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The Detroit Riots of 1967

The Detroit Riots of 1967


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The Detroit Riots of 1967 - HISTORY

This July marks the 50th anniversary of the civil disturbance and unrest that erupted in Detroit.

50 years later, we can now recognize that Detroit in 1967 was a city of deep divisions that permeated every level of public life.

The city's segregation and prejudices led to omissions in coverage and perspectives. The city's African American community was under-represented in news stories and often delegitimized. The absence of blogs and social media accounts meant many voices and frustrations, from the city and suburbs alike, went unheard.

As we planned our coverage, we wondered: What would it have been like to witness the summer of '67 with the tools and technologies of today?

We've collaborated with former Free Press journalist Bill McGraw, who has written extensively on 1967, and the Detroit Historical Society, to build a detailed timeline of the events of the unrest.

See the yellow text on the timeline? Click on that text to find an annotation written by a local Detroit historian or expert using the Genius web platform. Those annotations, along with oral histories collected by the Detroit Historical Society, are there to help you explore new information, memories and perspectives of those four days in July.

We've also launched social media accounts to live-Tweet and share the historic events of July 1967 as they progress, 50 years later.

Watch history unfold with us and offer your own perspective at Detroit1967 on Facebook, @Detroit_1967 on Twitter and @Detroit_1967 on Instagram -- and follow the #Detroit67 hashtag to find a wealth of journalism and content from the Free Press, the Detroit Historical Society and other organizations. For a deeper dive into the history of these events, visit the Detroit 67 exhibit, Perspectives, on display now at the Detroit Historical Museum.

We look forward to the conversation.

Sunday, July 23

The blind pig, known as the United Community League for Civic Action, was at Economy Printing, 9125 12th Street. (Bentley Historical Collection)

3:35 a.m.: Detroit Police Officer Joseph Brown, working undercover, slips into the blind pig at 12th and Clairmount and buys a beer.

4:05 a.m.: Cops begin loading 85 blind-pig patrons into patrol wagons. A small crowd is gathering.

4:40 a.m.: The crowd on 12th Street is growing and becoming hostile.

Hundreds of people charge down 12th Street on Detroit's westside July 23, 1967, throwing stones and bottles at store fronts and looting them. The Detroit riot was touched off after police raided an after-hours club called a blind pig in a mostly black part of town. (Associated Press)

5:10 a.m.: People are throwing bottles and breaking store windows as police pull out with the last prisoners.

5:20 a.m.: Police commanders notify Commissioner Ray Girardin. He calls Mayor Jerome Cavanagh.

5:30 a.m.: Police send reinforcements into the 10th (Livernois) Precinct, which surrounds 12th and Clairmount.

7:45 a.m.: Police Commissioner Girardin orders cops to seal off Belle Isle.

7:50 a.m.: 12th Street crowd estimated at 3,000 people are looting and throwing rocks and bottles.

8 a.m.: Legal adviser Robert Danhof calls Gov. George Romney at his Bloomfield Hills home.

8:24 a.m.: A fire has broken out in a 12th Street shoe store. Firefighters battle the blaze with no problems.

8:30 a.m.: Officials cancel all police leaves and order 12-hour shifts as the 12th Street disturbance spreads.

Police blockade a street on Detroit's Near West Side, about three miles from the downtown area. People were throwing stones and bottles at store fronts, and looting, on July 23, 1967.

9 a.m.: The crowd on 12th Street has swelled to at least 8,000 police are trying to seal off the neighborhood.

From the Detroit Free Press, July 24, 1967.

9:33 a.m.: Community leaders are walking 12th Street, pleading for calm, but find little cooperation.

U.S. Rep John Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, uses a bullhorn as he tried to encourage African Americans in Detroit's riot area to go home. (Associated Press)

9:45 a.m.: U.S. Rep. John Conyers, on a car, pleads through a bullhorn, "Be cool." The crowd is heckling him.

A woman prepares to throw a bottle during the riots in Detroit in 1967. (Tony Spina/Detroit Free Press)

10:30 a.m.: The 12th Street crowd grows more hostile and throws rocks and bottles. Police make six arrests.

11 a.m.: Michigan State Police put on "7X mobilization alert" — meaning "standby."

Noon: Detroit officials are turning down repeated offers of help from state authorities, saying the situation is stabilizing.

12:15 p.m.: All important utility installations in Detroit get armed guards.

Pingree Street in Detroit burns during rioting in 1967. Fires also were reported at 12th and Taylor, 12th and Blaine and 12th and West Philadelphia. Firefighters were pelted with bottles and rocks. (Tony Spina/Detroit Free Press)

1 p.m.: Fires are reported at 12th/Taylor 12th/Blaine 12th/Pingree 12th/West Philadelphia. Firefighters are pelted with bottles and rocks.

2 p.m.: In a meeting, officials acknowledge the situation is worsening.

2:05 p.m.: Mayor Cavanagh asks for Michigan State Police after turning down repeated offers of help from state officials.

2:30 p.m.: National Guard dispatches four personnel carriers from Camp Grayling to Detroit.

3 p.m.: Looting is spreading to Dexter, Linwood and Grand River avenues.

3:30 p.m.: Many fans at the Yankees-Tigers doubleheader at Tiger Stadium can see huge columns of black smoke beyond left field.

4:20 p.m.: Mayor Cavanagh has asked for the Michigan National Guard to be brought into Detroit.

4:30 p.m.: Krikor Messerlian nicks a looter with his saber. Another youth beats him with a 30-inch piece of wood.

5 p.m.: About 200 National Guard members have been dispatched to Central High School.

5:20 p.m.: Looting is taking place now on Joy Road and Oakland Avenue.

6 p.m.: Looting at 14th and West Grand Boulevard.

6:15 p.m.: There's looting on Washington Boulevard downtown.

6:20 p.m.: Michigan State Police report looting in Highland Park.

National Guardsmen patrol in Detroit. (Tony Spina/Detroit Free Press)

6:57 p.m.: National Guard troops begin to appear on the streets of Detroit.

7 p.m.: In the past hour there have been 626 riot-related incidents.

7:30 p.m.: Romney leaves his Bloomfield Hills home for 1300 Beaubien, the police headquarters.

7:45 p.m.: Cavanagh describes situation in Detroit as "critical" but "not out of control."

7:45 p.m.: Cavanagh orders a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m..

7:49 p.m.: Looting has started at Hamilton and Webb.

8:30 p.m.: Looting at 7 Mile and Woodward and Michigan and Junction, both mainly white areas.

8:40 p.m.: Looting at Livernois and Fenkell.

