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To think that the new movie, Detroit, represented a comprehensive look at a terrible event that took place in July of 1967 is only to give credence to part of a complex story. Yes, see the movie, but realize it’s only covering a segment of a citywide episode in Detroit’s long history.
I was born black hospital in Detroit and largely raised in a middle-class neighborhood on the city’s west side. My story is what the movie didn’t capture as it opened the closet door of a major metropolitan city at the cross roads of civil rights, Vietnam, and unrest everywhere.
Today’s show is a personal one for me. And an opportunity to add layers of truth onto a movie that opened old wounds dating back more than 50 years.
The July 1967 Detroit Riots
Source: Wikipedia and The Detroit Free Press
The 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 12th Street riot or the 1967 Detroit rebellion, was a violent public disorder that turned into a civil disturbance in Detroit, Michigan. It began in the early morning hours of Sunday July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, just north of the corner of 12th Street (today Rosa Parks Boulevard) and Virginia Park Avenue, on the city's Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in the history of the United States, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot.
To help end the disturbance, Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. The scale of the riot was surpassed in the United States only by the 1863 New York City draft riots during the American Civil War, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The riot was prominently featured in the news media, with live television coverage, extensive newspaper reporting, and extensive stories in Time and Life magazines. The staff of the Detroit Free Press won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for general local reporting for its coverage.
By Thursday, much of the city was calm for the first time in five days. Many Detroiters and suburbanites were exhausted, sad, scared, confused and angry. And they also were curious about what had happened. Such large crowds and cars jammed 12th Street and other battered neighborhoods Thursday that Romney felt forced to reinstate the 9 p.m.- 5:30 a.m. curfew to control traffic and allow cleanup crews access.
The sights of soldiers, tanks, streets glittering with glass and smoking piles of rubble where busy businesses once stood were so much more harsh in person than on TV, and the images left many people feeling disoriented and ill.
The stats startled the world: 43 dead (33 African Americans and 10 whites); 1,189 injured; 7,231 arrests, of which 14% were white; 2,509 stores looted or burned; and 3,034 calls for fire department service. Of all structure fires, perhaps as many as 27% took place in black-owned businesses, according to historian Sidney Fine.
“The catastrophe which has struck Detroit is a disaster by any reasonable definition of that term,” Romney said.
On Thursday, Cavanagh assembled at city hall 500 Detroiters, from Henry Ford II, UAW President Walter Reuther, department store chief J.L. Hudson Jr. to numerous community and neighborhood leaders. The mayor would appoint Hudson, then 35, to lead a city rebuilding committee, which would become New Detroit Inc.
“We had to have something like this to wake us up to the fact that we have a revolution going on,” said Anthony Locricchio, an antipoverty activist. “We knew this would be bad, but we didn’t know it would be this bad.”
Watch More About Detroit's Middle Class Neighborhoods From the 1960s And
The Events That Led To The 1967 Detroit Riots
Conrad Mallett, Jr. Former Chief Justice Michigan Supreme Court
And My Cass Tech High School Classmate - Class of 1971
Click On The Image Of Judge Mallett To Hear The Interview
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.