The Great Rebellion

It was July 23, 1967 in Detroit, Michigan. Racial tensions had reached a boiling point, and in the early morning hours of this day just 50 years ago, those tensions erupted. Forty-three deaths, 7,000 arrests, and 1,400 destroyed buildings later, citizens of Detroit were left reeling in the destruction caused by pent up frustration over a disheartening system. As it has previously been pointed out, although it is commonly known that the southern portion of the United States struggled greatly with racism and inequality, the north was essentially just as bad. Families that had previously found hope in moving away from the segregation and anger they were facing in the south were quick to realize that the north had a long way to go as well.

When it comes to Michigan specifically, the 1960’s were a very tumultuous time. Black factory workers were marginalized and given the “bottom feeder” jobs, their families were forced into specific neighborhoods where they would often be in tight quarters. “White flight” would occur if too many African Americans somehow made it into their neighborhood, and they were constantly reminded of their supposed inferiority. In addition, black residents were continuously harassed by police officers, and the Ku Klux Klan was demonstrating loud and proud, with their ideology bleeding into public safety and politics through their members. In addition to all of this, the institutional racism that existed (and continues to exist) made it next to impossible for black citizens to thrive. All of this lead to the culmination of several riots across the United States, and possibly most notably, the Detroit Riots.

Referred to as “The Great Rebellion” by some, the Detroit Riots were an expression of rage, anger, disenfranchisement, and sheer rebellion. The lives black citizens were forced to live were unfair in the least, as well as inhumane. Although the rage expressed in the riots had been slowly building, the official event that set off the fiery battle took place when officers opted to raid a technically illegal drinking club that was located in a building above a printing company. When officers arrived, they found a large amount of African Americans celebrating and having a party for two soldiers, whom happened to have just arrived back home from the Vietnam War. Officers then decided that they were going to arrest all of the party attendees, and while they were waiting for all of the black citizens to be transported, others took notice. At that point, a crowd formed, and it quickly escalated to what we know as the Detroit Riots.

When I examine the occurrences that took place in the 1960’s both across the country as well as here in Michigan and more specifically, Detroit, I find that we have gained a disappointingly minor amount of momentum towards equality for all, ending segregation, and outright condemnation of racial discrimination. In fact, according to the United States census, Detroit, Michigan is still ranked as one of “the most segregated in the nation” (Wilkinson). On top of that, citizens and data alike still reflect the sentiment that black families do not belong in white neighborhoods. Margaret Brown, the executive director at the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, says her group “still receives hundreds of complaints annually from would-be tenants and homebuyers and that the number one complaint remains racial discrimination” (Wilkinson). It is very clear to me that not only was Michigan a hotspot for discrimination and segregation, but that we still have a ways to go in fighting against institutional racism, segregation, and discriminatory behavior today.


Engebretson, Jess. “The Summer of Rage.” The Lowdown, KQED News, 24 July 2017,

Flock, Elizabeth. “Detroit Riots 1967 Policeman Stands Guard.” PBS News Hour, PBS, 17 July 2017,

“Whites Only Sign.” Wikimedia,, 2008,

Wilkinson, Mike. “Black Flight to Suburbs Masks Lingering Segregation in Metro Detroit.” Bridge Magazine, Bridge Magazine, 6 Dec. 2016, Accessed 1 December  2017.

9 thoughts on “The Great Rebellion

  1. I agree, we are still fighting against the same social problems that caused the Detroit Riot of 1967 some 50 years later. There has been very slow progress towards actual equality for all citizens regardless of race in this country.

    1. Yes, and maybe this would be an easier pill to swallow had there not been so many lives lost, injuries, reputations sacrificed, wrongful arrests and brave individuals who have tried to stand up for the equal rights for all citizens all fighting this entire time for things to be much better than what reality holds. I truly hope in my life time I am able to witness significant change, and I am hoping we see a tide change with the younger generations coming up.

      1. I think that many felt that the election of Barack Obama was a significant change, but his election appears to have made things worse instead of better. It seems to be that race issues became worse when he was president instead of better. Groups like the KKK, which should have been diminished by now, became more vocal and challenging. African Americans cannot change racism on their own, until others are willing to stand up for them and with them, these racial issues will continue. With the incident in Charlottesville this year, we see that racism is still alive and well in the United States. I do hope in my lifetime that racism can change.

        1. I have to agree with you Jacob, the election of President Obama did make matters worse. People made racial connections to the things they think he didn’t handle well. And this opened up a door for white extremest to protest and even black extremest to counter protest.

    2. I agree as well. The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. While our society seems to be more progressive overall than it was back in the 60’s, progress towards equality seems dead set on moving at a snail’s pace.

      1. How very true that the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. How sad that the Detroit Riots were investigated and multiple suggestions were made to deal with the issues that led to the riots and yet, the suggestions were ignored. Equal employment, education, housing, and fixing welfare were suggestions, as well as better training for those responding to these types of situations.

        1. As soon as we are able to see change for the better and you hear a good story on the news that makes you see how things might be getting better, there’s another story that makes us take a step back. It seems we take two steeps forward and one step back towards equality and it’s taking a lot longer than it needs to. If only everyone could realize that we are all the same on the inside no matter how we look on the outside we could do so much better as a country.

    3. Totally agree with this, I feel like African-Americans get the worse treatment of any race and it’s been like this for years, there has been a lot of improvement but it’s sad America has to improve on giving other humans the same privileges and rights as white Americans.

  2. It is sad to think that we have not grown much since the Civil Rights Movement. Truly, two steps forward and ten back especially today when it seems as though we are going backwards to determining who and who is not a true American based on race and religion. To imagine that individuals lost their lives to create a movement, a forcible message to say enough. It would be fantastic if in our lifetime this issue ceases to exist any further, because it is so unnecessary. What makes anyone superior to another and why does anyone believe they hold that power- truly unfortunate. Any shred of humanity within one’s soul would whisper to them to imagine if that were them personally in that situation, how would they feel? Oh but that would mean personal accountability, perhaps that is just too far to ask of us all. I want to be a part of change, I want to be a part of a conversation, even if it is uncomfortable, to break down any barrier between other humans so that this no longer continues and that my children and grandchildren live in a world where color, religion, gender, sexuality is not a topic at the very least and not a reason for violence at most.

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