9:07 p.m.: First sniper fire reported at Seward and Poe.

9:15 p.m.: A 16-year-old African-American boy is wounded he's the first gunshot victim.

9:35 p.m.: Police are being sent to 12th and Lawrence because of "shooting at firemen."

10:10 p.m.: The disturbance is spreading to the east side. Looting is reported at Mt. Elliott and Forest.

10:15 p.m.: Police shoot and wound a looter for the first time.

10:25 p.m.: Mayor Cavanagh orders the closing of all city gas stations.

10:35 p.m.: Looting and crowds at Pennsylvania and Kercheval, scene of a two-night disturbance in 1966.

10:50 p.m.: Romney orders mobilization of all National Guard troops at Camp Grayling to Detroit.

National Guardsman Gary Ciko of Hamtramck checks on buildings for snipers during the riot on July 23,1967 in Detroit. (Tony Spina/Detroit Free Press)

10:48 p.m.: Sniper fire reported at 12th and Taylor.

11:08 p.m.: Looting near the Brewster Homes on east side.

11:45 p.m.: Looting reported at Monterey and Petoskey.

11:58 p.m.: Liquor sales are now banned in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.

11:59 p.m.: With 259 alarms today, the overstretched fire department asks for help from suburban fire departments.

Monday, July 24

Gov. George Romney (right) declares a state of emergency while Mayor Jerome Cavanagh listens. Detroit Free Press archives

Midnight: Romney declares state of emergency in Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Ecorse and River Rouge.

12:05 a.m.: From a car, a store owner shoots and kills a looter, 45-year-old Walter Grzanka, who had stolen shoelaces, cigars and tobacco.

1:15 a.m.: Pregnant and the mother of two, Sheren George, 23, dies after being shot by unknown assailant as she drives up Woodward.

2:15 a.m.: Romney has told Vice President Hubert Humphrey that federal troops are needed to control the situation in Detroit.

2:45 a.m.: Clifton Pryor, 23, is shot and killed at 667 W. Alexandrine by a National Guardsman, who suspected Pryor was a sniper.

2:46 a.m.: Friends and neighbors say Pryor was simply helping to guard his apartment building.

3 a.m.: U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark advises Romney he must declare an insurrection before federal troops can be sent.

3:01 a.m.: At a news conference, Romney says, "fleeing felons are subject to being shot at."

3:30 a.m.: Firefighter John Ashby is electrocuted by a high-voltage wire while battling a blaze.

Paratroopers, heavily armed, stand guard on the lawn of the Fifth Precinct police station in Detroit, July 25, 1967. The East Side station was under sniper fire at night from old movie house across the street. Note pock marked building where Army bullets, aimed at the snipers, hit the building. Other soldiers stand guard on the roof.

4:30 a.m.: Looting and sniping rampant in the 5th Precinct around St. Jean and Jefferson.

7 a.m.: Detroit police report 400 persons have been injured since midnight.

8 a.m.: Fred Williams, 49, is electrocuted by a live wire behind his blazing home on Goodwin. The blaze started in a firebombed store.

9:45 a.m.: Army veteran Herman Ector, 30, is shot and killed by an unlicensed security guard. Ector objected to the guard's treatment of looters.

11:25 a.m.: Recorder's Court will stay open 24 hours a day until further notice to process criminal cases.

1:25 p.m.: Robert Beal, a suspected looter, is shot by a Detroit police officer inside Rite-Way Auto Parts, 9335 Oakland.

1:45 p.m.: Daniel Jennings, father of 14, is shot and killed by the owner of Stanley's Patent Drugs after Jennings and two others broke in.

1:46 p.m.: Police chase and shoot Joseph Chandler, a suspected looter, from a market at 3360 Second. He dies at Henry Ford Hospital.

2:30 p.m.: Suspected looter Herman Canty, 46, is shot and killed by police at the Bi-Lo Supermaket, 2450 W. Grand Blvd.

Federal troops land in Selfridge Field, Michigan after President Johnson ordered them to help quell race riots in Detroit, July 24, 1967. About 5,000 troops were called in.

3 p.m.: U.S. Army paratroopers arrive at Selfridge Air Base in Mt. Clemens.

4 p.m.: Alfred Peachum, a suspected looter, is shot inside a supermarket at 3430 Joy. Police bullets wound two middle-age women nearby.

4:15 p.m.: Cyrus Vance, President Lyndon Baines Johnson's representative, and U.S. Army Gen. John Throckmorton, paratrooper commander, are briefed at police headquarters.

4:16 p.m.: Suspected looter Alphonso Smith, 35, is shot and killed by police under suspicious circumstances inside market on Dexter.

4:17 p.m.: Twenty-three fires are burning west of Woodward six fires east of Woodward.

4:30 p.m.: Richard Paul Shugar accuses Nathaniel Edmonds, 23, of being a looter, and shoots and kills him at Baldwin and Harper.

5 p.m.: Cyrus Vance, LBJ's representative in Detroit, tours riot zones.

5:20 p.m.: Suspected looter Edward Kemp is shot by police and guardsmen at a market on Mack. He had five pack of cigars.

7:15 p.m.: Federal, state and local officials huddle with community leaders about sending in the Army.

8:15 p.m.: Vance announces federal troops will not be committed at this time.

8:30 p.m.: Police kill Richard Sims after he tries to break into a bar. Sims' wife witnessed the shooting without realizing it was her husband.

8:32 p.m.: In Washington, D.C., LBJ meets with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who says, "They have lost all control in Detroit."

Gov. George Romney, center, confers with Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, right, of Detroit as National Guardsmen standby in a part of Detroit that was ravaged by rioters, July 24, 1967. Romney called in the guardsmen as rioters firebombed and pillaged a wide area of the city. (Associated Press)

8:55 p.m.: Romney and Cavanagh plead with an LBJ aide for federal troops to be sent to Detroit.

9:15 p.m.: Sniper reported fire along 12th Street.

9:28 p.m.: Sniper fire hits 7th (Mack) Precinct at Mack and Gratiot.

9:30 p.m.: Cops and National Guard shoot fleeing looter Frank Tanner at East Grand Boulevard and Helen, but lose him. Tanner collapses in pain.

9:30 p.m.: Army troops move from Selfridge to state fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward.

9:45 p.m.: Romney once again is asking U.S. Attorney General Clark for federal troops.

10:22 p.m.: Heavy sniper fire pins down police and National Guard at Lycaste and Charlevoix and Fairview and Goethe on the east side.

