Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 30, 2016, pg. 14
The month of November marks a special 100th anniversary. The "modern" black history era in Albion began in November, 1916, when the Albion Malleable Iron Company began recruiting workers from the South to work in the plant. The pay rate was 20˘ an hour. The first group consisted of 64 men who had been recruited from Pensacola, Florida. These included men such as James Hawkins, Sr., William Beck, and James Wilson. They arrived here by train. On their first night, twelve of them slept in the same single room in a boarding house on Culver St. Others later came from Jeffersonville, Georgia and other southern communities.
The Albion Recorder announced in its November 17, 1916 issue, "This city is rapidly acquiring a large colored population. Many Negroes are coming to Albion to work in the factories. Foreign labor is almost impossible to get as there is practically no immigration to the U.S. of men from the European countries now at war. The local colored settlement will be centered around Gale and Culver Sts., near the Gale plant, and most of the houses in that vicinity have been rented to the newcomers. Arza L. McCutcheon [(1856-1920) a white realtor], who has rented most of the residences there, said today that Albion would have a Negro population of close to 500 within the next few weeks."
The small houses in that vicinity served as the homes where numerous black families grew up in Albion. Some were still inhabited when the Urban Renewal projects of the 1960s resulted in their demolition. Nearby was the West Ward School, where neighborhood black children went to elementary school until the school was closed in 1953. Local black churches were also established, as well as the Booker T. Washington Association.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present the cover of my book "Albion in Review" which illustrates a portion of the 1927 Emancipation Day panoramic photograph. This features Albion’s black population at the time, many of whom were recruited to work at the Albion Malleable Iron Company, and their descendants. The man in the center is William Beck. The entire photograph is published in this book and includes identifications of most of the people in it! This book would make a great Christmas or birthday gift, and is available from yours truly. Contact me at (517) 629-5402, or Albionfp@hotmail.com to make arrangements if you would like to purchase a copy.
By the way, there are also descendants of the Malleable recruiter Montford Murray living today in Albion, likewise. For further reading, you can read interesting tidbits of information about early local black history in my Riverside Cemetery Tour booklet, "An Ethnic Tour of Riverside Cemetery, Part 3," published in 2004. I also have copies of this available. How many of our readers can trace their ancestors back to the original 64 men who arrived in Albion on that original train in November, 1916, 100 years ago?
Cover of Albion in Review
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic