The Detroit Eight Mile Wall was constructed in 1941. It was built with a simple purpose: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood. Standing 6 feet high and 1 foot thick, the wall extends a half-mile south from 8 Mile Road to Pembroke Avenue through the backyards of houses along Birwood and Mendota Streets.
For some people, it’s simply “The Wall,” and for others, it is called “Detroit’s Wailing Wall.” Many other residents like the name the “Birwood Wall,” because it refers to the street and sounds like the “Berlin Wall.”
In 2006, community activists and residents of Detroit collaborated to change the appearance of the wall. Parts of the wall was painted with neighborhood children blowing bubbles, cappella singers, and Rosa Parks’s boarding the bus. It’s difficult to follow the wall completely parts of it disappears behind homes and in other areas overgrown vegetation covers it. There are some areas marred by graffiti.
Through the years, Detroit’s segregated neighborhoods were integrated, as the virtual barriers to black home ownership were a thought of the past due to the civil rights movement, the growing black middle class, and eventually, white flight. The Wyoming and 8 Mile neighborhood is now majority black, as is most of the city, and the wall meant to segregate the communities receded into the background. Nevertheless, “The Wall of Shame” still stands as a reminder for those who are still in the know of why it was originally built.