11 p.m.: Vance advises LBJ that the situation in Detroit is deteriorating and requests permission to use federal troops.

11:30 p.m.: Firefighter Carl Smith is killed at St. Jean and Mack, possibly by friendly fire, as police and guardsmen battle snipers.

Tuesday, July 25

Midnight: President Johnson appears on national TV to announce federal paratroopers are moving into Detroit neighborhoods.

12:01 a.m.: Police shoot and kill suspected looter Manual Crosbey as he flees officers from looted market on East Nevada.

12:02 a.m.: LBJ tells the nation that "Law and order have broken down in Detroit, Michigan."

12:20 a.m.: Heavy sniper fire at 5th (Jefferson) Precinct at St. Jean and Jefferson.

12:50 a.m.: Snipers shooting at firefighters at Mack and St. Jean command post.

1:15 a.m.: Security guard Julius Dorsey dies when caught between police, guardsmen and fleeing looters. Looters escape.

1:17 a.m.: Direct communication line opens between Detroit and the Pentagon.

1:50 a.m.: Small-arms fire on Boston Boulevard.

2:40 a.m.: Sniper fire at firefighters in Oakland-Alger neighborhood.

2:45 a.m.: Large fire burning and sniper fire at Linwood and Montgomery.

3 a.m.: Detroit Police Officer Jerome Olshove is shot and killed by a fellow officer's shotgun during a scuffle with a prisoner arrested for looting.

4 a.m.: Federal troops take over lower east side around Mack, Kercheval, Van Dyke, Mt. Elliott and East Grand Boulevard.

Lt. Gen. John J. Throckmorton, left, commanding general of U.S. Army troops now in Detroit, and Cyrus Vance, special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, appear at a press conference in Detroit, July 25, 1967. Vance said the situation in the city appeared less tense than last night. Gen. Throckmorton said his troops had been ordered to use minimum force to keep order in the riot areas. (Associated Press)

4:01 a.m.: Gen. Throckmorton orders all Army and National Guard troops to unload weapons and to load only with permission.

8 a.m.: Cavanagh, Romney and Vance urge business to open in areas not touched by violence.

8:05 a.m.: Eleven hours after he was shot, fleeing looter Frank Tanner is located at East Grand Boulevard and Helen. He's dead on arrival at DGH.

10 a.m.: Romney permits small amounts of gas, only if it goes directly into an automobile gas tank.

3 p.m.: Police shoot Arthur Johnson, 36, and Perry Williams, 33, while they were looting a loan company at 1401 Holbrook.

3:45 p.m.: Looting at Alger and Jefferson.

6:16 p.m.: Large fire raging in 3300 block of Harrison between Myrtle and West Vernor.

9:10 p.m.: Police patrol wagon containing machine guns pinned down by sniper fire at Hazelwood and Lawton.

9:45 p.m.: Jack Sydnor, the only sniper known to have died, wounded the Detroit Police Department's Roger Poike before cops killed him.

10:05 p.m.: Police ordered out of West Grand Blvd/Dexter/Claimount/Woodrow Wilson for National Guard sweep.

10:25 p.m.: Sniper firing automatic weapon at Commonwealth and Merrick.

Wednesday, July 26

From the Detroit Free Press, July 27, 1967. Connecticut businesswoman Helen Hall died after being shot in the heart while standing in her motel room's window in New Center.

1 a.m.: Connecticut businesswoman Helen Hall dies after being shot in the heart while standing in her motel room's window in New Center.

Pallbearers carry the tiny casket of Tonia Blanding, 4, who was killed in a hail of police and National Guard bullets. (Associated Press)

1:20 a.m.: Tonia Blanding, 4, pronounced dead at Henry Ford Hospital from .50-caliber machine gun bullets to chest that came from a National Guard tank.

12:15 a.m.: Detroit police, National Guard and Michigan State Police respond to a call about possible sniping near the Algiers Motel.

The bodies of three shooting victims are removed from the Algiers Motel in midtown Detroit, July 26, 1967. The three black men were found shot to death in a room of the motel. It was determined that they were victims of snipers who were active during the throughout the riot-torn city at night. (Associated Press)


Thank you!

Soldier of fortune: This story in the world news section shines a light on the use of mercenary soldiers in conflicts around the world, and not often on the side of right. The “mercs” were out there, most often in Africa and the Middle East, searching for conflicts in need of hired guns, despite a U.N. resolution that had recently condemned nations that harbored mercs.

Quaker meeting: As delegates from around the world converged in North Carolina for a meeting of global Quakers, the religion section took a look at a tradition that was undergoing a slight but significant change. Though the number of adherents to the Religious Society of Friends had remained roughly steady for about 300 years, Quaker groups had taken a new interest in attracting converts. At a time when much of the world was concerned with what was happening in Vietnam, their peaceful attitude toward the world &mdash though it stopped short of a blanket requirement of pacifism among members &mdash had the potential to meet a spiritual need.

Hush hush: And speaking of religious news…or not. Another change in Christian doctrine this week came from the world of the Trappist monks, who had decided to relax their code of silence in view of the demands of the modern world.

Ms. Clairol: If the name Shirley Polykoff doesn’t mean anything to you, now’s a great time to learn about this “Brooklyn-born mother of two who can write better advertising copy than most men in the game,” as TIME put it back then. She had come up with Clairol’s famous “Does she… or doesn’t she?” campaign and had changed the game for the hair color industry, which was way up since she started. “Shirley Polykoff’s career has risen right along with Bristol-Myers’ sales chart lines. She is now a vice president and associate creative director of Foote, Cone & Belding, supervises a staff of ten, was recently named 1967’s advertising woman of the year,” the story continued. “Widowed since 1961, she lives in a Park Avenue apartment cluttered with paintings and sculpture, steadfastly refuses to disclose her age in spite of a 40-year advertising career. But then, why should she?”

Movie review: A notable new release this week was In the Heat of the Night, which would go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars that year. “No deep solutions are suggested in this subtle and meticulously observed study,” TIME’s reviewer noted. “Yet Director Norman Jewison has used his camera to extract a certain rough-cut beauty from each protagonist. He has shown, furthermore, that men can join hands out of fear and hatred and shape from base emotions something identifiable as a kind of love.”

Great vintage ad: This manufacturer explains to readers what it means that a tape recorder is digital. Bonus: this week’s runner-up is a smaller ad for Campbell’s cream of asparagus soup &mdash “a soup to count on when you’re planning an elegant evening.”


