The Museum on Main Street is the most visible project of the Washtenaw County Historical Society. But there is much more the Society does to keep history alive in the county, including Washtenaw Impressions, a newsletter with feature articles from local historians like Susan Weinberg, family historians and history buffs with interest in everything from farm tools to heirloom toys. The Society hosts lectures, mounts exhibits and works with libraries and organizations throughout the county to share the Society's collections and knowledge.
Bev Willis, administrator for the WCHS, keeps it all running smoothly. Bev sat down with us to talk about her background in graphic arts, how she came to WCHS, Impressions and the history of the Museum on Main Street. Bev talked about some of the unique collections at the Museum and the people who visit, including the descendants of the original owners of the house that became the Museum.
In this interview from May 3, 2011, John Sinclair elaborates on the importance of black culture and, in particular, the Black Panther Party, in the formation of both the White Panther and Rainbow People's Parties in Ann Arbor; as well as the more humorous and theatrical elements of their antics during those years. He also reflects on his brother David Sinclair, his ex-wife Leni Sinclair, White Panther co-founder, Pun Plamondon, and artist Gary Grimshaw.
Genie Parker was the former "Minister of Foreign Affairs" for the White Panther Party, a leader in the Rainbow People's Party, and a candidate for the Human Rights Party in Ann Arbor's 3rd Ward in 1972. In this interview, Genie recalls life at the Hill St. commune where she lived from the late 1960s through early 1970s and reflects on the personalities of some of the people she lived and worked with, including Leni Sinclair, David Sinclair, artist Gary Grimshaw, and White Panther co-founder, Pun Plamondon.
Gary Grimshaw is one of the most renowned and recognizable poster artists to come out of the 1960s. His most prolific period as a graphic artist was his time spent with John and Leni Sinclair in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, first in the Detroit-based Trans-Love Energies commune and then in Ann Arbor with the White Panther Party/Rainbow People's Party. In this interview we talk with the former White Panther Party Minister of Art about creating art for the Grande Ballroom and the White Panther Party, the night John Sinclair met both him and the MC5, and how he made his art then and now.
In June, 1972, then-U.S. District Judge Damon J. Keith of Detroit foiled the Nixon Administration's plan to use the Ann Arbor CIA Conspiracy trial as a test case to acquire Supreme Court sanction for domestic surveillance. Keith's ruling - that the Justice Department's wiretapping was in violation of the 4th amendment - led to a unanimous Supreme Court decision making domestic surveillance illegal…during the same week as the Watergate break-in. In this interview, Judge Keith, now Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, recalls his memories of the case and his famous Keith Decision. He also talks about how he handled similarly difficult cases, and the legacy of his work.
Pun Plamondon was a directionless teen with left-wing leanings when he met John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair, and Gary Grimshaw in Detroit in the mid-1960s. He grew to become the co-founder of the White Panther Party/Rainbow People's Party as well as its Minister of Defense. In that role he found himself on the run as one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Criminals and the subject of a case before the United States Supreme Court. In this episode we talk to Pun about that journey, including the formation of the White Panther Party and Rainbow People’s Party, being there for some of the key events in 1960s Ann Arbor, and finding his Native American roots.
In this interview from March 22, 2010, poet, author, and activist John Sinclair reflects on music in Ann Arbor - from the MC5, the free concerts in the parks and the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz festival, to his specific memories of local clubs and musicians. He also talks about the influence of both the Beat generation and black music on his cultural and political awakening, the origins of the White Panther Party, and the importance of newspapers.
In this interview, photographer and activist Leni Sinclair recalls the origins of the Detroit Artists Workshop and first Trans-Love commune in Detroit, and their strategic retreat to Ann Arbor following the Detroit Riots. She also talks about the groups' politicization as the White Panther Party and reflects on life at their Hill St. commune, including what led to its breakup in the mid 1970s.
Rob talks with University of Michigan Professor of American Culture, Bruce Conforth, about the cultural and historical significance of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, in particular John Lennon's decision to appear at the Rally and the role Ann Arbor played in the 1960s.