Detroit native, Glanton Dowdell was a prominent artist in the 1940s who spent more than twelve years at SPSM. He experienced a personal renaissance while incarcerated, becoming an avid artist and important resistance leader. Dowdell's oil paintings were featured in Jet magazine and The Pittsburgh Courier. Once released from SPSM in the 1960s, Dowdell painted the "Black Madonna" at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Church in Detroit in 1967. This painting celebrates black womanhood in a church setting at a time when such things were incredible uncommon.
Soon after his release, Dowdell helped establish the Detroit chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was also elected Vice President of the Citywide Citizens Action Committee, an organization focused on "community cohesion" and providing a unified voice for the African-American populace in Detroit.