Slaves and segregation were going hand-in-hand back in mid-1800s America...except in one town, that just happened to be in Michigan’s Van Buren County.

The town was – and still is – Covert.

The community began in 1856, and over the next ten years, it was settled by a mix of both blacks and whites, who wanted to live together in a friendly, happy co-existence. Their desire to thumb their noses at slavery and segregation was apparent as they interacted in everyday life as, playing, working.

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After the Civil War ended in the mid-1860s, American schools remained segregated as black and white children were not allowed to sit together.....but the citizens of Covert were not going to sit still for that stupid rule. Yes, even schools in Michigan were implementing school segregation, but Covert found a way to elude it. They came up with a clever solution: simply neglect to list the required student ethnicity that was needed to send to the state capital when state aid was requested.

In 1868 it was made illegal for blacks to vote in Michigan, but there was no rule saying blacks could not run for office. That year, Covert residents elected one of their own – a 70-year-old black farmer named Dawson Pompey – into an elective office where he was in charge of road projects. This was followed by 29 other black Americans voted into office by Covert residents.

There was not much to the village of Covert, just close to 50 homes, lumbermen cabins, a line of downtown stores, hotel, town hall, school, and churches. Small, yes, but their lumber and fruit farm industry supplied many outlying Michigan cities.

On the occasion that there were clashes between blacks and whites in Covert, it was from men from other areas, coming to Covert looking for work. Not hip with the integration, they caused their share of skirmishes.

Fast-forward to the 1950s, where many of the younger black men and women left town, looking for work in other parts of the state, soon to be surprised by the segregation they would be subjected to. But Covert carried on – and still does – in an integrated existence.  The gallery below has a good handful of old photos of Covert from the early 1900s...

Vintage Photos of Covert: 1900-1920s


Vintage Photos of Howell

Vintage Photos of Houghton Lake/Prudenville

Vintage Cheboygan

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