In the summer of 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, a “blind-pig” raid took place and this raid turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Due to this raid, racial tension, and the overall treatment of African Americans in the area, a riot that is still ranked as one of the worst in American history broke out. The riot lasted from July 23rd to July 27th. It was so important at the time that it was nationwide news.
It’s important to remember how recent this was, this was just in 1967. People, especially those in the northern United States, like to think of the north always being the “good guys” and that somehow all the racial tension only existed in the South, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Jim Crow laws and racism were more de jure in the South, but Michigan still had its struggle. This Detroit race riot claimed the lives of 43 people. Thousands of others were arrested or injured. This was paired along with the Federal National Guard coming into Detroit to join the Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police, and the Michigan National Guard. There were tanks in the streets, buildings burning, bullets flying both ways, cars on fire, and tension that is hard to even describe.
In the PBS video we watched for class, “Eyes on the Prize: Two Societies (1965-1968)”, a Detroit-native man describes how before the race riot police would racially profile African Americans, especially men. The police would, at seemingly random times, come up to African American men asking for identification, where they are going, and search their person and often be very rough in doing this. This reminded me of “stop and frisk” which was happening in New York City not too long ago and was found to be used on people of color far more than those who are white, which was a big red flag because they would actually get charged with a crime at about the same rate. Stop and frisk had very little, if any, effect on crime and only hurt the relationship between the police and the community. The constant use of this harassment-like tactic is part of the problem that built up the racial tension, and community-police tension to the point of a massive, several day riot.
Severity varies by location and time, but for a lot of American history African Americans have been abused, disadvantaged, underprivileged, violated, and therefore oppressed. I do not think any sensible person thinks rioting and looting is helping, but I also think it is important to see the struggle and oppression that was ignored or worsened before the headlines telling of riots came. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “…riots are socially destructive and self-defeating” but he went on in the same speech to tell about the struggle behind it by saying “…riots do not develop out of thin air, certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots… a riot is the language of the unheard.” This was Detroit acting out in a bad way, but it was also Detroit being heard by using the language of the unheard.
In my Michigan History class we just covered this exact topic, so in order to use my full knowledge and resources while still doing more research and work, I used some of my sources that I used in that class along with new sources from this class.
-Detroit Historical Society. Uprising of 1967. n.d. Webpage. 2017. .
Eye on the Prize: Two Societies 1965-1968. By Shelia Curran Bernard and Steve Fayer. Dirs. Shelia Curran Bernard and Samuel Polland D. PBS. PBS, 1990. Video. 2017. .
-IMAGE: Felt, Robert. “Color photo showing the view along 12th Street in the aftermath of the riot that began in the early morning of July 23, 1967. The photo shows a man walking down sidewalk, several pedestrians, an army transport truck with National Guardsmen, and cars lined.” Vers. 2009.084.001. 23 July 1967. Photograph. 1 December 2017. .
-Grimm, Joe. Michigan Voices: Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It. Ed. Joe Grimm. Detroit: Detroit Free Press; Wayne State University Press, 1987. Book. 2017.
-History.com. 1967 Detroit Riots. 2017. Webpage article. 1 December 2017. .
-Meredith, Robyn. 5 Days in 1967 Still Shake Detroit. 23 July 1997. Webpage article. 1 December 2017. .
-Motor City Radio Flashbacks. DETROIT, JULY 23, 1967: THE WEEK THAT WAS. ‘HOT 100’. 25 July 2017. Webpage. November 2017. .
-Rubenstein A, Bruce and Lawrence Ziewacz E. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State. 5th. Wiley Blackwell, 2014. Book. 2017.
-The Other America. By Martin Luther King Jr. Perf. Martin Luther King Jr. Standford University, Stanford, CA. 14 April 1967. Speech. 2017. .
https://revel.pearson.com/#/courses/5980b311e4b0d7c9430fdaf3/player?pageId=a0d44c92f62e74f33606ae33668a9808466eee8d9 (African-American Odyssey, online)