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Walking tour teaches black history in downtown Grand Rapids

Caroline Cook standing on conrer talking to people
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Caroline Cook giving a walking tour in downtown Grand Rapids

Tour groups in Grand Rapids are braving the cold weather to learn about the city’s black history.

This tour focuses on civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, and the works of famous black painters like Paul Collins.

Caroline Cook, chief ambassador of Grand Rapids Running and Walking Tours, said this a part of the city’s history many residents are never taught.

“I think the full story needs to be told, and people are interested in hearing the unbiased stories,” she said.

Cook began doing the black history tour in 2017, after Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. offered her the chance to do the tour using a mobile app.

She offers this tour, and many more, year round. But she says the national focus on Black History Month gives this tour a bit more attention despite the cold weather.

“It just makes sense to share my stories during Black History Month, but I offer it year-round,” she said.

The nearly two-hour-long tour stopped in from of a statue of the city’s first black mayor, Lyman Parks, but Cook said there’s much more black history throughout the city.

“I’d make these tours longer if not for the weather and the distance between some city landmarks,” she said.

To learn more about the black history walking tour and other walking tours offered in downtown Grand Rapids, visit the Grand Rapids Running Tours website.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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