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Detroit 1967

Detroit in July of 1967
Walter P. Reuther Library / Wayne State University

The violence in Detroit in the summer of 1967 destroyed large swaths of the city, mostly in black neighborhoods. It also energized the political ambitions of the city's African-American citizens.

The Shrine of the Black Madonna, which opened a few months before the riots broke out, wanted to turn the black church into a political force in Detroit. Its founder Albert Cleage combined the church's history in civil rights activism with an emerging black nationalist movement.

As the nephew of the Shrine's first leader, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has a unique take on how the summer of 1967 changed the course of religious and political life for black people in Detroit. He also had a front-row seat to the chaos that broke out less than two blocks from his home.

Black and white shot of destroyed buildings in Detroit in 1967.
The Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

As part of our series, "Summer of Rebellion," Michigan Radio Senior News Analyst Jack Lessenberry shares his memories of the unrest in Detroit in July 1967 with Morning Edition host Doug Tribou. They also discuss the role that week's events played in Detroit's larger decline.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

One powerful way to bear witness to history is through theater.

AFTER/LIFE is a living history play based on oral histories of women and girls who lived through the Detroit ’67 rebellion.

The play was conceived by Dr. Lisa Biggs, an assistant professor in Theater and Performance Studies at Michigan State University. It features oral histories from women left out of news accounts, and teaches students about one of Detroit's pivotal moments.

Biggs, along with actor and poet Deborah Chenault Green, joined Stateside to talk about the performance, and Green’s personal account living through the ’67 rebellion.

Walter P. Reuther Library: Wayne State University.

The 1967 Detroit uprising was a time of confusion and upheaval. Countless rumors and false narratives spread through the country, and some facts remain unclear to this day.

Luckily, many Detroiters have come forward to tell their personal accounts of the rebellion.

Walter and Wallace Crawford experienced Detroit's 1967 rebellion first hand.
Stateside Staff

In July 1967, Walter and Wallace Crawford had just graduated from St. Vincent High School in Detroit.

The twin brothers were dedicated athletes, heading to college on track scholarships in the fall. On the morning of July 23, the Crawfords woke up and headed to their weekend job at a car wash.

The fires of the Detroit riot began blazing exactly fifty years ago today. Years later, in an odd case of serendipity, I got to know Ray Good, the first police lieutenant on the scene, in the course of profiling his wife Janet for Esquire Magazine.

That was in the 1990s, when she had her moment of fame as Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s partner in evaluating who he would help die.

The historic marker in Gordon Park at 12th St. and Clairmount.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Fifty years ago this week, Detroit exploded in violent unrest that still marks the city to this day.

Now, the place where it all began is also marked as an official state historic site.

Jim Atkin
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More than 7,000 people were swept up in mass arrests during the 1967 Detroit uprising.

Jails and police stations were overflowing, so many people were held in makeshift detention centers, often in squalid conditions.

Jim Atkin was a member of the Michigan Air National Guard at that time. His unit was called up to try and contain the situation in Detroit, and his first assignment was guarding people taken into custody during the initial days of the chaos.

Bill Goodman: "People during the uprising in 1967 were arrested en masse, huge numbers of people, hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of people were arrested."
Reuther Library

The mistreatment of African-Americans and Detroit's mostly white police force fueled the violence of July 1967. But black Detroiters didn't fare much better in the courts.

Bill Goodman was a young lawyer in the city during the uprising, when thousands of people were being arrested and held in cramped, unsanitary conditions.

Herb Boyd, author of "Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination." Boyd came to Detroit with his mother in the 1940s. He now teachers at The City College of New York and lives in Harlem, NY
Lester Graham

There are many histories of Detroit. The latest is a comprehensive look at the contributions, accomplishments and long-suffering of the African Americans who have called Detroit home.

The book is Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination by Herb Boyd, son of Detroit and an instructor at The City College of New York currently teaching African American history. Boyd now lives in Harlem.

The events of 1967 Detroit uprising unfolded rapidly.  It was sparked by a glass bottle being thrown at a police officer early Sunday morning on July 23, 1967. By the end of that day, the Detroit Police, Michigan State Police, and National Guard had all been called in to try to control the situation. 

Fifty years later, starting late Saturday evening, Michigan Radio and Stateside will be tweeting the events of the 1967 Detroit uprising as they happened.

A National Guardsman patrols a Detroit street during the July 1967 rebellion.
Tony Spina / Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University

To understand why African-American Detroiters hit a breaking point with the city's police force in July 1967, we must turn to the history of the Detroit Police Department, and how white officers treated black men, women and children.

Sarah Hulett

Ten Julys ago, I sat down with my grandfather at his kitchen table for a conversation that went on for a couple of hours. It would be the first and last time I would do this, just me and him. We talked about how he met my grandmother, their early life together, and many other things.

We also talked about his time as a cop in Detroit – particularly that summer 50 years ago in the 10th Precinct where he worked, when the neighborhood erupted in civil unrest.

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

It was almost 4 a.m. on July 23, 1967 when police raided the Detroit blind pig owned by William Scott II. As they led the occupants of the illegal after-hours drinking club out to waiting paddy-wagons, a crowd gathered. Frustrated by years of racism and police abuse, the crowd soon grew angry with the police.

These were the beginning moments of the 1967 Detroit Riot, which would last five days, eventually claiming 43 lives.

Walter P. Reuther Library: Wayne State University.

 

For one hot week fifty years ago, Detroit burned.

Now, when most people think of the uprising, they picture the aftermath: burnt and abandoned buildings, looted businesses, a city in decline.

But the uprising was not a random event. Rather, it was the result of a city fraught with racial tension, population decline, and deindustrialization.

Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

Monday night’s Issues & Ale event plunged back in time to the days surrounding the 1967 rebellion – the historic conflict between citizens and police that led to 43 deaths and thousands of buildings destroyed during five summer days in Detroit.

When Isaiah "Ike" McKinnon was 14, he made the decision to become a Detroit police officer. Two years after joining the department, he was thrust into the city's 1967 rebellion.
Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

It was 1957 when 14-year-old Isaiah "Ike" McKinnon made the decision to become a Detroit police officer. It was a surprising decision given the beating he'd just suffered at the hands of the cops. But instead of turning against the police, McKinnon, who is African-American, decided to join them. 

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

In 1967, a series of civil disturbances in cities across America rocked the country. The unrest, called a rebellion by some and a riot by others, made its way to the city of Detroit in July of that year. 

black and white photo of people rioting in downtown Detroit
Walter P. Reuther Library: Wayne State University

Describing events is tricky business. It’s something we do a lot in the news, and one word can completely change the tone of a story. 

Michigan Radio is marking the 50th anniversary of the unrest that happened in Detroit with a two-week series on "Morning Edition" and "Stateside." But what do we – and should we – call the events of 1967? And how do those choices affect our view of this important part of Michigan’s history?

Mon, July 17, 2017; 6:30-8:00 PM
Northern Lights Lounge
660 W. Baltimore St
Detroit, MI 48202

Free Admission

Host: Lester Graham

This July marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit uprising, a civil disturbance that turned into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in the history of the United States. The uprising resulted in dozens of deaths, thousands arrested, and National Guard and U.S. Army units deployed to patrol the streets of Detroit.

A National Guardsman patrols a Detroit street during the July 1967 rebellion.
Tony Spina / Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University

Fifty years ago next month, a police raid on a Detroit after-hours bar exploded into five days of violent unrest.

The city is still grappling with what happened in the summer of 1967.

Twenty years ago, when I was covering Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicide crusade, I came to know a retired Detroit policeman named Ray Good, whose wife Janet was a Kevorkian ally.

Good was present at his own moment in history, when he was the first police lieutenant on the scene at 12th Street and Clairmount in the wee hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967.

DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Last Friday evening, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of a new work titled, “Detroit '67 for Choir and Orchestra.”

