Erb Foundation commits $5M to relocate important civil rights site from Selma to Greenfield Village

What’s happening: A humble house in Selma, Alabama has hosted some pretty remarkable and famous visitors in its time, and now it’s the house itself that is making news.

The news: The Jackson House once provided shelter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his allies throughout the tumultuous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965, and now The Henry Ford is planning to move the house from Alabama to its Dearborn, Michigan campus. A recently announced $5 million grant from The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation will help them do just that.

Shelter from the storm: The home in question was that of Dr. and Mrs. Sullivan Jackson, who welcomed Dr. King and his colleagues during the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s. Dr. King used the home as a safe haven and command center, of sorts, where he and his fellow activists planned the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965. Those three marches were organized to protest the institutional racism that blocked Black citizens’ right to vote in the Jim Crow South.

Pain, progress: The marches were marked by violent attacks from counter-protesters, and four activists were murdered in the days before and after the marches; the marches are also considered a turning point in the struggle for civil rights that led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. One of those killed was Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit activist who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while driving from Montgomery to Selma. A memorial monument honoring her and others’ sacrifices was recently unveiled at her namesake park on Detroit’s westside.

[Related: Read “Community celebrates unveiling of civil rights memorial monument, honoring sacrifice and friendship” on Model D.]

What’s planned: The Henry Ford will relocate the Jackson House from Selma to the Greenfield Village outdoor museum in Dearborn. It’s expected that the building will be disassembled and moved this fall, and will be reassembled and renovated before being permanently installed at Greenfield Village, and presented with educational programming, come 2026.

How it’s happening: The Jackson family’s only child, Jawana Jackson, can be credited with getting the house rolling, as it were, when she reached out to The Henry Ford in 2022 with the request that the organization place it on their Greenfield Village campus. The home was acquired by The Henry Ford earlier this year. And on Monday, Oct. 2, The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation announced a $5 million commitment in support of the project.

What they’re saying: “We believe this project comes at a time that resonates all too much with what our parents witnessed in the 60s, as our country is experiencing increasing efforts to erase Black history and the contributions that Black Americans, like those of the Jackson family and other civil rights activists,” John Erb, the Foundation’s president and chair. “My parents would be so proud to see the Foundation helping to uplift these stories and inspire a better and stronger future for this generation and ones to come.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.