AUTHOR: Detroit Black Writers Guild
design: Herbert Metoyer
Produced by Cane River Media
Price $35.00 + ($5.00 Shipping & Handling)
DESCRIPTION: Hardback with colorful dust jacket. A photo album
poetry book of Black Detroit from the 1930s to 1950s when "Paradise
Valley" was one of the most prosperous Black business and entertainment districts in
the country. This poetry book takes a nostalgic look back into Detroits past at a
time when showgirls, tap dancers, and jazz greats took center stage. This book features
more than 200 timeless photographs and the work of 56 poets.
Publishers COMMENT: This book is destined to become a classic
and should be in every library and on the coffee table of every American home.
Browsing this book gives you a warm fuzzy feeling and leaves you with a comfortable sense
of well being.
In the Free Press on Friday, youll get a glimpse of an amazing new book,
"Paradise Valley Days"
. Ive had an advance look at this
historical treasure. Between more than 200 historical photos and the lyrical words of 56
Detroit poets and writers, one can
hear, smell, and feel paradise Valley and sense the
times. (Detroit Free Press, Tuesday July 21, 1998)
- A new book on Detroits Paradise Valley captures a time of star-studded
music-making and round-the-clock revelry. This is a two page article with photographs of
the editors (Detroit Free Press, Friday, July 24, 1998).
- "Paradise" revives Black Mecca. Writers Guild compiles memorable
book of photos.
By the 1960s, urban renewal projects and the Chrysler Freeway
destroyed the neighborhood that was once filled with black-owned businesses, clubs, and
hotels. Today the rich memories of a paradise lost live on in Paradise Valley Days, a new
book by the Detroit Black Writers Guild (Book review, 2/3 of a page, Detroit News,
Wednesday, February 17, 1999 and Friday, February 19, 1999)
- Paradise Valley, Southfield author (Herbert Metoyer) chronicles birth of Detroits Black cultural
pulse. (Article is 1/3 of the front page. Southfield Eccentric, Thursday, February 18,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Section I The Journey. (Photographs and poetry depicting the
great migration of Blacks to the North.)
- Section II Their Destination. (Photographs of the neighborhood
augmented by poetry. Includes article, "The Great Black Strip" by Toni Jones,
reprint, Detroit Free Press January 7, 1973.)
- Section III The People. (Photographs of some of the people who
lived during that time.)
- Section IV The Entertainers. (Beautiful photographs of
showgirls, comedians and musicians. Contains a story written by one of the entertainers.)
- Section V Military/Sports. (Old soldiers and sports figures like
Joe Louis. Includes an article about a Tuskegee Airman who was shot down during World War
II and captured by a German Officer who spoke fondly of his adventures in Paradise Valley
while attending The University of Michigan.)
- Section VI The Struggle. (Covers the race riot of 1943 and other
items related to the struggle against oppression.)
- Section VII The Legacy. (Priceless photographs of some of the
old buildings that were once part of the "Valley". They were taken just weeks
before the area was cleared in 1998 to make way for Detroits new Stadium complex.)
Peggy A. Moore
In its heyday, back in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Paradise Valley, a
Black Mecca that was located on the lower east side of Detroit, dazzled and attracted more
weekend visitors to her door step than did Greek Town or China Town during the same
Paradise Valley came of age during the height of segregation in Detroit. Legal
"Deed Restrictions" prohibited a Negro from renting or owning property in all
but the most wretched parts of the city all on the lower east side. Back then, a
Negro could be thrown in jail for being caught in any area west of Woodward Avenue.
It was in this climate that Negro businessmen like Charles Roxbourgh, Irvine Rhone,
John White, and others took a somewhat condemned area bounded by Gratiot, Vernor, Brush,
and Hastings and carved out "Paradise Valley."
At that time, Negroes had no political power. No one that looked like them was allowed
to sit in the mayors office or hold a seat on the "Common Council." For
this reason, the citizens of Paradise Valley got together, erected their own City Hall,
and elected Roy Lightfoot as their first mayor.
Did you know that before integration came to Detroit, Paradise Valley actually had more
Negroes in business than any other city in the country?
This was due largely to the fact that Negroes who worked for the automobile industry
earned fairly decent wages and they had a lot of money to spend. There were also many
Railroad Porters who called Detroit their home, and they, too, were well paid.
As a result, businesses flourished. On St. Antoine Street there was Watson Realty
Co., Donald F. White Architect, Longs Cut-Rate Drug Store, Law Offices of
Lewis-Rowlette-Brown; Biddys Chicken Shack; Wilsons Modern Laundry; Wayne
County Better Homes; Pekin Restaurant; Biltmore Hotel; Modern Barber Shop; The Pryor
Hotel, and many others. By the way, most of the businesses used Richard Austin, who later
became Secretary of State for Michigan, as their accountant.
All of these businesses were solvent, meaning that they operated profitably. And while
all black businesses had to put their money in white-owned banks, none of the banks in the
city at that time would hire a black in any position except that of a janitor.
On weekends, especially during the summer months, taxis ran almost non-stop between the
train and bus stations transporting travelers and visitors into the city. Some to visit
friends and family, and others who came just to relax and have a good time. A great
majority of the visitors came from the south to get a taste of big city life.
At night, cocktail lounges, dance halls, showbars, and restaurants all came alive with
dazzling lights, swing bands, sultry singers, dancers doing the Black Bottom,
Jitterbug, or Hulley Gulley, and jazz and blues artist all on center stage. It
was a time for "Zoot Suits," long watch chains, and wide brimmed Stetson
In many ways, Paradise Valley was not unlike Harlem in New York. No Negro musician
worth the salt in his bread would ever think of coming to Detroit City without
visiting the "Valley." And it was there that you would find giants like Duke
Ellington, Jimmy Lunceford, Lionel Hampton, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, McKinneys
Cotton Pickers, Louis Armstrong, and all the other Hep Cats....Paradise
Like an unassuming lady
abducted and vaguely abject
She stands at the crossroads of the city;
wheedling winds attack her back
And on her cold shoulders
chattering brown birds and gulls relax.
Unblinking like a peculiar marble statue
shes bathed in soft velvets of twilight
Winking street lights splash colors rhythmically
on roofs of speeding vehicles on the go.
And on damp asphalt her sober, expressionless face
seems to assume an absorbing glow.
Her fiber, capricious breezes cannot whisk away,
like submissive leaves that fall at her feet and soon decay.
Her spirit struggles through broken branches and objectively hovers
over the wild flowers that dress her jagged pathway.
Gilded messages scribbled on her crumbling walls
render lucid clues and hints
of the essence of her yolk
belated... and bemused.
© 1997 James Neal Ware
The Great Black Strip
Before the freeways were built, even before the riot of 43, there was a
strip in Detroit called Paradise Valley, and it was swinging all night long...
By TONI JONES
Free Press Staff Writer
Count Basies band wailed "After Hours" thinly from the juke box, but
the small gathering in the Garfield Lounge of the Randora Hotel hardly heard. The faces
and clothes were 1972, different. Drinks
were more expensive. And the music didnt
croon live and bittersweet as it did 30 years ago. Gone were the handsome, smooth talking
sporting men dressed in Al Capone suits with money in their pockets and beautiful women on
their sleeves. Gone too were the big bands, the long shiny chauffeur-driven limousines,
the high-ceilinged dance halls with their crystal chandeliers and the chorus girls in
puffed sleeved satin dresses with low cut backs, floppy brimmed hats and cigarette
The Randora Lounge at 98 Garfield now comprises almost all thats
left to suggest the frenzied night life and the people who made this part of Black Bottom
distinctly and uniquely Paradise Valley. The valley burgeoned in the early 30s along
and around Adams and St. Antione shortly before, after and some because of
the legalization of whiskey in 1933.
These are my bags
I carry my dreams
My hatred, my nightmares
Stuffed and folded
Stacked, and twisted, and crushed.
My bags are my fate
Holding dreams upon dreams
Defeat, honor, and love stuffed in between.
A bag of dreams dragged upon my feet
Buffed up, then layered down
A bag of love held close to my heart
Crushed, torn into bits
Wet with tears
With fragments of kisses
Touches of love
Unforgiving and cheated.
A bag for the nighttime
Full of fear
Loneliness and hunger
A remembrance of your smile
To be needed, shared, and loved.
Their heaviness covers my soul
They guide my destiny
They will never leave me
But you did....
© 1994 Evelyn L. Rhodes.