Raid Ricochet

Rioting started in 1967 because of the treatment towards blacks which included just grabbing them off the streets if there was any amount of suspicion that they were doing something wrong and without any provocation. Routine raids on blind pigs was the last straw because blacks were the only ones taken from the establishments and shuttled to the stations. One individual commented that, “That’s why the negros are all rioting up town you know what that means? All these folks every time you see one of them, he going to stop a brother. You know, he never stop no whites, that’s why we out here rioting and we going to keep on rioting until they stop all this” (Eyes on the Prize).

There were many reasons behind the rioting it wasn’t as if the raids on the blind pigs were the only factor. The main reasons as stated by the Kerner Commission were: segregation and poverty created a destructive environment in racial ghettoes, pervasive discrimination, black migration and white exodus, black ghettoes, feeling of powerlessness amongst African Americans, violence towards African Americans was legitimated by society, education did not meet nation-wide standards, problems with local police departments where blacks not represented, and African Americans not represented politically. These multitude of issues were not new to the blacks as they had suffered with all of these issues for years, but it seemed as though the whites were making progress with their issues and there was nothing being done to help the blacks (French).

“Inside of most black people, there was a time bomb. There was a pot that was about to overflow, and there was rage that was about to come out… And it just exploded.” The neglect from the government figures in helping blacks receive the same rights and treatment as the whites had for years created this time bomb that sat in wait in all of them. Although there were some small acts of rebellion that went on in previous years there was nothing to this extreme in Michigan relating to the segregation issue (Eyes on the Prize).

The rioting began as the police officers were leaving the scene, an empty bottle smashed into the rear window of a police car and a trash basket was thrown through the window of a store. Further damage escalated quickly, looters began robbing stores and vandals began fires. The chaos exploded and within a few hours there were over 3,000 people on the streets causing damage. Road blocks were put up, but they did practically nothing to stop the oncoming onslaught of people (French). Many of the black leaders were trying to stop the riots and came in to aid the police. Although, many others were afraid to be in the city with the amount of angry people and the destruction that was being brought onto the city. All of the previous work that had been done to build the city and the slums up was being destroyed in the matter of days (Eyes on the Prize).

Many different groups were called in to help contain the chaotic frenzy including the National Guard. Sgt. Howard Holland commented on how he had called his mother to check in with his parents on how things were going in the city. She stated that, “Here I have one son in Vietnam in a combat zone, and now I’m worried about you in our own hometown.” He said that this statement hung with him for a long time, and it rings volumes on how she was more worried about her son who was trying to calm the area whereas her other son would have been causing damage. Besides Sgt. Holland, there were many other individuals who were called into Detroit after just coming home from serving and they commented that the “warzones” were very similar (Eyes on the Prize).





“Eyes on the Prize – 08 – Two Societies (1965-1968).” Vimeo, 4 Apr. 2018,

French, Amy. “Radio Program on Riots.” 4 Apr. 2018,

11 thoughts on “Raid Ricochet

  1. Your view on the riots was very interesting. The riots were a horrible thing that plagued Detroit. All of their hardworking throughout the years, was crashing down. I think it is crazy that people were comparing Detroit to the war zones in Vietnam. This was definitely not good press for the state of Michigan.

    1. It is truly crazy to remember that this destruction actually happened in Detroit. It isn’t often thought of, and never talked about. I believe it is often looked upon that Michigan was/is not a racist state, and these riots only happened in the south. Learning that it was like a war zone in Detroit after the riots really helps us realize how much civil unrest we had/have in Michigan.

  2. The riots were definitely a dangerous time for anyone living in Detroit, especially around the 12th street area where it originated. The timing of the riot must have been hard on some people, with Vietnam going on at the same time. People must have felt like the world was coming apart, war in another country, and war at home.

    1. Yes I felt the same, both were very horrendous events in history and i’m sure it would have been extremely scary to witness either one of them. Comparing them together and knowing how scary the Vietnam war was, makes the riot seem all the more intense and horrific.

      1. I would agree, the Vietnam war was a scary and horrific thing but reading what happened during the riot makes the riot even more horrific than the war which is a really scary thing to think about!!

    2. Sadly I will admit that I would never wish to be an African American living in Detroit at that time. It is not because I have racist views. It is because I know there is racism, and I know African Americans were being treated terrible. I feel it a sad thought to think of, but it is the truth. However, realizing this helps me to also realize that the people who lived it probably thought the same thing, and so I look up to them for their bravery and dedication to fighting for NOT their rights, but for their children’s and grandchildren’s rights. So I pray we honor the work they put their lives into.

  3. I cant get the reading out of my head about the Lee’s who lived at the light house. She talked about the fear they had, and the lack of sleep they had, and they were not even in the immediate vicinity. To read about them, it gives you a feel of what the people of Detroit must have been feeling. The fear they had, and knowing it was worse the closer you were to the riots. If you lived in the “war zone” there was no rest for 5 days, and there was no sign of relief until the very end.

  4. When I read about all the damage caused by rioters in this area, I felt a bit sad thinking about what it must have been like that July. “Property damage exceeded $50 million; forty-four people lost their lives and another 1,000 were injured…5,000 residents of Detroit were left homeless; and 7,331 arrests had been made…profiteers who sought to take advantage…” (Rubenstein, p. 284) In a community that was already having difficulties, the conditions worsened. Homes were damaged. Where would families now live? It would take time to rebuild. Some of the few businesses in this area were not only robbed, but then fire-bombed. Where would people go for goods and services? It would take a long time to have the businesses return to this area. In some ways, the rioting made this area more depressed. Lives were lost, tensions were high, and problems persisted. Just sad.

    1. The summer of 1967 was definitely a scary time for residents of Detroit. I read that rioters looted white-owned shops and set fire to them; 5,000 residents were left homeless. I don’t understand why the rioters thought burning stores & homes were going to improve their situation. Very sad…

      1. I’m not really sure what the rioters were thinking when they started burning store and homes. I think maybe it made them feel more superior and make them prove a point maybe, I’m not quite sure. It left the people of Detroit in a terrible place and left them with no were to live. I can’t believe people would do that. It is really hard to wrap my head around.

  5. It is crazy how much violence occurred during the rioting that started in 1967. As you stated, bottles were thrown through police car windows and trash cans through store windows. No wonder people who experienced this riot referred to it as a “war zone”.

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