For most of the twentieth century, the 100 block of East Ann Street was a hub for black-owned businesses in downtown Ann Arbor. A rotating set of barber shops, shoe shine parlors, dry cleaners, restaurants, blues bars, and pool rooms formed the backbone of black social life, especially for men. The district stretched around the corner onto North Fourth Avenue where the Colored Welfare League housed black-owned businesses and community organizations such as the early Dunbar Center.