Monday, July 24, 1967

Early in the morning after many communications back and forth between officials in Detroit and the Department of Defense, the Michigan National Guard stepped in to try and quell the riot. For a time it was believed that the National Guard, along with state and local officials, would be enough to end the riots [1]. As the day dragged on the riot seemed to grow in intensity as more looting, violence, and destruction occurred. Hundreds of fires were started and much of the area was covered in smoke and flames [10]. The most astonishing was the reports of snipers all around the area taking shots at any officers they could see. Around noon, the President gave the all clear to use federal forces in order to stop the riot. Men had already been marshalled at the Selfridge Air Force Base and were ready to be sent into the fray.


Contents

By 1920, Detroit had become the fourth-largest city in the United States, with an industrial and population boom driven by the rapid expansion of the automobile industry. [2] In this era of continuing high immigration from southern and eastern Europe, the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s established a substantial presence in Detroit during its early 20th-century revival. [3] The KKK became concentrated in midwestern cities rather than exclusively in the South. [2] It was primarily anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish in this period, but it also supported white supremacy.

The KKK contributed to Detroit's reputation for racial antagonism, and there were violent incidents dating from 1915. [1] Its lesser-known offshoot, Black Legion, was also active in the Detroit area. In 1936 and 1937, some 48 members were convicted of numerous murders and attempted murder, thus ending Black Legion's run. Both organizations stood for white supremacy. Detroit was unique among northern cities by the 1940s for its exceptionally high percentage of Southern-born residents, both black and white. [4]

Soon after the U.S. entry into World War II, the automotive industry was converted to military production high wages were offered, attracting large numbers of workers and their families from outside of Michigan. The new workers found little available housing, and competition among ethnic groups was fierce for both jobs and housing. With Executive Order 8802, President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941, had prohibited racial discrimination in the national defense industry. Roosevelt called upon all groups to support the war effort. The Executive Order was applied irregularly, and blacks were often excluded from numerous industrial jobs, especially more skilled and supervisory positions.

Growing population Edit

In 1941 at the beginning of the war, blacks numbered nearly 150,000 in Detroit, which had a total population of 1,623,452. Many of the blacks had migrated from the South in 1915 to 1930 during the Great Migration, as the auto industry opened up many new jobs. By summer 1943, after the United States had entered World War II, tensions between whites and blacks in Detroit were escalating blacks resisted discrimination, as well as oppression and violence by the Detroit Police Department. The police force of the city was overwhelmingly white, and the black population resented this.

In the early 1940s, Detroit's population reached more than 2 million, absorbing more than 400,000 whites and some 50,000 black migrants, mostly from the American South, where racial segregation was enforced by law. [1] The more recent African American arrivals were part of the second wave of the black Great Migration, joining 150,000 blacks already in the city. The early residents had been restricted by informal segregation and their limited finances to the poor and overcrowded East Side of the city. A 60-block area east of Woodward Avenue was known as Paradise Valley, and it had aging and substandard housing.

White American migrants came largely from agricultural areas and especially rural Appalachia, carrying with them southern prejudices. [5] Rumors circulated among ethnic white groups to fear African Americans as competitors for housing and jobs. Blacks had continued to seek to escape the limited opportunities in the South, exacerbated by the Great Depression and second-class social status under Jim Crow laws. After arriving in Detroit, the new migrants found racial bigotry there, too. They had to compete for low-level jobs with numerous European immigrants or their descendants, in addition to rural southern whites. Blacks were excluded from all of the limited public housing except the Brewster Housing Projects. They were exploited by landlords and forced to pay rents that were two to three times higher than families paid in the less densely populated white districts. Like other poor migrants, they were generally limited to the oldest, substandard housing. [6]

The Great Migration Edit

After the Civil War, slavery became illegal. Former slaves and their descendants still faced severe discrimination. As a result, many former slaves could only find low paying work in agriculture or domestic service. Southern blacks migrated north in the 20th Century in hopes of leaving the oppressive culture in the South. Many considered Detroit to be the place of paradise, calling Detroit the "New Canaan." During the Civil War, Detroit was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, as many settled in the northern city or used it as a means to get to Canada. During World War II, it was sought out as a refuge for blacks seeking to escape the lingering effects of the Jim Crow era. The promise of employment and escape from the violent racial tensions in the South drew in many African American workers to the North. Before the war, black workers in Detroit were scarce: even in 1942, 119 of 197 Detroit manufacturers surveyed did not have any black employees. [ citation needed ] However, by 1943, Detroit's labor shortage had become so severe that companies finally began employing African Americans. A report in 1944 showed that with the 44% increase of wartime employment, black employment increased by 103%. Ford Motor Company was the leading manufacturer in black employment: half of all blacks in the auto industry in the U.S. were employed by Ford, and 12% of all Ford workers were black. [ citation needed ] Ford made sure to develop close ties with African Americans, being in contact with leading clergy at major black churches and using ministers as a screening process to obtain recommendations for the best potential workers. This ensured that Ford only employed reliable long-term workers who would be willing to do the most labor-intensive jobs. Around 1910, Ford gave a salary of $5 a day to its workers, which translates to over $120 today. [ when? ] Because of the city's growth in population and employment opportunities, Detroit became a symbol of cultural rebirth. The statement "when I die, bury me in Detroit" became popular among the black community for these reasons. [7]

World War II and Housing Edit

The effect of World War II in Europe and Asia was felt heavily in the U.S. even before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The defense industry was growing rapidly because the country was immersed in a military buildup to provide assistance to their European and Asian allies. [8] On the home front, African-Americans were subjected to low-level jobs with little security or protection against the discrimination and prejudice they faced in the work place. A. Philip Randolph and other civil rights leaders took this opportunity to speak with President Roosevelt about expanding opportunities for African-Americans by outlawing discrimination in the defense industry. At first, the president was hesitant to agree due to his political alignments but changed his mind when Randolph threatened a large march on the nation's capital. [8] After President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which prohibited racial discrimination within the defense industry, he was then preoccupied with providing adequate housing for the new additions to the workforce. Housing in many cities was substandard, especially for people of color. Housing in Detroit was strained as both blacks and whites moved from southern states to Detroit to work in the booming manufacturing industry in the city. African-Americans were unable to buy houses in the suburbs during the majority of the 20th century due to racially biased practices, such as redlining and restrictive covenants. They had no choice but to live in substandard housing in downtown Detroit in an area more commonly known as Black Bottom. Properties in the city had high values for what residents were getting: single-family apartments crowded with multiple families, outstanding maintenance and, in many cases, no indoor plumbing. [9] The influx of African-Americans to Detroit exacerbated racial tensions already present in the city and culminated at the introduction of the Sojourner Truth Housing Project.

