Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) and GR Walks today released a self-guided walking tour of black history in Downtown Grand Rapids.

DGRI released the tour to coincide with Juneteenth Independence Day, the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States recognized annually on June 19.

Narrated by City Commissioner Joe Jones, the Black History Tour of Downtown Grand Rapids starts in Lyon Square. From there, the tour courses approximately 2 miles around Downtown stopping at 11 points of interest that feature historical information about local African American leadership, culture and community.

The tour is available anytime for free on GR Walks, a smart phone app that enables Grand Rapidians and visitors an independent and interactive way to explore local history. Other GR Walks tours explore historical development along the Grand River, the story of beer in Grand Rapids as well as neighborhoods such as Heritage Hill and Roosevelt Park.

DGRI and GR Walks organized and produced the tour in collaboration with numerous citizen advisors and community partners. The project began in February 2017 when DGRI invited Grand Rapidians to share their wisdom and suggestions about notable black history facts and figures relevant to Downtown Grand Rapids. The overarching goal was to gather this information and develop a self-guided tour that makes such important history more accessible to the community.

The development of the tour also was supported by an all-star cast of local history experts, including former City Historian Gordon Olson, Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives Executive Director George Bayard, Women's Lifestyle Magazine Publisher Victoria Upton and local blues historian Kim Rush.

Additional partners in tour production include but are not limited to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids City Archives, Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids Urban League and WYCE, which engineered the vocal recording.

Click here to download the GR Walks app, the Black History Tour of Downtown Grand Rapids and other tours.