40 years since the ’67 riots/uprising/rebellion in Detroit

July 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

(Detroit News Archives)

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the riots/uprising/rebellion which broke out in Detroit on July 23, 1967. You can see it in action on this news reel footage from 1967. Notice President Johnson’s remarks about “disobedience and violence” and how similar many of his statements are to racist statements made today.

The riots were the result years of frustrations and anger of African Americans in Detroit, spurred by unjust treatment, racism, violence, and poverty. The civil rights movement, once equated with the non-violent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had reached it’s boiling point in Detroit and elsewhere in the late 1960’s.

From the information I have read, it seems that the riots started in the early morning hours on July 23, after a police raid on a bar in Northwest Detroit. Following the raid, five days of rioting, or uprising, or rebellion (each of these terms having different connotations), ensued, leaving 43 dead and thousands injured and arrested.

The American Experience website explains that an “economic boom ha[d] created jobs, and urban renewal projects [had] built new infrastructure, but blacks [were] been left behind. New expressways destroy[ed] black neighborhoods, and economic opportunities [were] scarce for black residents. The 95% white police force, notorious for brutal and arbitrary treatment of black citizens, raid[ed] an illegal after hours club and [drew] an angry, frustrated crowd that quickly turn[ed] hostile.”

To deal with the “unruly crowd,” Governor George Romney called in the Michigan National Guard. These unprepared troops make mistakes like shooting out the street lights, only creating more havoc in the streets. By the end of two days, nearly 4000 were already arrested, and over 7000 by the third. Most of those arrested were young and black. To add insult to injury, the police and guardsmen shoot without abandon, insisting that everyone they were shooting at were armed.

More sources of information:

The Detroit News

tea mowens blog


American Experience on PBS


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