'Black Bottom Saints' playing cards to celebrate Detroit's Black culture, history

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

New York Times best-selling author Alice Randall announced that the images of icons with Detroit ties will be featured in a set of playing cards called “Black Bottom Saints,” named after her latest book.

Randall joined Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city’s Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship Director Rochelle Riley for a virtual presentation Saturday afternoon.

The cards will be "produced in Detroit, distributed from Detroit and a significant portion of the proceeds is going to be gifted directly back to the city of Detroit,” Randall said.

Randall said Jimmy James Green, who apprenticed under Detroit and Michigan artist Jon Onye Lockard, is designing the back of the cards.

"It’s going to be a map of Black Bottom. It’s going to be so exciting,” Randall said.

New York Times best-selling author Alice Randall holds up a Black Bottom Saints playing card featuring Detroit sculptor Artis Lane, whose bust of Rosa Parks sits in President Joe Biden’s Oval Office. She is joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the city's Arts, Culture an Entrepreneurship Director Rochelle Riley, and the co-owners of Source Bookseller, Janet Webster Jones and Alyson Jones Turner.

Randall’s book, “Black Bottom Saints,” released in August, takes place in the city’s legendary predominantly African American neighborhood that was demolished for urban "renewal" and the construction of the Chrysler Freeway in the 1960s.

The first deck of the Black Bottom Saints cards will be what Randall calls the legacy edition.

“We’ve had people asking for them all over the country,” she said. “We’re just thrilled that they’ll be produced in Detroit and distributed from Detroit. We hope that it’s an invitation for everyone around the country and globe to celebrate Detroit art, activism, athletics and industry that is shared by all in Detroit and to celebrate the particular Black history in Detroit that belongs to all Black Americans as an exposit of American excellence made in Detroit.”

Duggan, who said he read and was mesmerized by Randall’s book, said her connection with the city comes through on every page. Randall was born in Detroit, but said she moved from the city as a child.

“Playing cards bring to life the people that you tell the stories on,” Duggan told Randall. “Thank you for your contribution to the city.”

Duggan said his favorite Black Bottom Saint is Richard "Night Train" Lane who played for the Detroit Lions from 1960-1965. He said his father was a fan.

Randall held up Lane's playing card, as well as the playing cards featuring the Ziggy Johnson School of Theatre, Gotham Hotel and Detroit sculptor Artis Lane, whose bust of Rosa Parks sits in President Joe Biden’s Oval Office.

The Gotham Hotel was home to the Detroit Shutterbug Club, Randall said, adding that a virtual Shutterbug Club will reopen and people are invited to dress up like positive icons from Detroit.

Randall also announced that Green will paint a collage portrait of Duggan as a Black Bottom Saint on a single card that she said will present to him as a personal gift.

"I can't wait to see it," Duggan said. 

The announcements were followed by a virtual book event featuring Randall and Riley with Source Booksellers in Midtown Detroit where they discussed Detroit's Black history and changing how children are educated.

Riley recently published "That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World."


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN