In 1923, the Rev. R.M. Gilbert, a young minister at Second Baptist Church of Ann Arbor established the Dunbar Center. He asked the Community for help in rejuvenation of an old building (209-211 N. Fourth Ave.), to accommodate African American men who came to Ann Arbor to work on roads and university buildings but had no place to stay.
In 1926, the Center moved to 1009 E. Catherine where it remained until 1937 under the leadership of Savonia L. Carson. Douglas Williams assumed leadership in 1937 and arranged for the purchase of a building at 420 N. Fourth Ave. Membership more than tripled under his direction and the Dunbar Center was incorporated in 1944.
During the 40’s and the 50’s the Center continued to promote civic, cultural and recreational interests and activities for the Black community. In the late 50’s the center recognized the changing times and this required changing of the core mission and services provided. With the suppport of Margaret Towsley and her brother Alden Dow, the facility at 625 N. Main was constructed.
Walter Hill assumed leadership in 1960 and immediately answered the current concerns and needs of our community. He established a licensed day care facility, teen drop in center and a study hall using university students as tutors. Many activities took place at the Center, but much time was spent reaching out to youth in trouble in schools and courts. The former YMCA camp was purchased (re-named Camp Hill) in 1972 and he retired from the Center in 1991. Ann Hampton Hawkins was hired as Executive Director and served, until June of 2006. Admist financial and administrative challenges, Rev. Yolanda Whiten was appointed to the Executive Director position in May 2007. In 2011 her title was changed to President / CEO.