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Detroit — A lawsuit has been filed against the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, by a former employee who claims he was fired based on his race and not his performance.

Edward Canaday, former Chief Marketing & Development Officer and Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for the Wright Museum filed suit against the museum and its interim Chief Operating Officer George Hamilton for discrimination and wrongful termination.

Canaday was hired in November 2009 as the museum's public relations manager and claims he was the only white man employed by the museum.

He was terminated on July 13 with a letter from Hamilton which stated Canaday was unexpectedly fired due to "restructuring... and the need to redeploy resources," according to the lawsuit. 

“It breaks my heart to be discriminated against by representatives of an institution I know and love,” Canaday said in a statement. “I was born and raised in Detroit, and have an interracial family. I have been privileged to grow up amidst diversity, and am extraordinarily grateful for having done so. American culture has accepted me from the day I was born, and I am indebted to it for its foundational contributions to America, my outlook, and belief in the goodness of humanity."

"This is why I dedicated eight and a half years of my life to The Wright, why I personally paid for my children's school to tour the museum, and why I'm taking up this fight – to seek justice for my myself and my family, and for the legacy of Dr. Charles Wright, the museum’s founder."

 

The museum declined to comment Saturday saying their policy restricts commenting on termination of employees.

"Because we protect the privacy of our employees, we don't comment publicly on personnel matters, past or present," said Delisha Upshaw, director of marketing and communications for the museum.

Canaday's attorney, Carl Edwards, said the institution is being taken into a new direction under Hamilton and the board of trustees.

"This vision was of a community-based institution that educates and enlightens both the black and white communities of our city, state and nation about the true history of the treatment of African and African American citizens of our country by its white majority, and the struggles, sacrifices and great price that has been paid to compel our nation to live up to its ideal '... to establish a more perfect union'," Edwards stated in a press release. "The new direction of The Wright Museum under its Board of Trustees and Mr. Hamilton appears to seek not to offend the economic and political powers of this city, region and state, rather than speak 'truth to power.”

srahal@detroitnews.com
Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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