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Detroit Historical Society looking to the past to inform our future

Oct 6, 2015

The 12th Street Riot began in the early hours of July 23, 1967, after a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours bar on the corner of 12th and Clairmount streets.
Credit Public Domain / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The civil unrest that began in Detroit on July 23, 1967, was one of the most challenging and difficult events in Michigan history.

The 50th anniversary of the summer of ’67 is fast approaching and the Detroit Historical Society and other partners have launched a community-wide effort called Detroit 1967: Looking Back to Move Forward.

Tobi Voigt, chief curatorial officer for the Detroit Historical Society, tells us we can learn a lot by looking to the past.

“The events of 1967 were significant 50 years ago, but looking to what’s going on today there are parallels,” she says. “In order for us to move forward we have to kind of look back and do some reconciliation and some healing and get a better understanding of what happened.”

Voigt tells us that it almost immediately became clear that this project wasn’t something the Detroit Historical Society could fully realize on its own, so they’re reaching out to the community.

“We want to capture stories from individuals and groups whose voice and experiences may not have made it through into the mainstream history,” Voigt says.

“Listening to these really human stories is just super profound, and it’s what’s really going to make this an impactful project.”

The Detroit Historical Society is seeking volunteers to help conduct oral history sessions.

“In order to make sure that we are including everybody’s story in this project, we’re looking to create a vast network of volunteers, folks who are interested in learning how to do it,” she says.

Voigt explains that there’s “a bit of a science” to conducting an oral history, and they want to train volunteers in how best to connect with people, conduct interviews and submit stories to the project.

The Detroit Historical Society is holding an oral history workshop “for anybody and everybody who’s interested” to provide some of that training on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Detroit Historical Museum.

More information on the project, volunteering, and upcoming events can be found at the Detroit 1967 website.