Find a Branch
Bedford Branch Library (734) 847-6747
Blue Bush Branch Library (734) 242-4085
Carleton Branch Library (734) 654-2180
Dorsch Memorial Branch Library (734) 241-7878
Dundee Branch Library (734) 529-3310
Ellis Library & Reference Center (734) 241-5277
Erie Branch Library (734) 848-4420
Frenchtown-Dixie Branch Library (734) 289-1035
Ida Branch Library (734) 269-2191
L.S. Navarre Branch Library (734) 241-5577
Maybee Branch Library (734) 587-3680
Newport Branch Library (734) 586-2117
Rasey Memorial Branch Library (734) 848-4572
Robert A. Vivian Branch Library (734)241-1430
Senior Outreach (734) 241-5770
South Rockwood Branch Library (734) 379-3333
Summerfield-Petersburg Branch Library (734) 279-1025
Bedford Branch Library
8575 Jackman Rd. Temperance, MI 48182 Phone: (734) 847-6747
Fax: (734) 847-6591
Sun: 12:00 pm-5:00 pm
Mon - Thu: 9:00 am-9:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
more information
Blue Bush Branch Library
Blue Bush Branch Library
2210 Blue Bush Road Monroe, MI 48162-9643 Phone: (734) 242-4085
Fax: (734) 242-4085
Mon - Tue: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Wed: 1:00 pm-8:00 pm
Thu: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am-2:00 pm
more information
Carleton Branch Library
Carleton Branch Library
1444 Kent Street Carleton, MI 48117-0267 Phone: (734) 654-2180
Fax: (734) 654-8767
Mon: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tue - Wed: 9:00 am-8:00 pm
Thu: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
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Dorsch Memorial Branch Library
Dorsch Memorial Branch Library
18 East First Street Monroe, MI 48161-2227 Phone: (734) 241-7878
Fax: (734) 241-7879
Mon - Tue: 9:00 am-8:00 pm
Wed: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Thu: 9:00 am-8:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
more information
Dundee Branch Library
Dundee Branch Library
144 East Main Street Dundee, MI 48131-1202 Phone: (734) 529-3310
Fax: (734) 529-7415
Mon: 9:00 am-6:00 pm
Tue: 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Wed: 9:00 am-6:00 pm
Thu: 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Fri: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am-2:00 pm
more information
Ellis Library & Reference Center
Ellis Library & Reference Center
3700 South Custer Rd. Monroe 48161-9716 Phone: (734) 241-5277
Toll Free: (800) 462-2050
Fax: (734) 242-9037
Sun: 12:00 pm-5:00 pm
Mon - Thu: 9:00 am-9:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
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Erie Branch Library
Erie Branch Library
2065 Erie Rd. Erie, MI 48133-9757 Phone: (734) 848-4420
Mon: 1:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tue: 1:00 am-5:00 pm
Wed: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Thu - Fri: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
more information
Frenchtown-Dixie Branch Library
Frenchtown-Dixie Branch Library
2881 Nadeau Road Monroe, MI 48162-9355 Phone: (734) 289-1035
Fax: (734) 289-3867
Mon - Tue: 9:00 am-8:00 pm
Wed: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Thu: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
more information
Ida Branch Library
Ida Branch Library
3016 Lewis Ave. Ida, MI 48140-0056 Phone: (734) 269-2191
Fax: (734) 269-3315
Mon: 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Tue: 10:00 am-6:00 pm
Wed - Fri: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am-1:00 pm
more information
L.S. Navarre Branch Library
Navarre Branch Library
1135 East Second Street Monroe, MI 48161-1920 Phone: (734) 241-5577
Fax: (734) 241-5577
Mon: 1:00 pm-7:00 pm
Tue: 10:00 am-7:00 pm
Wed - Thu: 1:00 pm-7:00 pm
Fri: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am-2:00 pm
more information
Maybee Branch Library
Maybee Branch Library
9060 Raisin St. Maybee, MI 48159-0165 Phone: (734) 587-3680
Fax: (734) 587-3680
Mon: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tue: 12:00 pm-5:00 pm
Thu: 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Fri: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat: 9:00 am-2:00 pm
more information
Newport Branch Library
8120 N. Dixie Hwy. Newport, MI 48166-9703 Phone: (734) 586-2117
Fax: (734) 586-1116
Mon: 12:00 pm-6:00 pm
Tue: 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Wed: 10:00 am-6:00 pm
Thu: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am-2:00 pm
more information
Rasey Memorial Branch Library
Rasey Memorial Branch Library
4349 Oak, Box 416 Luna Pier, MI 48157-4572 Phone: (734) 848-4572
Fax: (734) 848-4572
Mon: 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Tue - Wed: 2:00 pm-8:00 pm
Thu: 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Fri: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Sat: 9:00 am-1:00 pm
more information
Robert A. Vivian Branch Library
2664 Vivian Road Monroe, MI 48162-9212 Phone: (734)241-1430
Fax: (734)241-1430
Mon: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Wed: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Thu: 9:00 am-2:00 pm
Fri: 12:00 pm-5:00 pm
more information
Senior Outreach
South Rockwood Branch Library
5676 Carleton Rockwood Road S. Rockwood, MI 48179 Phone: (734) 379-3333
Fax: (734) 749-7485
Mon: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Tue: 1:00 pm-6:00 pm
Wed: 1:00 pm-8:00 pm
Thu: 1:00 pm-6:00 pm
Fri: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Sat: 9:00 am-1:00 pm
more information
Summerfield-Petersburg Branch Library
Summerfield-Petersburg Branch Library
60 East Center St. Petersburg, MI 49270 Phone: (734) 279-1025
Fax: (734) 279-2328
Mon - Tue: 10:00 am-7:00 pm
Wed - Thu: 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am-1:00 pm
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Celebrating Black History Month

Honoring the Citizens of Nineteenth Century Monroe

The dynamic diversity of Monroe’s African American citizens shows the strength and range of talent of the black citizens who lived in the county.  Dr. Jim DeVries book Race and Kinship in a Midwestern Town suggests that the history of blacks went back to the early Frenchtown settlement.  As the population grew through the nineteenth century, these residents left a unique imprint on the past. 

Robert S. Duncanson, Landscape Artist

(1821 – 1872)

Robert S. Duncanson’s father, John Dean Duncanson, was a carpenter, housepainter and handyman.  Originally from the state of New York, the elder Duncanson brought his family to Monroe after 1828.  John taught his five sons the family trade of house painting.  Robert, like his brothers, spent his teenage years learning this skill in Monroe.  In 1838, he formed a partnership with John Gamblin and advertised in the Monroe Gazette Newspaper for painting and glazing. 

A New Firm - John Gamblin and R. Duncanson, Painters and Glaziers, beg leave to acquaint their friends and the citizens of Monroe and its vicinity, that they have established themselves in the above business, and respectfully solicit patronage.  They pledge themselves to do work in the most superior style, and to use the best and genuine materials for the same on the lowest terms,-lower than ever executed in this city.

                Monroe, April 16, 1838

Around 1840, Robert set out to Cincinnati to pursue his ambition of being an artist.  In 1853, he traveled to Europe to study the great masters of art.  Duncanson would become one of the few African-American landscape artists to achieve international recognition.  Alfred Lord Tennyson, upon viewing his painting, Land of the Lotus Eaters, would proclaim, “Your Landscape is a land in which one loves to wander and linger.” (Smithsonian.com)

During his time in Cincinnati, Duncanson participated in the abolitionist movement by membership in abolitionist societies and by donating his work to support the effort made to end slavery.  Lucinda Moore, from the Smithsonian Institute, suggests that the images used in the anti-slavery panorama, Ball’s Splendid Mammoth Pictorial Tour of the United States was Duncanson’s own work.

Duncanson died in 1872 in Detroit.  His obituary, published in the Monroe Commercial on December 16, 1872, noted the recognition he received as an artist in his lifetime:

Robert S. Duncanson.  Artist, long a resident of Monroe, and we believe born here, died in Detroit on the 21st inst.  His remains were brought to Monroe for burial.  Mr. Duncanson was an artist of considerable distinction, and painted many pictures of rare merit and beauty.

He is buried in Monroe’s Woodland Cemetery.

You can read more about his life and work in the book The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson, 1821-1872 by Joseph D. Ketner.

 

Rebecca Harris, Delegate National Emigration Convention 1854

Beverly and Rebecca Harris moved from Buffalo, New York, through Perrysburg, Ohio, to purchase land in Monroe sometime after 1838.  They owned land north of the city but lived within the city limits.  Beverly was employed as a cook by Erasmus Boyd, who operated the Boyd Seminary for Young Ladies.  It is believed, through family oral tradition, that Rebecca was a teacher.  Together, they would raise three girls and two boys into adulthood.  In 1854, Rebecca represented Monroe at the National Emigration Convention of Colored People in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Convention discussed the merits of emigration of African Americans to the West Indies, or Central or South America in search of personal freedom.  The convention protested fugitive slave laws and was one of the roots of the Black Nationalist Movement.  Dr. James DeVries, believes that if Monroe had a connection to the Underground Railroad it was through the Harris family.  Three years later the Harris family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, so their three daughters could attend college.  According to historian Eleanor Shelton, in her doctoral study, Biographical and Social Study of the Harris Sisters, 1863 – 1933, Rebecca’s daughters followed in their mother’s social justice footsteps.  During the Civil War, daughter Blanch went south to a Union held fort to teach escaped slaves.  She also became one of the few black women to graduate from Leonard Medical College.  Daughter Frankie and her husband, James O’Hara became active members in the Republican Party.  They worked diligently to promote the use of federal money for public education.

You can read about the Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad in Michigan in these books:

A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland edited by Karolyn Smardz Frost and Veta Smith Tucker

The Underground Railroad in Michigan by Carol E. Mull

 

William Wells Brown, Novelist

Born into slavery on a plantation near Lexington, Kentucky, William Wells Brown became the first African American to publish a novel.  He began his life as a free man on New Year’s Day in 1834 when he made his escape to freedom.  To support himself, he found work on a Lake Erie steamboat.  During this time on the steamboat, he led several escaped slaves to freedom.  In 1835, after being cheated out of his pay from his service on a steamboat, Brown attempted to establish himself as a barber in Monroe.  He writes about his experience in “Three Years in Europe”: 

In the autumn of 1835, having been cheated out of the previous summer's earnings by the captain of the steamer in which I had been employed running away with the money, I was, like the rest of the men, left without any means of support during the winter, and therefore had to seek employment in the neighboring towns. I went to the town of Monroe in the state of Michigan, and while going through the principal streets looking for work, I passed the door of the only barber in the town, whose shop appeared to be filled with persons waiting to be shaved. As there was but one man at work, and as I had, while employed in the steamer, occasionally shaved a gentleman who could not perform that office himself, it occurred to me that I might get employment here as a journeyman barber. I therefore made immediate application for work, but the barber told me he did not need a hand. But I was not to be put off so easily, and after making several offers to work cheap. I frankly told him, that if he would not employ me, I would get a room near him, and set up an opposition establishment. This threat, however, made no impression on the barber; and as I was leaving, one of the men, who were waiting to be shaved, said, 'If you want a room in which to commence business, I have one on the opposite side of the street.' This man followed me out; we went over, and I looked at the room. He strongly urged me to set up, at the same time promising to give me his influence. I took the room, purchased an old table, two chairs, got a pole with a red stripe painted around it, and the next day opened, with a sign over the door, 'Fashionable Hair–dresser from New York, Emperor of the West.

He soon became a lecturer on the circuit of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society.  Famous for his novel, Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter, it is only one part of his literary legacy.  He is also the author of a drama, travel and military history books and his own autobiography.           

The electronic version of Clotel can be checked out from our Hoopla Collection.

 

Aaron Bromley, Civil War Soldier

(1823 – 1906)

Like William Wells Brown, Aaron Bromley, was an escaped slave who at the age of thirty-two, fled from the plantation of his owner near Florence, Alabama.  Dr. Jim DeVries suggests that Bromley learned about Monroe through its own Mulligan Regiment (part of the 15th Michigan) during the Battle of Shiloh.  In August of 1864, Bromley enlisted as a substitute for John L. C. Godfroy.  He joined the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry in Detroit and was assigned to Company C of the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops.  He met his unit at Beaufort, South Carolina.  Bromley, like many soldiers during the Civil War, contracted a disease while in the field.  In May of 1865, he was discharged due to erysipelas, an acute skin disease, and rheumatism.  Bromley returned to Monroe to marry and raise a family.  The illness he contracted during the Civil War affected him the rest of his life.

Bromley served with other family members including Joseph H. Wickliffe and George Fox.  Information about their military records are included in the book Civil War Veterans of Monroe County, Michigan.  Bromley died on March 14, 1823, and is buried in Woodland Cemetery.

You can read more about the lives of Black Civil War Soldiers in these books:

Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America by Douglas R. Egerton

Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit by Ian Michael Spurgeon

Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War by Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls