The importance of Black history in Grosse Pointe


Julia Roeder '25

RESTRICTING Photo of a restrictive covenants that kept people of color out of Grosse Pointe.

Julia Roeder '25, Page Editor

As someone who has grown up in Grosse Pointe, I have often wondered why the differences between Grosse Pointe and Detroit are so stark. According to the 2020 census, Grosse Pointe’s population is 90 percent white, and Detroit’s is 77 percent Black. These statistics left me wondering why Grosse Pointe is so different from Detroit, neighbor.

Last summer, the previous owners of my family’s 1922 Grosse Pointe Park home dropped off the original deed. The deed was written in November 1920 and was filed with Wayne County in preparation for the house’s construction in 1922. A restrictive covenant in the deed states that it “…shall never be sold to or used by any person or persons other than those of the Caucasian race…”. The intent behind this discriminatory policy was created to stop any persons of color from building a life in Grosse Pointe. The deed also contained restrictions on the minimum amount of money you could spend constructing a house within each block of the neighborhood. These guidelines were put in place to uphold the standards and status of the community.

As a student who has lived here for the majority of their life, I have realized that I never fully understood the history of Grosse Pointe. It is acceptable to uphold community standards by demanding the construction of nicer homes, however, it is not acceptable to uphold community standards by excluding anyone based on their race or religion; this inherently says that only white people are of a high standard. Although restrictive covenants were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1948, other tactics like redlining and real estate practices were used to keep neighborhoods, like Grosse Pointe, all white for many decades afterwards. I don’t think restrictive covenants explain all of the differences between GP and Detroit, there are many reasons, but restrictive covenants are an important part of our past that we should be aware of and provide us with at least one piece to this complex puzzle.