Sojourner Truth Housing Project Edit

In 1941, in an attempt to lessen the severity of the housing crisis, the federal government and the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC) approved the construction of the Sojourner Truth Housing Project with 200 units for black defense workers. The original location for this housing project was chosen by the DHC to be in the Seven Mile-Fenelon neighborhood in northeast Detroit. They believed that this location would be uncontroversial due to its proximity to an already existing African American neighborhood. [10] However, this decision was met with immense backlash.

White residents in the surrounding area formed an improvement association, the Seven Mile-Fenelon Improvement Association, and they were soon joined by the residents of the middle-class African American neighborhood, Conant Gardens. [10] These two groups formed an alliance and organized the resistance to the Sojourner Truth Project. These groups protested by meeting with city officials, sending thousands of angry letters to the government, and lobbying with their congressmen against the project, among other things. [10] Since the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) refused to insure any mortgage loans in the area after the announcement of the project, many of the residents in the area believed that this project would decrease nearby property value and reduce their ability to build on nearby vacant lots. [10] These beliefs were not unjustified due to the history of decreased property values in other integrated parts of the city. [ citation needed ] On the other side, civil rights groups and pro-public housing groups rallied for the federal government to keep its promise to allow black residents in Sojourner Truth housing and address the housing shortage. There was only one other housing project in the city for African Americans at this time. [10]

In response to the uproar in the local community, the federal government changed its decision on the racial occupancy of the housing project multiple times. In January 1941, the DHC and federal officials declared that Sojourner Truth would have white occupants, but quickly decided instead that it would be occupied by black war workers just two weeks later. Ultimately, it was decided that the Sojourner Truth project would house black residents as originally promised, much to the frustration of the local white community. [11]

February 1942 saw the culmination of these intense feelings about racial heterogeneity. As the first African-Americans workers and their families attempted to move into their new homes, large crowds of both black supporters and white opponents surrounded the area. [10] A billboard announcing "We Want White Tenants in our White Community" with American flags attached was put up just before the families were to move in. White residents protested the project in the name of "protecting" their neighborhoods and property value. [12] These efforts continued throughout the day as more people attempted to move in and tensions continued to rise. More than a thousand people showed up that day and, eventually, fighting erupted between the supporters and opponents. Over a dozen police came onto the scene, but the situation worsened. The fighting resulted in over 40 injured and 220 arrested. Of those arrested, 109 were held for trial, only three of whom were white. [10]

Detroit officials postponed the movement of African-Americans defense workers into the housing project in order to keep the peace. [9] This created a problem for the workers who did not have any place to live. The one other public housing that housed black was able to take up some of the residents, but many others had to find housing in other places. After about 2 months, protesting had reduced and Detroit Mayor Edward Jeffries called the Detroit police and Michigan National Guard to escort and protect the African-American workers and their families as they moved into their new homes. The riot led the DHC to establish a new policy mandating racial segregation in all future public housing projects and promised that future housing projects would not "change the racial patterns of a neighborhood." [10] It also established the precedent that white community groups could utilize the threat of violence to their advantage in future housing debates. [10]

Assembly line tensions Edit

In June 1943, Packard Motor Car Company finally promoted three blacks to work next to whites in the assembly lines, in keeping with the anti-segregation policy required for the defense industry. In response, 25,000 whites walked off the job in a "hate" or wildcat strike at Packard, effectively slowing down the critical war production. Although whites had long worked with blacks in the same plant, many wanted control of certain jobs, and did not want to work right next to blacks. Harold Zeck remembers seeing a group of white women workers coming into the assembly line to convince the white men workers to walk out of work to protest black women using the white women's bathroom. Harold remembers one of the women saying "They think their fannies are as good as ours." The protest ended when the men refused to leave work. There was a physical confrontation at Edgewood Park. In this period, racial riots also broke out in Los Angeles, Mobile, Alabama and Beaumont, Texas, mostly over similar job issues at defense shipyard facilities. [1]

Altercations between youths started on June 20, 1943, on a warm Sunday evening on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River off Detroit's mainland. In what is considered a communal disorder, [13] youths fought intermittently through the afternoon. The brawl eventually grew into a confrontation between groups of whites and blacks on the long Belle Isle Bridge, crowded with more than 100,000 day trippers returning to the city from the park. From there the riot spread into the city. Sailors joined fights against blacks. The riot escalated in the city after a false rumor spread that a mob of whites had thrown a black mother and her baby into the Detroit River. Blacks looted and destroyed white property as retaliation. Whites overran Woodward to Veron where they proceeded to tip over 20 cars that belonged to black families. The whites also started to loot stores while rioting.

Historian Marilyn S. Johnson argues that this rumor reflected black male fears about historical white violence against black women and children. [13] [14] An equally false rumor that blacks had raped and murdered a white woman on the Belle Isle Bridge swept through white neighborhoods. Angry mobs of whites spilled onto Woodward Avenue near the Roxy Theater around 4 a.m., beating blacks as they were getting off street cars on their way to work. [15] They also went to the black neighborhood of Paradise Valley, one of the oldest and poorest neighborhoods in Detroit, attacking blacks who were trying to defend their homes. Blacks attacked white-owned businesses.

The clashes soon escalated to the point where mobs of whites and blacks were "assaulting one another, beating innocent motorists, pedestrians and streetcar passengers, burning cars, destroying storefronts and looting businesses." [5] Both sides were said to have encouraged others to join in the riots with false claims that one of "their own" had been attacked unjustly. [5] Blacks were outnumbered by a large margin, and suffered many more deaths, personal injuries and property damage. Out of the 34 people killed, 24 of them were black. [16]

The riots lasted three days and ended only after Mayor Jeffries and Governor Harry Kelly asked President Franklin Roosevelt to intervene. He invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 and ordered in federal troops. A total of 6,000 troops imposed a curfew, restored peace and occupied the streets of Detroit. Over the course of three days of rioting, 34 people had been killed 25 were African Americans, of which 17 were killed by the police (their forces were predominantly white and dominated by ethnic whites). 13 deaths remain unsolved. Nine deaths reported were white, and out of the 1,800 arrests made, 85% of them were black, and 15% were white. [5] Of the approximately 600 persons injured, more than 75 percent were black people.

The first casualty was a white civilian who was struck by a taxi. Later, four young white males shot and killed a 58-year-old black civilian, Moses Kiska, who was sitting at the bus stop. Later, a white doctor ignored police warnings to avoid black neighborhoods. The doctor then went to a house call in a black neighborhood. He then was hit in the back of the head with a rock and beaten to death by black rioters. A couple years after the riot, a monument was dedicated to this doctor at the streets of East Grand and Gratiot.

