Tag Archives: Royal Oak Township


Hello My Friends!


This blog tour is basically about me introducing myself to all of you and what motivated me to write.




My name is Shirley Harris-Slaughter.  I was born in the great state of Michigan and raised in the Charter Township of Royal Oak. I spent most of my time dreaming of the day when I could get out and start my life elsewhere. Then I discovered we were a historical community founded by a runaway slave on the “underground railroad.” I began to appreciate my roots. I discovered all this history way before ever thinking about writing.

My mother was a gifted poet and writer of children’s stories. She also was a great speaker. So what in the world could I contribute to this family? My parents were activists in the community and I watched them not realizing they were shaping me. I became a community activist before I started to write and I developed an appreciation for historical places and buildings which led me to try and save our local train station. I wrote a thesis on The Implementation of the Most Comprehensive Approach to Restoring the Michigan Central Depot. This project brought lots of attention and publicity to this neglected historical site.

All of this led me to try and capture the history of our Catholic Community which is now gone. So I wrote about my experience growing up in this environment. I titled the book, Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community. The title kind of stuck although my intention was to change it. This book had been gathering steam in my head for a long time before I actually set down to write. I felt that our history was gone because the church has merged and the school was razed after sitting empty for years and becoming an eyesore. I was invited to speak about this to the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society affiliated with the Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collections. Mark Bowden tagged the book a Narrative History. They asked me to speak to them because they never had history told in narrative form before. Geneology is normally written in a chronological order.

This history is who I am.

I’m going to stop right here and allow you to get the rest of the story.


About The Book…

Severing ties with publisher iUniverse left me with some leftover hardcover limited edition copies. Once they are gone, that is it.

Contact me at: sharrislaughter@gmail.com

Here are some additional links:









For each comment left (1 per day) on each day of my tour, your name will be entered into a drawing.  ONE (1) lucky winner will receive an autographed copy of my book “OUR LADY OF VICTORY:  THE SAGA OF AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN CATHOLIC COMMUNITY” and a $5 Amazon Gift Card. 1 daily comment = 1 entry into my giveaway.  Thanks again for the support and good luck in winning!!!


Back in the early days (mid 40s and 50s) Royal Oak Township was a bustling black community with thriving black and white entrepreneurs. There was Jim Dolan’s, a white-owned store; McCauley’s Groceries and Meats (later becoming Steve’s). The Cockfield Funeral Home was servicing the area at the time. During the mid-1920s, the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) opened a store in the township. On the north side at 8200 West Eight Mile was Uncle Tom’s Bar-B-Q, operated by Thomas “Doc” Washington. The owners of other black businesses lived in the community, such as Charles J. Wartman Jr., editor of the Michigan Chronicle newspaper. The black executives eventually organized The Merchant and Professional Association.

Fr. Roberge wrote in the archives of being dismayed at how undeveloped, dismal, and full of despair the area seemed when he arrived in 1946. He compared life in the West Eight Mile Community to the missionary fields in Africa.

A year went by before a rectory was secured for the new missionary church. The acquisition of land continued until enough property was acquired by the diocese to permit the future establishment of a complete parish plant. The holdup was a lease on the land held by the United States government while maintaining temporary war housing units on it; units that blacks and whites and the archdiocese wanted out of there. The lease was on a yearly basis with the right of renewal. The hope was that when the contract came up, Uncle Sam would decline to renew it, and that would free up the land for expansion.

During the period from 1943 to 1946, it was apparently difficult for the archdiocese to build a church and school and rectory in the West Eight Mile Community due to regressive government policies that sprang up as it tried to acquire the land needed to accomplish the complete revitalization and evangelization
of the area. But according to Fr. Alvin Deem, it could have been accomplished in spite of these obstacles. The money was there, but the will was not.


To be continued…
(Excerpts from Our Lady of Victory, the Saga…Development of the West Eight Mile Community)


To reply to any of these posts go to the right side navigation bar. Look for the “Recent Posts” tab and click on the post you want. A comment box will pop up.


Growing up in Royal Oak Township was an experience in itself. I got old enough to realize that I wanted to get out as soon as I could. That’s because for years I kept hearing tales that the township was going to be completely abolished. That they were going to re-zone it industrial and that would get rid of all the residential housing. But the community fought to keep that from happening, including my parents. They were very much involved while trying to deal with their own personal issues. They voted every time there was an election and they tried to be good citizens. So we were devastated when a newspaper article was written that was negative and had a lot of inaccuracies in it and a lot of embellishment of the facts. The reporter came around and interviewed folks so we couldn’t wait to read the Daily Tribune. Boy, were we devastated that they could print such untruths. It was awful. But that’s the kind of stuff that didn’t make you feel proud until you grow up one day and understood that you lived in a historic community. I had to save a train station to understand what a legacy we were left with. I got a scholarship to attend a conference on preserving buildings and communities and came to realize from that experience what a wonderful place I grew up in.

Royal Oak Township had a lot of history.  It was founded in 1945 by runaway slaves on the underground railroad. It was carved to such a small tract that it was reduced to 1 square mile. It used to stretch as far back as Troy city limits stretching east to the Macomb county line to west at Greenfield Rd and south to West Eight Mile Rd. Now look at it today!  It went from erecting housing projects (which I grew up in) to building single family homes in the sixties. Now all the black owned businesses are practically gone. I describe what the township looked like in the fifties and sixties. It was fascinating.