You have reached a website that is currently under construction. This is the web presence of the History Hill installation that was dedicated at Holland Park in Albion, Michigan on August 13, 2016. History Hill is also a part of the Holland Park Transformation Project. Please follow along with us for the story of the revitalization of Holland Park and the back story of this historic site. This is a dynamic site. We invite you to return often for updates as we continue to enter our research. Please visit our contact page for questions and to share information.
In 2015. a Michigan Humanities Council Heritage grant was awarded to three Albion historians and Albion College, in collaboration with the City of Albion, to display the story of West Ward School, a segregated elementary school that once stood within Holland Park. In preparation for this project, historians Robert Wall, Leslie Dick, and Dr. Wesley Arden Dick interviewed more than 20 former West Ward students. This history exhibit now permanently resides on History Hill in Holland Park. Park visitors can access the Albion West Ward School website to discover more and to hear the voices of the West Ward students at the Oral History page. The Heritage grant is administered by Gregg Strand, Albion College.
ROBERT E. WALL, HISTORIAN
Robert Wall was born in Albion, Michigan and attended the all-Black West Ward Elementary School and the Washington Gardner Junior-Senior High School graduating in 1959. He studied music at the Dana School of Music at Youngstown University for three years before leaving and joining the U. S. Army, serving from 1963 to 1966, mostly in Germany. Taking a European discharge from the Army, he stayed outside of Paris in La Celle Saint Cloud with his lifelong friend, another West Ward alumnus, the artist Jim Sanders.
Returning to Albion, Wall worked at Union Steel Products before moving to Detroit, Michigan and working at various Chrysler plants and attending Wayne State University. Inspired by a chance conversation with a Garveyite at a Black Art gallery , he experienced an epiphany which set him on the path to his life’s work: the study of African-American History with a special interest in the African-American experience in Albion, Michigan.
In the fall of 1969 Wall moved to Lansing, Michigan, worked on the line at Oldsmobile and began classes at Michigan State University. He received his BA in History in 1973 and began teaching in September, 1974. Returning to Albion in 1976 he continued his career in public school education and retired in 2003.
While teaching at Albion Senior High School Wall created the research-based African-American History course and served as an administrator. As a teacher he received the Kellogg Excellence in Education Award twelve times. In addition to his public school teaching he also taught African-American History classes at Albion College, Olivet College, and Kellogg Community College. He has appeared numerous times as a guest lecturer/speaker in both the History Department and the Education Department at Albion College.
A lifelong passion for music – especially, but not exclusively jazz, has seen him writing the music for, and performing in Korean Puppet Theater, as well as teaching various jazz classes in Adult Education and enrichment settings. Photography, film and digital, has been an excellent medium for him to experience and share the natural world. Of course, teaching film photography has also been part of that experience.
Mr. Wall is a man with an incisive and analytical mind who is also gifted in his ability to absorb and store information and insights with understanding, humor and truth.
DR. WESLEY ARDEN DICK, HISTORIAN
Dr. Dick’s Ph.D. in history is from the University of Washington. Professor of History at Albion College since 1968, he is the senior faculty member in the History Department. Civil Rights history and the history of the community of Albion are among his teaching and research interests. His lectures and presentations have frequently included the community of Albion. Dr. Dick has been an active member, historian and officer of the Albion Branch NAACP for more than a quarter century. Through this engagement with Albion’s African American community, Dr. Dick has received humanitarian awards for his commitment to justice. The bond between Dr. Dick and Albion’s African American community has made him a trusted figure among the Albion citizens who will be interviewed for the West Ward School oral history project. With almost a half century in Albion, Dr. Dick has deep community roots that also contribute to comprehending the nuances of Albion’s racial story.
As a history professor and researcher, he has focused on the community of Albion’s history. Since 1997, with associate historian and teacher Leslie Dick, he has taught a first-year seminar at Albion College entitled “A Sense of Place: Albion & the American Dream.” From 2003-2005, Dr. Dick directed a nationally funded NCUR/Lancy Grant entitled “Boom, Bust, Recovery: Explorations of Albion, Michigan—the Last Fifty Years.” The culmination of the NCUR/Lancy seminars was a national publication, co-authored by Dr. Dick: “A Window on America: Bringing Home Interdisciplinary Research,” CUR Quarterly [Council on Undergraduate Research] (September, 2005). As a historian of America and a specialist in Albion’s history, Dr. Dick has emphasized that “Albion’s story is America’s story.” He is positioned to illustrate how Albion’s African American history is related to the broader story of America’s African American history and to American history.
As researcher, Dr. Dick has utilized the Albion District Library Local History Room Archives and the Albion Evening Recorder to document, corroborate, and provide context for the oral history interviews that are at the center of this proposal. Contributions include relating Albion’s All-Black, Segregated “West Ward School” story to Michigan’s pattern and to the national scene. In Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (2008), Thomas Sugrue writes: “To understand the history of civil rights—indeed to understand modern America—it is essential to bring the North back in.” This project, including Dr. Dick’s part, brings the North back in by telling the West Ward School story and its place in civil rights history.
LESLIE KELLER DICK
Leslie Keller Dick is an historian, videographer, and archivist. In 1988, as Director of the Madelon Stockwell Diary Project, she edited and annotated A Michigan Childhood: The Journals of Madelon Louisa Stockwell, 1856-1860 and Documentary Supplement. The project received funding from the Michigan Council for the Humanities through a Making of Michigan grant. As director of the Local History Room at Albion Library, Ms. Dick interviewed and videographed veterans for the Albion Area Veterans Project. http://www.albionlibrary.org/local-history/albion-veteran-project/ Although officially retired, Ms. Dick continues to assist her partner of fifty-six years, Dr. Wesley Arden Dick with a class they created in the 1990s for the First Year Seminar classes at Albion College entitled A Sense of Place: Albion and the American Dream. Currently She is the editor of this website for the Albion West Ward School Project.