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Portland academy founder proposes to reopen closed Detroit Black college

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Michigan’s only historically black college and university is slated to be resurrected early next year after being closed in 2013, according to a Tuesday announcement.

D’Wayne Edwards, founder of the PENSOLE Design Academy in Portland, Oregon, is behind the draft proposal for state authorization to recognize the former Lewis College of Business as Michigan’s only HBCU.

If approved, the new school will be known as the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design and would be the nation’s only HBCU to be reopened after closing, according to the statement.

“The Lewis College of Business was first created in 1928 as a secretarial school for Black women,” said Edwards, who is a controlling stockholder of the previously closed Detroit-based HBCU. “After relocating to Detroit in 1939, it became a critical source of economic impact for the city’s Black community. GM, Ford and Michigan Bell hired their first Black office employees from the school. Eighty-two years later, and 14 years since it lost its accreditation as an HBCU, I am honored to be resurrecting Violet T. Lewis’s legacy in Detroit.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he supports Edwards’ efforts.

Wayne County Commissioner Irma Clark-Coleman, PVM President and CEO Roger Myers and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan talk before a July 2021 press conference announcing an affordable housing project will be built on the former site of Lewis College of Business. There is a proposal to reopen the college elsewhere in Detroit -- a proposal Duggan supports.

“As a predominantly Black city, Detroit should have an operating Historically Black College. Not having one has been a hole in our educational landscape for too long,” Duggan said in a statement. “To have the first HBCU anywhere to reopen happen in Detroit would be a tremendous demonstration of how our city is coming back as a city of opportunity for people of color.”

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