The piece marks the 50th anniversary of those five days in July 1967 when 43 people died and nearly 1,200 were injured – the civil unrest that changed Detroit in ways that we are still facing today. 

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

In the summer of 1967, the streets of Detroit shook with violence.

Civil unrest over lack of housing for blacks and open animosity with the mostly white police department boiled over in the early morning hours of July 23.

What began with a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours club grew into rioting and looting that devastated parts of the city and lasted for days.

Then-governor George Romney called in the National Guard, and President Lyndon Johnson sent in paratroopers to help quell the violence. 

The civil unrest began in the early hours of July 23, 1967 following a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours bar on the corner of 12th and Clairmount.
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.

Where did the iconic Detroit "D" come from?

Apr 16, 2015
Have you noticed the different Old English D's?
Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

The Old English "D" has become emblematic of the city of Detroit — it can be seen tattooed on forearms or stuck on the bumpers of cars, and of course, all over Comerica Park. The baseball team popularized the D, but where did it really come from, and why has the entire city rallied behind it?

That’s what Michael Hesser wanted to know.

1968 was a very tense and pivotal year in Detroit's history. The city was putting itself back together again after the riots in July of '67.

That was the year 38-year-old priest Thomas Gumbleton became a Catholic bishop, and set about working to unite black and white parishes in the Detroit Archdiocese.

Today, after a lifetime of fighting for peace, justice and equality, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is 85. And his life is now a film. American Prophet written, produced and directed by his parishioner Jasmine Rivera.

Bill Morris and his book Motor City Burning
User: Meet Bill Morris / facebook

1967 and 1968. Those were some mighty vivid years in Detroit's history.

In 1967, racial tensions boiled over that hot July night on 12th Street.

But the following year saw baseball fans, black and white, coming together at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, rooting the Tigers on to that World Series win over the Cardinals.

That's the setting for the new novel Motor City Burning. Author Bill Morris blends the riot and the World Series into a murder mystery.

Morris says living through those eventful years as a teenage boy in Detroit inspired him to write the novel.

“I thought if I can find a way to weave these two summers together and tell that story, I’ll have a good book. That’s what I tried to do through the eyes of a young black man up from Alabama,” says Morris.

*Listen to our conversation with Bill Morris above.

One of the most painful and divisive times in Michigan's history were the five days in July 1967 known as "the Detroit riots,"  which left 43 people dead, nearly 1,200 hurt, more than 2,000 buildings destroyed and more than 7,200 people arrested.

One of the most infamous events of those five days came just after midnight on July 25, 1967. The riots were at their peak when Detroit police and National Guard troops swept into the Algiers Motel, searching for snipers.

Two hours later, police left the Algiers. They had found no snipers. But they left behind them the bodies of three black youths.

The Algiers Motel incident is the subject of a play by Detroit native Mercilee Jenkins: "Spirit of Detroit," a play about the '67  riot/rebellion."

It will soon be presented at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Bob Smith of the Museum, and the director of the play, Kate Mendeloff, who is a theatre professor and director from the University of Michigan Residential College, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

We've almost all done it – you might have even done it just today: Made a purchase online.

But have you ever wondered why you have to pay sales tax on online purchases from some retailers like Target, but not others, like Amazon? There's new legislation in Lansing that might change that. We found out more on today's show.

Then, close your eyes. Now, picture a farmer. What comes to mind? You probably pictured a man, but more women are raising crops now in Michigan. We took a look at what's behind the rise in female farmers.

And, it was the most infamous event of one of the most painful and divisive times in Michigan's history. A new play at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History explores the Algiers incident which occurred during the Detroit riots. 

First on the show, it's been five days since emergency manager Kevyn Orr released the bankruptcy reorganization blueprint, which maps out a way to wipe out billions in debt, spend over half a billion in tearing down abandoned buildings and invest $1 billion to improve city services.

Now that all stakeholders have had a chance to digest the blueprint, the battle lines are being drawn.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joined us today to give us a look ahead.

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