Boblo Boat documentary to hit select metro Detroit theaters in September

‘Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale’ will have a two-week run beginning Sept. 16

click to enlarge Stop motion animation brings this Detroit Ferry Tale to life. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Stop motion animation brings this Detroit Ferry Tale to life.

The fabled Boblo Island holds fond memories for older generations of Detroiters that are being told in a documentary about the amusement park’s ferries.

Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale will have a limited two-week run in select Detroit theatres starting Sept. 16, producers announced.

The doc was first screened at the 2021 Freep Festival and is narrated by Motown’s Martha Reeves, who voices the island’s SS Columbia steamboat.

In case all of this means nothing to you (if, say, you were born after 1993, when the island shut down) Boblo Island was an amusement park located about 18 miles downriver from Detroit on Bois Blanc Island, Ontario.

The Boblo Boats doc tells the story of preservationist efforts to save the Ste. Claire ferry from the scrapyard and, more importantly, Sarah E. Ray, who fought to desegregate the Boblo boats after being denied a seat because she was Black in 1945.

At the time, Bob-Lo Excursion Co., which operated the ferries, did not allow Black folks to ride. Ray sued the company and won, but took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court after the company appealed the loss. Long story short, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision, forcing the company to accommodate Black riders.

Ray’s case set the precedent for Brown v. Board of Education, which made segregation in public schools unconstitutional, and every Black Detroiter should know her name.

The Mariner Theater in Marine City will also be hosting an extended run of the documentary accompanied by a Boblo museum exhibit through September. Q&A sessions with filmmaker Aaron Schillinger, former Detroit Free Press columnist and Metro Times editor Desiree Cooper, who co-wrote the documentary, and Boblo Boat restoration groups are planned to follow the film premiere.

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About The Author

Randiah Camille Green

After living in Japan and traveling across Asia, Randiah Camille Green realized Detroit will always be home. And when she says Detroit, she's talking about the hood, not the suburbs. She has bylines in Planet Detroit News , Bridge Detroit , BLAC magazine, and Model D .Her favorite pastimes are meditating on...
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