Historic Detroit

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Monnier Elementary School

The Greenfield Township School District initiated the construction of the Peter C. Monnier Elementary School in 1923. The Detroit Board of Education gained ownership of the property (due to the area's annexation in 1924) prior the building's completion. The Detroit Board of Education continued the project and the completed the building for its initial opening in September, 1924. The school boasted a capacity of 1360 pupils and included 28 rooms.

However, the school remained under capacity for decades. During this period, the Detroit Board of Education transferred students from nearby overcrowded schools to Monnier, taking advantage of its underutilization. From its initial construction through the 1950s, Monnier School served an all-white student body. This trend began to shift, beginning in October 1960, when the Detroit Board of Education determined that they would bus 314, 3rd and 4th graders from two overcrowded, predominantly black schools (McKerrow and Brady) to three nearby predominantly white schools (Guest, Monnier, and Noble) which were located in neighborhoods that were declining in population due to "white flight" to the suburbs.

Newspaper articles report that Monnier, Guest, and Noble had empty seats and classrooms throughout the 1959-1960 school year while Brady and McKerrow's student population had grown by 6% from the year before. Black parents decried the over-crowded, under-resourced conditions at these schools and demanded a positive change. Thus, the school board's plan to relieve overcrowded conditions for the children at Brady and McKerrow by transferring them to Guest, Monnier, and Noble.

A group of white parents, known as the Northwest Parents Association, initiated a three-day boycott at the three white schools Guest, Monnier, and Noble to express their anger towards the Detroit Board of Education's plan. They railed against the school board, charging them with "integrating" their neighborhoods with the plan. The school board denied the white parents' charges, stating that they were merely bussing students from overcrowded conditions to emptier nearby schools, regardless of race.

The Mayor at the time, Louis C. Miriani, supported the school board's effort. On October 31, 1960, the first day of the boycott, a dozen white parents protested at the front of Monnier and hurled insults at reporters and the black students who arrived at the campus that day. A mother of one of the black children involved was later interviewed about a contentious meeting she had attended with the white residents on November 1, 1960, the second day of the boycott. She reported that she left the meeting wondering if she was "...in Little Rock or Detroit."

In 1973, a north wing was added to the building's south elevation. The wing was subsequently demolished sometime between 1983 and 1997 as per aerial maps, and the building's plan returned to that of the original footprint. The school was permanently closed in 2007 and sold to the City of Detroit in 2015.

Last updated 02/05/2023