NOTICE: All KPL locations will be closed on Monday, July 4th, in observance of Independence Day.

Black History

African American Churches

List includes both active and inactive congregations Ministerial Alliance of Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1969 Allen Chapel A.M.E., founded in 1855 Bible Baptist Church, founded in 1968 First United Baptist Church, founded…

Afro-American Journal and Directory

Rev. John L. Davis, c.1894 Published by Rev. John L. Davis of Kalamazoo, this 48-page Afro-American Journal and Directory was printed by The Kalamazoo Publishing Company in 1894 to celebrate and…

Albert White

Albert White was an African American building contractor who lived and worked in Kalamazoo from the 1870s until his death in 1930. He and his men helped build a number of well known structures in Kalamazoo history.

Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church

Early Years Founded in 1855 by a handful of members, the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church is the oldest black church in Kalamazoo. Prior to 1855, members met for prayer meetings…

Baseball in Kalamazoo: Black Teams

From as early as 1877 or before, Kalamazoo’s leading African American baseball players were forming independent teams and successfully squaring off against other local and regional clubs, both white and black...

Black Arts Festival

“The Black Arts Festival is founded on the belief that Black Awareness should be an integral part of our society. Through artistic expression we help promote the essence of our…

Black Lives Matter Street Mural

Photo credit: Fritz Klug You likely have seen the beautiful Black Lives Matter street mural on Rose Street between South and Lovell. But do you know the amazing story of…

Bradley, Gilbert H., Jr.

“Gil has something unique to offer our community. During his ten years as a resident of Kalamazoo, he has been a student, factory worker, union member, teacher, social worker, and…

Council Hawes Jr. and The Pacific Club

In 1946, after returning from military service in World War II, Council Hawes Jr. (1910-1982) managed The Pacific Club (aka The Pacific Inn), a restaurant, bar, entertainment venue, and residence…

Douglass Community Association

The Douglass Community Association was a byproduct of the First World War. Camp Custer was home to large numbers of mobilized troops, both during the war and in the immediate years that followed. These men needed something to do in their downtime...

Dr. C. Allen Alexander

Photo by Don Rice Born in 1900, Cornelius Allen Alexander became one of Kalamazoo’s most beloved citizens by the time he passed away at his Richland home in 1995. Known…

Enoch and Deborah Harris

Among the earliest pioneers in Oshtemo Township were Enoch Harris and his family, the first black settlers in Kalamazoo County. They arrived in Michigan from Marion County, Ohio, in approximately 1830, bringing with them seed from which they ...

Mary Mace Spradling

Mary Mace Spradling, Martin Cohen, Shirley Miller. Undated Photo from KPL Archives The following text is taken from a brochure printed for the dedication ceremony of the Mary Mace Spradling…

Northside Neighborhood

There is a book waiting to be written about Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood, however no sketch of this length can do justice to its rich, complex and fascinating history. The current boundaries of the neighborhood run from Douglas Avenue...

Pauline Byrd Johnson

Pauline Byrd Johnson was many things: an outspoken critic of forced desegregation policies, an active member of the Kalamazoo Republican Party, a tireless advocate for the value of education, and…

Phillips Brothers

Of all the dance orchestras and concert ensembles that Kalamazoo produced during the 19th century, the Phillips Brothers’ Orchestra was among the busiest… and perhaps the best. Five talented violinists; Joseph, Joshua, Sylvester, Albert and Gilmore..

Underground Railroad in Kalamazoo

More than three million African-Americans lived as slaves in the Southern United States in the mid-1800s. They had few human rights and were regularly bought and sold at auction. Whole…

Van Avery Drug Store Protest

By 1963, the post-World War II fervor for civil rights, which had begun several years earlier in southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, had reached northern states like Michigan, where…

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