“Riots and rebellions aren’t things that are planned. It’s an accumulated outburst or reaction to ongoing repression.”
-- Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd
Known for being one of the most radical urban revolutions in U.S. History, the Detroit riots of 1967 was an immediate response to police brutality, a problem that we are still fighting today. Accompanying the initial act of police brutality, segregated housing and schools and rising Black unemployment, fueled the troubled spirit of Black Detroiters.
During the summer of 1967 around 60,000 Blacks lived in an area less than half the size of Detroit’s own Belle Isle. This area, known as Virginia Park, was the poorest neighborhood in Detroit, and the only whites seen in the neighborhood were those that commuted from the suburbs who owned stores on 12th Street.
More importantly, through the rise of the Black Power Movement, Blacks were celebrating Black culture and were prideful in being Black. One could assume that this created a sense of threat within the white community, and further augmented the existing tensions between whites and Blacks.
1,400 buildings burned
5,000 people left homeless
7,000 National Guard and U.S. Army troops
Over 7,000 people arrested
50 million dollars in damage
3:35am: Detroit Police bombarded The Blind Pig, where all 85 patrons were arrested. The police were suspected to have used force while removing the patrons, and the word was traveling fast.
5:00am-6:00am: Thousands of people were rioting and looting, including whites. Additional police officers were sent to the scene
6:30am: The first fire broke out, and not long after, the majority of the street was in flames
1:00pm: The first injury was reported.
3:00pm: The riot began to spread to other areas of the city.
5:00pm-7:00pm: Mayor Cavanaugh requested the National Guard and imposed a curfew between 9:00pm and 5:00am. Firefighters began to retreat as the fires became more robust.
9:00pm-10:00pm: The first gunshot victim was reported as a 16-year-old Black boy.
“I feel that the riots were instrumental in cementing that mentality [us vs. them] and we have yet to outgrow it. It was there before the riots. But (the riots) are where it came above board, and people realized that Detroit was going to be left to Black people.”
-- Desiree Cooper, former Detroit Free Press columnist
Being a revolution of such magnitude, the riot of 1967 has left a lasting impression on Detroit, changing the city forever. It is a common misconception that the riots were the cause of the “white flight” from the city, however, the majority of whites remained residents of the city after the riots. It was not until the election of Coleman A. Young in 1973, when Blacks had significant political control, that whites began to flee the city.
The 1967 Detroit Race Riot was the natural result of over a half-century of racial oppression and discrimination in Detroit. The riot itself is a powerful reminder of what results from a people determined to fight the systems and practices which consistently oppress them. The riots were a moment of Black resistance and Blackpower, demonstrating the resilience of Detroit's Black population and the end of an era of White control in the city.
Contributed by: Mariel Watkins