After the riot, leaders on both sides had explanations for the violence, effectively blaming the other side. White city leaders, including the mayor, blamed young black hoodlums and persisted in framing the events as being caused by outsiders, people who were unemployed and marginal. [5] Mayor Jeffries said, "Negro hoodlums started it, but the conduct of the police department, by and large, was magnificent." [17] The Wayne County prosecutor believed that leaders of the NAACP were to blame as instigators of the riots. [5] Governor Kelly called together a Fact Finding Commission to investigate and report on the causes of the riot. Its mostly white members blamed black youths, "unattached, uprooted, and unskilled misfits within an otherwise law-abiding black community," and regarded the events as an unfortunate incident. They made these judgments without interviewing any of the rioters, basing their conclusions on police reports, which were limited. [1]

Other officials drew similar conclusions, despite discovering and citing facts that disproved their thesis. Dr. Lowell S. Selling of the Recorder's Court Psychiatric Clinic conducted interviews with 100 black offenders. He found them to be "employed, well-paid, longstanding (of at least 10 years) residents of the city", with some education and a history of being law abiding. He attributed their violence to their Southern heritage. This view was repeated in a separate study by Elmer R. Akers and Vernon Fox, sociologist and psychologist, respectively, at the State Prison of Southern Michigan. Although most of the black men they studied had jobs and had been in Detroit an average of more than 10 years, Akers and Fox characterized them as unskilled and unsettled they stressed the men's Southern heritage as predisposing them to violence. [1] Additionally, a commission was established to determine the cause of the riot, despite the unequal amount of violence toward blacks, the commission blamed the riot on blacks and their community leaders. [18]

Detroit's black leaders identified numerous other substantive causes, including persistent racial discrimination in jobs and housing, frequent police brutality against blacks and the lack of black representation on the force, and the daily animosity directed at their people by much of Detroit's white population. [5]

Following the violence, Japanese propaganda officials incorporated the event into its materials that encouraged black soldiers not to fight for the United States. They distributed a flyer titled "Fight Between Two Races". [19] The Axis Powers publicized the riot as a sign of Western decline. Racial segregation in the United States Armed Forces was ongoing, and the response to the riots hurt morale in African-American units – most significantly the 1511th Quartermaster Truck regiment, which mutinied against white officers and military police on June 24 in the Battle of Bamber Bridge. [20] [21]

Walter White, head of the NAACP, noted that there was no rioting at the Packard and Hudson plants, where leaders of the UAW and CIO had been incorporating blacks as part of the rank and file. These changes in the defense industry were directed by Executive Order by President Roosevelt and had begun to open opportunities for blacks. [22]

Future Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, then with the NAACP, assailed the city's handling of the riot. He charged that police unfairly targeted blacks while turning their backs on white atrocities. He said 85 percent of those arrested were black while whites overturned and burned cars in front of the Roxy Theater with impunity as police watched. "This weak-kneed policy of the police commissioner coupled with the anti-Negro attitude of many members of the force helped to make a riot inevitable." [15]

Reinterpretation in 1990 Edit

A late 20th-century analysis of the facts collected on the arrested rioters has drawn markedly different conclusions. It notes that the whites who were arrested were younger, generally unemployed, and had traveled long distances from their homes to the black neighborhood to attack people there. Even in the early stage of the riots near Belle Isle Bridge, white youths traveled in groups to the riot area and carried weapons. [1]

Later in the second stage, whites continued to act in groups and were prepared for action, carrying weapons and traveling miles to attack the black ghetto along its western side at Woodward Avenue. Blacks who were arrested were older, often married and working men, who had lived in the city for 10 years or more. They fought closer to home, mainly acting independently to defend their homes, persons or neighborhood, and sometimes looting or destroying mostly white-owned property there in frustration. Where felonies occurred, whites were more often arrested for use of weapons, and blacks for looting or failing to observe the curfew imposed. Whites were more often arrested for misdemeanors. In broad terms, both sides acted to improve their positions the whites fought out of fear, the blacks fought out of hope for better conditions. [1]

Ross Macdonald, then writing under his real name, Kenneth Millar, used Detroit in the wake of this riot as one of the locales in his 1946 novel Trouble Follows Me. [23]

Dominic J. Capeci, Jr. and Martha Wilkerson wrote a book about the Detroit Race Riot, called Layered Violence: The Detroit Rioters of 1943. This book talks about the entire riot. It also talks about how blacks were considered hoodlums and the whites were known as hillbillies. This book also covers the blacks struggle for racial inequality in World War II. This also explains the rioters to be the transforming figures of racial violence in the twentieth century.

Elaine Latzman Moon also gives a brief overview about the riot in her book Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes : An Oral History of Detroit's African American Community, 1918-1967.

Loren D. Estleman alludes to the riots in his novel, A Smile on the Face of the Tiger. His detective Amos Walker is trying to find an old pulp writer who wrote a novel, Paradise Valley, about the riot.


Former cop says 1967 riot killed Detroit: 'It'll never come back'

Richard Viecelli, 86, of Warren, was a member of Detroit's notorious "Big Four" police squad in the 1960s. He said there was no 67 riot, but a war that killed Detroit. (Photo: Detroit Historical Society)

Editor's note: The Free Press is publishing daily profiles of people from different walks of life talking about their experiences 50 years ago during the 1967 riot. The profiles were drawn from the Detroit Historical Society's Oral History Project. You can listen to and read a transcript of Richard Viecelli's oral history at http://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/402

He witnessed the mayhem on the streets of Detroit in 1967 — but insists there was no riot.

"They were shooting at us. We were shooting at them. It was a war," said Richard Viecelli, a retired cop who once roamed the city's streets as a member of one of the notorious "Big Four" squads infamous for terrorizing blacks.

There was gunfire and military tanks, firebombings and looting.

And there were killings — 43 victims — including a 4-year-old girl who was struck in the chest with a bullet when a National Guard soldier blasted an apartment building with a machine gun and an elderly shoemaker who was stomped to death by a mob.

Viecelli said he saw both corpses: the shoemaker's head had been kicked in the lifeless child laid out on a porch. He, too, had come under sniper fire during the five days of rioting, he said. And his partner took two bullets in the gut during the rioting but survived.

"You can talk all you want about the riot. . It was a baby war — that's all it was. Being shot at? You call that a riot? No. I'm sorry," Viecelli said in an interview with the Detroit Historical Society. "I was grateful to come out of it, and I was grateful none of my partners were killed."

But Detroit wasn't so lucky, he said. In his eyes, the violence in the summer of 1967 killed Detroit.

"I'm sorry. I saw too many people drove out of their stores and burn(ed) down and crap like that, you know?" Viecelli said, noting many residents — white and black — eventually fled the city, including himself.

Viecellii, now 86 and living in Warren, said while Detroit's downtown has seen a revival in recent years, the city's neighborhoods have been doomed since the riot.

He has no optimism for the city of Detroit.

As he told the Free Press in an interview this week: "It'll never come back the way it was."

'It pissed me off''

It was Sunday, July 23, 1967, when the phone rang.

Viecelli was at his east-side home in Detroit's "Copper Canyon" neighborhood near Mack and Cadieux when he got a call from work telling him to "get the hell" to the station, right away" — and bring a shotgun.

"I said, 'What's going on,?' Viecelli recalled. "They said, 'We've got a battle going on.' "

In a matter of minutes, Viecelli and three other officers were in a car heading toward the 10th Precinct — their shotguns pointed out all four windows. The officers didn't know what they were in for, unaware that at 3:35 a.m. that day, police had raided a blind pig at Clairmount and 12th Street, igniting an uprising that quickly spread.

"Laughing like hell, we didn't know what was going on. But the minute we turned on John Lodge — Jesus Christ — fire all over the place. We barely made it to the station," he recalled.

Viecelli's first job was to head up Linwood Street to a restaurant where police officers hung out. It was there, four doors down from the restaurant, where he saw the shoemaker being stomped by a mob.

"They had kicked his head in. They killed him," Viecelli said. "He was about 110 pounds . It pissed me off. Cause who the hell did he hurt? He didn't hurt nobody."

For 3 1/2 days, Viecelli worked around the clock. He said police were relieved when the National Guard arrived on the evening of the first day of violence.

Viecelli recalled how the National Guard intervened in what police and soldiers believed was a sniper incident, but killed a child in the process. He said he was on 12th Street when snipers started firing shots at him and his crew. The officers ducked in a driveway, then hid in a doorway when a military tank pulled up and blasted a building with .50-caliber rounds of gunfire.

"The whole corner of that building came off," Viecelli recalled. "And that's when that little girl was laying on the porch, killed. Four years old."

No sniper was found in that apartment building. It's believed the soldiers mistook the flash from a match being struck to light a cigarette for gunfire.

'Feel the hostility'

The rioting lasted for five days. In the end, 43 people were killed, 7,231 were arrested and 2,509 buildings were destroyed by fire or looting.

According to a 1967 Detroit Free Press survey that followed the riot, blacks identified police brutality as the No. 1 problem they faced in the period leading up to the uprising. Other grievances cited by black residents included overcrowded living conditions, poor housing and lack of jobs.

Viecelli, who spent most of police career patrolling 12th Street, said he could sense that all hell would one day break loose. He said the neighborhood had long been predominantly Jewish, but started changing in the 1960s. Blacks were moving in, he explained, and prostitution and drugs started to surface, so the police added more patrols to the area.

"You could feel the hostility between black people and police," he recalled of his days on 12th Street.

Viecelli said he resents the public's anger with police back then, and the negative image of the so-called "Big Four" elite units, which consisted of four officers assigned to a single unmarked car.

He disputed claims that the Big Four drove around town looking to beat up, harass or terrorize blacks. The Big Four took care of "major calls" that involved holdups and shootings, he said, and kept the public and police safe.

"I worked the Big Four a lot of time . a lot of people resented that car. But it was a good thing that we had it," said Viecelli, stressing police officers who were in a jam were relieved when a Big Four crew showed up.

When asked if he ever saw any police brutality, Viecelli said, "Oh no. Hell no."

"What I saw on the streets — it was stuff that had to be done. No one was going out there and beating the hell out of anybody," Viecelli told the Free Press. "We were out there trying to do a job."

Following the riot, several of Viecelli's partners left the police force. Two of his partners moved Up North, including the one who was shot. Another partner left Michigan altogether. All three abandoned their Detroit homes.

"Well, my family, my kids were still going to school, and it was a white neighborhood then. Then," Viecelli said. "It's destroyed now. Every house that I have ever lived in has been destroyed."

Tell it like it is

Viecelli was born in 1930 in Clarence, Pa.

When he was 5, his family moved to Detroit after his father — an Italian immigrant — lost his job as a coal miner. The Pennsylvania mine had closed, so the family came to Detroit, where his father took a job with Ford.

Viecelli grew up in the Dequindre and Nevada area. Everyone was poor in the neighborhood, he recalled, and everyone got along. In middle school, his parents separated, so he and his three siblings moved to the projects with his mother.

They lived in a project on Oakland Avenue called Temporary Housing, where despite the name, they stayed for 13 years. Viecelli lived among mostly white people, but his schools were integrated, including Courville Middle School and Pershing High School.

Growing up, he explored the city and loved it. "Man, I was all over," he recalled. And he witnessed plenty of urban chaos.

There was the 1943 race riot. He was in a grocery store at the corner of Ryan and Nevada when that riot broke out. While law enforcement were setting up machine guns and blocking off the streets, Viecelli and his buddies slipped out the market's back door and ran through backyards to get home.

After high school, Viecelli got married and joined the Army. After coming out of the service, he decided to become a police officer, noting he wanted steady work — he had two children — and the job appealed to him.

In 1955, he was a patrolman in the 5th Precinct, walking Jefferson Avenue all by himself. After about a year, he was transferred to the west side, to the 10th Precinct, where a decade later a civil uprising would destroy the place he had come to love.

"There were some good people down there," he said of the old Jewish neighborhood he once patrolled. "When I walked the beat down there, I knew just about everybody, and then it changed."

Viecelli was a police officer until 2004. Over the years, he has worked as a security guard and driver for Carl Levin, who was then a Detroit city councilman. After retiring from the police department, he spent six years working as a bounty hunter for 36th District Court.

Viecelli considers himself a tell-it-like it is man. And he views himself as fair and open-minded, not bigoted or hateful.

Viecelli, though, readily admits that he harbors some resentment toward certain black people. He believes unruly blacks drove many good people out of Detroit — whites and blacks alike — and that the rioters ruined the entire Clairmont and 12th neighborhood.

"A lot of black people who were over there were good people, hardworking people. They were getting bothered, too," Viecelli recalled. "Whoever was doing the stealing or breaking into homes and businesses — they didn't care if you were black, white or purple."

