Mackenzie High School (Michigan)

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David Mackenzie High School
9275 Wyoming Avenue

Michigan 48204
School typePublic high school
StatusClosed 2007; demolished 2012
School districtDetroit Public Schools
Color(s)Royal blue and gray

Mackenzie High School was a public high school in Detroit, Michigan.


The early years: 1928–1940s[edit]

Located on Detroit's west side, David Mackenzie High School was named to honor the innovative educator who had served as principal of Central High School, and as first dean of the city college that would become Wayne State University. A native of Detroit, David Mackenzie was born in 1860; he died in 1926.[1]

Mackenzie High School was among the first schools constructed on land acquired through Detroit's westernmost annexation efforts in Greenfield Township; by 1926 the township had ceased to exist. Adorned in blue and yellow tile from the Pewabic Pottery Works, the three-story facility opened in September 1928. In an effort to make efficient use of available classrooms, the school's early history featured a full range of grade levels – elementary through secondary.

In addition to a rigorous academic regimen, Mackenzie students enjoyed a diverse offering of extracurricular activities that included speech and debate, Reserve Officer Training Corps, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, archery, badminton, speed skating and ice hockey. An amusing article appeared in the January 1930 edition of The DIAL (Mackenzie's monthly news and entertainment magazine); the author admonished a few of the lower-elementary boys for throwing rocks into the school's outdoor ice rink.[2]

In 1941, Mackenzie and Albion High School squared-off in the finals of the twenty-fourth annual Michigan High School Forensic Association Debate Championships; an audience of over 4500 (including 1100 Mackenzie fans) were in attendance at the University of Michigan to witness Mackenzie's triumph.[3] Over the next quarter century, throughout the Great Depression and a booming World War II-era economy to follow, Mackenzie High School grew in-step with a thriving and vital Detroit. By the mid-1940s, Detroit's population exceeded 1.6 million; and in September 1944, Mackenzie had become the city's largest school – with an enrollment of 4307.[4]

Detroit's West Side and Mackenzie: 1950s–1960s[edit]

Mackenzie High School.jpg

Nearly five thousand students attended Mackenzie in 1950, making it one of the largest public schools in the state of Michigan. Inevitably, the post-war economy cooled; Detroit's automobile production slowed, and relatively inexpensive suburban housing developments became abundant. In a densely populated city of 1.8 million, Detroiters would once again look for greener pastures; by the early 1950s, Detroit's population was in decline. The 1950s and 1960s also marked a time of enormous social change. Thanks in-part to favorable Supreme Court decisions and subsequent federal fair housing legislation, Detroit's black citizenry was no longer restricted to the lower east side and near west end.[5][6] Urban renewal and freeway construction resulted in the demolition of Detroit's black ghettos; formerly all-white neighborhoods, including those surrounding Mackenzie, entered a period of rapid integration. An aura of cautious hope was tempered by resistance, antipathy and outright lawlessness.[7][8]

In the years that followed Detroit's deadly 1943 race riot, neighborhood associations had organized for the purpose of challenging home ownership rights of black families; while Board of Education policies provided discriminatory options for white students.[9][10] Furthermore, a sense of mistrust and uneasiness had taken root following the January 1954 post-game stabbing of a Mackenzie basketball player at Central High. Nationwide publicity of the near-fatal attack led to an immediate Board of Education ban on nighttime athletic events for Detroit public schools.[11][12][13]

Yet, during the early 1960s, there was positive change taking place in Detroit. Mayor, Jerome P. Cavanagh encouraged citizens to embrace a bold new era; the national media referred to Detroit as a "model city" of intercultural harmony. America's love affair with the muscle car resulted in an auto industry upswing, and the city was accorded global recognition for its "Motown" musical influence. In June 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 125,000 Detroiters – of all colors – embarked on a Walk to Freedom down Woodward Avenue.[14] Despite the upbeat mood, a steady decline in Detroit's population had gained noticeable momentum by the mid-1960s; currents of social change had also grown increasingly turbulent. By the late 1960s, much of the United States was rife with social and political unrest; emotionally charged issues and incidents sparked civil disturbances in dozens of communities nationwide. In Detroit, downscaled production and subsequent layoffs in the automotive industry only made matters worse.

