New Episode 16: Slavery in Detroit

Detroit has historically been seen as the last station on the Underground Railroad yet some of its most noted residents including merchants, priests and illustrious names like Brush and Macomb belonged to slaveowners.  Digging Detroit meets Prof. Tiya Miles of the University of Michigan and her team of  students uncover a history of the colonial city that few remember or care to admit.

(Watch directly on YouTube)


Elizabeth Denison Forth, former slave and Detroit landowner and philanthropist

Elizabeth Denison Forth, former slave and Detroit landowner and philanthropist

But with the past comes inspiration from Elizabeth Dennison Forth, a former slave who became a wealthy businesswoman and landowner–whose homestead is now a parking lot.  Prof. Miles takes her students on a tour of the former frontier town.



Prof. Tiya Miles with host Pete Kalinski

Topics also include:

  • Assembling a team at U of M
  • Painstaking research, translation and transcription
  • Revolutionary War Detroit slaveowners
  • Primary roles of slaves including concubines
  • Loaning slaves
  • Using Google Maps to recreate slavery in Detroit
  • Importance in addressing Detroit’s past as a slave-city.


Graduate student Michelle Cassidy and Elizabeth James



Michelle Cassidy, Elizabeth James, Emily Macgillivray (graduate student), Prof. Tiya Miles and Pete Kalinski



  • Host:  Pete Kalinski
  • Guests:  Prof. Tiya Miles, Elizabeth James, Michelle Cassidy and Emily Macgillivray
  • Narrator:  Patrice K. Walsh
  • Directed/Camera/Edited by:  Kevin Walsh
  • Producers:  Pete Kalinski, Thomas J. Reed, Jr., Kevin Walsh
  • Additional Video footage courtesy of:  University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts
  • Special thanks to:  Katie Barkell, Patrice K. Walsh
  • Additional Photos Courtesy of The Burton Historical Collection, The Detroit Public Library
  • Music:  “Rise and Fall” and “Gone” by Ignatz 


  • YouTube episode:


Posted in Abolitionism, Colonial Detroit, Detroit History, Native Americans, Slavery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .