From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Migration to Kentucky District of Detroit, MI

(start date: 1860  -  end date: 1950) 

Beginning in 1860, the majority of the African American population that had migrated to Detroit lived on the eastside of the city. A large number of the residents had been born in Kentucky, so a portion of the eastside became known as the Kentucky District. In addition, according to author B. R. Leashore, in 1860 almost two-thirds of the African American females living as domestics with white families were also from Kentucky.

By 1910, those who could afford better housing left the overcrowded district and moved north of Kentucky Street to a middle-class area. The poorer African Americans and Polish residents were left in the Kentucky District, located on Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois Streets between St. Antoine and Hastings. The streets did not extend to the thoroughfare that led to the more illustrious neighborhoods until the 1950s.

The Kentucky District had the worst housing and sanitation in Detroit, and the area was filled with saloons, prostitution houses, and alley vice. The more desperate families had built old sheds or moved stables into the alleys that had been service-ways to the stables and used for the removal of ashes, trash, and garbage. A school was built in the area so that the nearby schools would not be integrated with the children from the Kentucky District.

For more see B. R. Leashore, "Black female workers: live-in domestics in Detroit, Michigan, 1860-1880," Phylon, vol. 45, issue 2, (2nd Qtr., 1984), pp. 111-120; Before the Ghetto, by D. M. Katzman; and Residential Mobility of Negroes in Detroit 1837-1965, by D. R. Deskins, Jr.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Phylon (periodical)
NKAA Source: Before the ghetto; black Detroit in the nineteenth century
NKAA Source: Residential mobility of Negroes in Detroit, 1837-1965

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Migration to Kentucky District of Detroit, MI,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 14, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-11-18 17:47:36