In July 1967, a police raid at an illegal drinking establishment escalated to five nights of deadly rioting on Detroit's lower west side; less than nine months later, smoldering anger reignited. On April 5, 1968 – the day that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – random violence gripped several Detroit schools. Beyond 1968 and into the early 1970s, increasingly chaotic disturbances became commonplace. At Mackenzie, Mumford and Cooley High School, sit-ins, walkouts and physical assaults spilled from classrooms to hallways, and onto the streets. Carloads of youthful agitators were also observed at Cody, Redford, Henry Ford, and suburban Oak Park High School; teachers, administrators and board officials were overwhelmed.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

By 1970, an accelerated outflow of white students was evident at Mackenzie, Cooley and Mumford; hundreds had transferred to Cody, Redford, Henry Ford, Lutheran-West/Rosary, Catholic Central, and Cass Technical High School. On a larger scale, thousands of families relocated to neighborhoods further west; thousands more left Detroit altogether for the northwestern Wayne County communities of Livonia, Westland and Redford Township. A similar outward migration of white families had taken place throughout the eastside neighborhoods of Detroit. In 1972, a Federal District Court-ordered (and subsequently delayed) program of public school busing evoked further resentment, while hastening the erosion of Detroit's multicultural fabric and tax base.[9][21]

Resurgence and finality: 1970s–2012[edit]

As Detroit's population declined, the public schools suffered successive rounds of budget cuts and staff reductions; nevertheless, thanks largely to athletic accomplishments, Mackenzie High School experienced a renaissance in school pride. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Mackenzie student-athletes captured numerous state titles in the sport of track and field. Those noteworthy individual accomplishments were followed by a 1978 Michigan High School Athletic Association team championship in girls' track and field, and a 1979 MHSAA title in boys' basketball. Between 1970 and 2006, Mackenzie's football program earned national sports media attention by producing eight individuals who progressed to the National Football League; three of those athletes – Pepper Johnson, Gilbert Brown and Jerome Bettis – earned Super Bowl championship rings.

Yet, by 1980, Mackenzie High School's enrollment had fallen below 2600 students; a 50% decline from 1952. Meanwhile, between 1950 and 1980, Detroit's population fell from 1.85 to 1.2 million; representing a 35% loss in citizenry. By 2007, fewer than 1100 students attended Mackenzie on a regular basis. During an April 2007 meeting, the Detroit Board of Education announced that -due to budget constraints and declining enrollment- David Mackenzie High School would not open its doors for the 2007–2008 school year.

David Mackenzie High School was demolished during the summer of 2012.[22] Mackenzie gym, before demolition

Side-Note: In December 2015, the Detroit Free Press estimated Detroit's official public school student count at just over 46,000; the 2009 figure was approximately 84,000. Since 1999, in what continues as the nation's worst enrollment crisis, Detroit has lost nearly 170,000 public school students.[23][24]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ David L. Mackenzie
  2. ^ from the Mackenzie DIAL news magazine; January, 1930 (page 11)
  3. ^ University of Michigan (1940). The President's Report to the Board of Regents for the Academic Year ... Financial Statement for the Fiscal Year. UM Libraries. p. 315. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  4. ^ from the Mackenzie DIAL news magazine; October 18, 1944 (page 06)
  5. ^ "Housing Discrimination: U.S. Supreme Court Cases - FindLaw". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  6. ^ "Our Documents - Civil Rights Act (1964)". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  7. ^ "The Owosso Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  8. ^ "The Owosso Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  9. ^ a b Appeals, United States Court of; Circuit, Sixth (1973-11-19). "484 F2d 215 Bradley v. G Milliken | OpenJurist". F2d (484). 215. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  10. ^ "The Afro American - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  11. ^ "Ellensburg Daily Record - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  12. ^ "Ludington Daily News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  13. ^ "Toledo Blade - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-09-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^
  16. ^ "The Owosso Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  17. ^ "The Owosso Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  18. ^ "The Owosso Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  19. ^ Mirel, J. (1999). The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System: Detroit, 1907-81. University of Michigan Press. p. 382. ISBN 9780472086498. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  20. ^ "The Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  21. ^ Riddle, David (2000). "Race and Reaction in Warren, Michigan, 1971 to 1974: "Bradley v. Milliken" and the Cross-District Busing Controversy on JSTOR". Michigan Historical Review. 26 (2): 1–49. doi:10.2307/20173858. JSTOR 20173858.
  22. ^ " - David Mackenzie High School". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  23. ^ "DPS facing surge of midyear teacher departures". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  24. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  25. ^ "Sport: Scoreboard, Apr. 7, 1958 - TIME". Time. 1958-04-07. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-02-03.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 42°21′47″N 83°09′32″W / 42.363°N 83.159°W / 42.363; -83.159