CBC: Researcher looks to remap Windsor's McDougall Street Corridor to preserve area's Black history

Originally posted by CBC News.

Research student Willow Key is looking to document the Black history of Windsor's McDougall Street Corridor by speaking with the area's former residents.

In her University of Windsor research project, We Were Here: Recovering the Stories of Windsor's McDougall Street Corridor, Key hopes to remap what the Black neighbourhood was like in terms of the people who lived there, businesses, schools and churches.

The McDougall Street Corridor includes the region from Goyeau Street to Highland Avenue in between Pitt Street East and Giles Boulevard East.

Key told CBC News that a redevelopment plan launched by the City of Windsor in the 1950s led to the breakdown of the community, pushing out Black homeowners and businesses.

"There's a lot of unresolved emotion over this situation for members of the Black community,"says Key, whose education specializes in Black history.

"People really didn't get a say in what happened with the urban redevelopment plan and so you had people who lost homes and businesses and really didn't have any agency in what happened."

She says the project aims to give them a space to share their story and highlight how detrimental these sorts of modernization plans were in Canadian cities.

But Key also hopes that by recreating the neighbourhood, she'll be able to emphasize its importance to the public.

"It's a really unique aspect of Canadian history, especially here in southwestern Ontario. Windsor was in many ways the gateway to Canada, to opportunities, to freedom in many cases for men and women who were enslaved in the United States or men and women who were considered free people of colour," Key said.

While there are some plaques and statues that point to the history of the area, Key says there isn't nearly enough to let visitors know what the corridor meant to people.

Key is eager to hear personal stories because her family has its own ties to the area.

"My family is originally from Windsor-Essex area ... my father's side of the family they came to Canada, some of them as free people of colour and other members as escaped enslaved men and women. Some of them did reside in this area of downtown Windsor," she said.

Interviews are expected to begin Oct. 18 and last until April 2022. They will be a mix of online video chats, phone calls and in-person meetings, Key said.

The project is being overseen by the University of Windsor's digital scholarship librarian Heidi Jacobs and president of The Essex County Black Historical Research Society, Irene Moore Davis.

The university's anti-black racism student leadership experience grant is being used to fund the project.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Original post can be found here.