Despite the chaos, the violence and the negative feedback that came with the job, Viecelli doesn't regret one minute he spent with the Detroit police force.

"I always wanted to be a cop. I didn't want an 8-to-4 job, no way. I loved my job as a policeman . and it sure wasn't dull."


Algiers Motel Incident (1967)

The Algiers Motel Incident occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967, two days after the Detroit Race Riot began. The incident started when Army National Guardsman Ted Thomas reported hearing gunshots at the Algiers Motel Annex. Detroit Police, Michigan State Police, and other National Guardsmen came to the scene to find what they thought was a sniper. Three young black men, Carl Cooper, Michael Clark, and Lee Forsythe, were in a room in the motel, listening to music with two white women from Ohio, Juli Hysell and Karen Molloy, when Cooper fired a starter pistol shooting blanks out the window. When authorities thought they were under sniper attack, they returned fire.

Detroit Police, State Police, and National Guard members rush into the motel annex to locate the sniper. According to later testimony, Detroit police officers most likely shot and killed Cooper who ran downstairs with his pistol when they entered the building. Detroit police later would claim that they found Cooper already dead in a first-floor room when they entered the building. No one was ever charged with the death of Carl Cooper, the youngest victim, who was 17.

Clark, Forsythe, Hysell and Molloy, and other guests including 19-year-old Aubrey Pollard, a 26-year-old Vietnam veteran Robert Greene, 18-year-old Larry Reed, lead singer for the Rhythm and Blues group the Dramatics, and band road manager, 18-year-old Fred Temple, were rounded up by Detroit police officers and faced against a downstairs hall wall. Hysell and Molloy were pulled out of the lineup and stripped naked. At some point Melvin Dismukes, a black security guard for a nearby store, entered the annex while the police held the guests against the wall.

The next youth to be killed, Pollard, was shot and killed by officer Ronald August after he took him into Annex Room A-3. August later admitted to the killing but claimed it was in self-defense. The third person to die, Temple, was shot by Detroit Police Officer Robert Paille who also claimed he killed him in self-defense. Despite the three deceased bodies in the Motel Annex, the Detroit police officers on the scene, Paille, August, and David Senak, did not report any of the deaths to the Detroit Police Homicide Bureau as required. Instead they left the annex after demanding that the survivors keep quiet about the incident.

The next day Charles Hendrix, who provided security for the motel, found the bodies and reported the deaths to the Wayne County Morgue which in turn called the Detroit Police Homicide Bureau. In 1969, Dismukes along with Paille, August, and Senak were charged with murders. Dismukes went to trial first and was acquitted by an all-white jury. Paille was charged with first-degree murder in Temple’s death but his case was dismissed when the judge invalidated his confession because he had not been read his Miranda rights. August, who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Pollard, was acquitted by an all-white jury in Mason, Michigan despite his confession. Senak was also found not guilty at that trial.

Despite the not-guilty verdicts, the Algiers Motel Incident continued to garner public attention. In 1967 and 1968 investigative reporter John Hersey interviewed survivors, members of the victim’s families, and the policemen involved. Those interviews became the basis for his 1968 book The Algiers Hotel Incident. The Pollard and Temple families filed lawsuits against the police officers which resulted in modest settlements and the three officers left law enforcement. The Algiers Motel was renamed the Desert Inn soon after the incident and eventually demolished in 1979.

The 2017 film Detroit, produced and directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring John Boyega as Melvin Dismukes and Algee Smith as Larry Reed, told the story of the Incident set against the backdrop of the 1967 Detroit Riot.


Remembering the Detroit Riot of 1967

One of the most profound events in Michigan’s history is the Detroit Riot of 1967. Wikipedia’s 12th Street Riot entry explains:

The 12th Street Riot was a civil disturbance in Detroit that began in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. Vice squad officers executed a raid at a blind pig, or speakeasy, on the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount on the city’s near westside. The confrontation with the patrons there evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in modern U.S. history, lasting five days and far surpassing the 1943 riot the city endured. Before the end, the state and federal governments, under order of then President Lyndon B. Johnson, sent in National Guard and U.S. Army troops. The result was forty-three dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests and more than 2,000 buildings burned down.

The best media I came across is Ashes to Hope: Overcoming the Detroit Riots from Michigan Radio (tip: open in a new tab and listen while you check out the other photos & stories).. This 2007 feature marking the 40th anniversary opens with recollections from John Conyers, Phillip Hewitt and Ronald Nye and delivers a frank look at various aspects of the riot – some say rebellion – and its aftermath from people who experienced it. I heartily recommend you click the link and listen to the whole thing. NPR’s Riots Rocked Detroit 40 Years Ago Today has more recollections as does this Detroit News forum featuring letters from Detroit residents.

Here’s an ABC News feature below, but the best video I found is Detroit Riot 1967/ Mr. Jacobs by KeylaBb (more videos under Related Videos at that link).:

The video features the song Black Day in July by Gordon Lightfoot which was banned in the US. Detroit Riot, July 1967 on Michigan in Pictures this morning has this listing of photos:

    at Virtual Motor City (cool site!) by photographer Jim Hubbard at JamD by Phil Cherner (includes a then & now video) on Flickr (slideshow)
  • Excellent thread on Exposure.Detroit about the riot with lots of links to other resources.

There’s of course a ton more to say … I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments and add links to sites and media we missed!


In the sweltering summer of 1967, Detroit’s predominantly African American neighborhood of Virginia Park was a simmering cauldron of racial tension. About 60,000 low-income residents were crammed into the neighborhood’s 460 acres, living mostly in small, sub-divided apartments.

The Detroit Police Department, which had only about 50 African American officers at the time, was viewed as a white occupying army. Accusations of racial profiling and police brutality were commonplace among Detroit’s Black residents. The only other whites in Virginia Park commuted in from the suburbs to run the businesses on 12th Street, then commuted home to affluent enclaves outside Detroit.

The entire city was in a state of economic and social strife: As the Motor City’s famed automobile industry shed jobs and moved out of the city center, freeways and suburban amenities beckoned middle-class residents away, which further gutted Detroit’s vitality and left behind vacant storefronts, widespread unemployment and impoverished despair.

A similar scenario played out in metropolitan areas across America, where “white flight” reduced the tax base in formerly prosperous cities, causing urban blight, poverty and racial discord. In mid-July, 1967, the city of Newark, New Jersey, erupted in violence as Black residents battled police following the beating of a Black taxi driver, leaving 26 people dead.


Watch the video: Detroit in RUINS! Crowder goes Ghetto (June 2022).


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