Happy belated Independence Day! Here in Ann Arbor we just finished our Summer Fest and had our Fourth of July parade, both of which mean summer vacation is about 33% over. Ugh!

On a positive note, I led my fourth SOLD OUT downtown Ann Arbor history tour! I am endlessly grateful to be able to do this.

One of the stops I added this time around was at the corner of Division and Huron where the old Ann Arbor News Building is now but where there once was Presbyterian church.


Look how pretty! I would guess that photo is from the early 40s maybe? The building is from 1936.

One century before the News Building was finished, an extremely important meeting was held at the Presbyterian Church on the site. Over 70 people gathered for the first meeting of the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society at which they passed 14 anti-slavery resolutions.

One of the attendees of the meeting was Guy Beckley, who lived at 1425 Pontiac Trail (the house still stands today! You could buy me this house, please and thank you? Would so appreciate!). He soon became the publisher of the Signal of Liberty which quickly became the leading abolitionist newspaper in the state (if not the region). Signal was not the first abolitionist paper–that honor belonged to The Freeman out of Jackson–but man! These people were AWESOME! A truly hearty bunch. They were not here to play with you and they laid it out pretty clearly–slavery is bullshit. They perhaps did not say it quite so bluntly but the sentiment was clear. They also pointed out that, you know, owning people was not a terribly Christian thing to do, just sayin’.

They also printed other news of the day, including this description of Independence Day fun in Dexter! Free train rides were given! Woot. The highlight seems to be Reverand Davis who, like his abolitionist friends, was not there to play with you. He was not there to play with slaveowners, or this so-called “land of the free” (which included one slave for every free person and he ESPECIALLY was not there to play with Congress, who he described–and I quote–as containing members who were “gamblers, duellists, sabbath-breakers, fist-fighters, horse-racers…profane-swearers” in addition to, you know, owning other human beings.

There was also some event in Ann Arbor where Sabbath School kids marched from church to church, and then a lawyer and a preacher spoke. The ladies were given a shout out for providing food, drink and merriment to this event as they do to every event. Then…the writer talks about last Independence Day where he was at an event where slaves waited on children. OMG WHAT?!?! The writer points out that slaves were forced to hand out food and drink on Independence Day and that’s totally f’d up but one day he hopes we are all equal. So, thanks dude but seriously, where were you?? Because you were not in Ann Arbor, son.

Anyway, that’s what was happening on July 7, 1841.


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