Sarah Elizabeth Ray was a Civil Rights activist who filed a successful discrimination case after the SS Columbia, a steamboat that carried passengers to Detroit's Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park, ejected her on the basis of race. Her 1948 case was eventually decided in Ray’s favor by the U.S. Supreme Court and was an important precursor to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down the doctrine of separate but equal educational facilities in 1954. Following the violent confrontations between Black residents and the city’s police department in the summer of 1967 in Detroit, Ray and her husband opened a community center called Action House to stabilize the neighborhood, promote racial tolerance, and enrich the lives of local children.
In 2006, Ray died in near anonymity, and the home where she lived has since sat abandoned on Detroit’s east side. Inside, her personal photographs and letters still lie masquerading as garbage. Her house needs to be saved and her legacy preserved.
In 2020, the Sarah Elizabeth Ray Project brought the home to the city’s attention, and it was removed from the demolition list. Since then, the property has been tied up in legal red tape. Another year has passed without progress on extracting Ray’s personal effects, books, and photos.
Sign your name to encourage local decision-makers to assist preservation-minded stewards to protect the house and its contents from further decay.
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