[AFRICAN AMERICANA] [DETROIT NURSERY SCHOOL]. Archive of 45 original photographs depicting an important childcare center in Inner-City Detroit (early 1970s)
Detroit: early 1970s. Collection of 45 vintage borderless vernacular photographs, of which 41 photographs measure 5 x 4 inches, and four measure 3.5 x 3.5 inches. Near Fine., preserved in a modern black photo-album (PVC / acid emissions free). Item #3784
A significant collection of vernacular photographs documenting a Black-owned daycare in Inner-City Detroit in the early 1970s. Founded by Earlene and Ernest Morris, the of the Morris Child Development Center for Infants and Toddlers was located in the historically African-American neighborhood of Bagley in Detroit (today 94% of Bagley residents are African-American). Upon its inception in 1965, the Center was the ONLY daycare in the state of Michigan to be licensed to care for infants and toddlers. That the Center survived (and flourished) was a major achievement for its owners; furthermore, it afforded neighborhood mothers the opportunity to work or go to school in hopes of someday realizing their own personal goals. Finally, the Center served as a meeting place for community activists in the late 60s and 70s (see: "Down Through the Years: The Memoirs of Detroit City Council President Emeritus Erma Henderson," 2004, pp. 137-138).
The photographs document both the daily operations of the center as well as special events, including several photographs of the center's graduation ceremony and a special "Father of the Year" award presentation for the fathers of the "graduating class." Herein we see Black (and one white) children, nursery-school teachers (two are white), cheerful policemen at one of the Center's parties, snappy dressed men in polyester suits, 70s wallpaper and shag carpeting, wood-veneer panelling and ceiling tiles. The collection illustrates the Morris's justifiable pride in their achievement, and the enthusiastic support of their immediate community, and yet the viewer of today is compelled to acknowledge the loss of such promise during Detroit's alarming decline through the 1970s, when it was repeatedly named the "arson capital of America" and the "murder capital of America."
By contrast, the present album conveys optimism -- and hope -- in the future through the development of neighborhood children. One of the photographs shows two women in pants-suits, smiling and pointing at the front of the Center which appears to have a new awning. The address on the awning reads 18001 Wyoming, but the number above the door is 18049 Building Three. This is the building that became Rendezvous African Restaurant (18079 Wyoming) which is now boarded-up. Indeed, most of the buildings on that side of the street have either been abandoned or razed. Although it closed permanently in 2005, the legacy of the Morris Child Development Center remains in the form of two smaller daycare centers separated by a vacant lot: Play'Cafe and Rachel's Daycare and Learning (respectively 18001 and 18025 Wyoming).
A fascinating collection of vernacular photographs of a Black-owned business that served an important role in the community of Bagley.