2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Detroit riots or uprising, depending on your point of view. Civil unrest along racial lines in Detroit July 23-27, 1967 left 43 dead and 1,189 injured. 7200 were arrested with approximately 2500 stores looted (total property damage of $32 million), homes of white residents were firebombed, and fear ruled the city on all sides. Tanks rolled down Woodward Avenue as the Michigan National Guard and the 82nd Airborne Division were called out to restore order. In the aftermath, deep scars on the city’s psyche remained, as many whites left the city at their first opportunity.
The riot article I linked to from BlackPast.org tells the story mostly from the black perspective. “On Sunday evening, July 23, the Detroit Police Vice Squad officers raided an after hours “blind pig,” an unlicensed bar on the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount Avenue in the center of the city’s oldest and poorest black neighborhood. A party at the bar was in progress to celebrate the return of two black servicemen from Vietnam. Although officers had expected a few patrons would be inside they found and arrested all 82 people attending the party. As they were being transported from the scene by police, a crowd of about 200 people gathered outside agitated by rumors that police used excessive force during the 12th Street bar raid.”
Did the police use excessive force in their raid on the blind pig? I have not been able to find out. If someone has an account of this, please post it in the comments. Here’s a recent account in a UK publication which relies heavily on the above account.
“Firefighters abandoned an area roughly 100 square blocks in size around 12th Street, unable to dent the raging infernos.” Because they were increasingly coming under attack from the rioters!
Black people in America did endure much suffering. The previous link has Joya Shepard’s excellent presentation to the USA Melting Pot club at the Troy Public Library. Other great presentations and articles are also shown under the Culture and Country heading on the right hand side of the website.
Take a few minutes to watch this moving video which has photos of slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights era as the Black National Anthem is sung.
Unexpected email: another Vietnam Vet’s Perspective
Yesterday, I received an email from a Vietnam veteran friend who was just getting ready to go overseas from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, had leave, and landed in Chicago to the headlines about the riots in Detroit. He drove his Golden Commando Plymouth Belvedere II 383 (a fast car for those days) on I-94 past convoys of National Guard troops headed for Detroit. His parents lived a few blocks south of Eight Mile on the east side of Detroit. He arrived at home at night after the curfew; the city was on lockdown.
He did not view the riots as much about race but about lawlessness, as the mostly black rioters were looting stores owned by blacks as well as whites, burning down the town regardless of who owned the property.
In the Vietnam era all the service members (white, black, Hispanic, and Asian) fought together against a common enemy and received mostly disdain from Americans when they returned home. That is one lesson America has learned from Vietnam: veterans are honored for their service and sacrifice regardless of whether one views the war in question as just.
Many white people left the city as soon as they could afford to move. The city is now 82% black. Many black people have also left, moving to safer neighborhoods and better schools in the suburbs.
Kerner Report Excerpts
The President commissioned an investigation to look into the causes of the 1967 riots. The Kerner Commission wrote a summary with recommendations. Here are excerpts regarding the Detroit riots.
. . . A spirit of carefree nihilism was taking hold. To riot and destroy appeared more and more to become ends in themselves. Late Sunday afternoon it appeared to one observer that the young people were “dancing amidst the flames.”
A Negro plainclothes officer was standing at an intersection when a man threw a Molotov cocktail into a business establishment at the corner. In the heat of the afternoon, fanned by the 20 to 25 m.p.h. winds of both Sunday and Monday, the fire reached the home next door within minutes. As residents uselessly sprayed the flames with garden hoses, the fire jumped from roof to roof of adjacent two- and three-story buildings. Within the hour the entire block was in flames. The ninth house in the burning row belonged to the arsonist who had thrown the Molotov cocktail. . . .
* * *
. . . Employed as a private guard, 55-year-old Julius L. Dorsey, a Negro, was standing in front of a market when accosted by two Negro men and a woman. They demanded he permit them to loot the market. He ignored their demands. They began to berate him. He asked a neighbor to call the police. As the argument grew more heated, Dorsey fired three shots from his pistol into the air.
The police radio reported: “Looters, they have rifles.” A patrol car driven by a police officer and carrying three National Guardsmen arrived. As the looters fled, the law enforcement personnel opened fire. When the firing ceased, one person lay dead.
He was Julius L. Dorsey . . .
* * *
. . . As the riot alternatively waxed and waned, one area of the ghetto remained insulated. On the northeast side the residents of some 150 square blocks inhabited by 21,000 persons had, in 1966, banded together in the Positive Neighborhood Action Committee (PNAC). With professional help from the Institute of Urban Dynamics, they had organized block clubs and made plans for the improvement of the neighborhood. . . .
When the riot broke out, the residents, through the block clubs, were able to organize quickly. Youngsters, agreeing to stay in the neighborhood, participated in detouring traffic. While many persons reportedly sympathized with the idea of a rebellion against the “system,” only two small fires were set—one in an empty building.
* * *
. . . According to Lt. Gen. Throckmorton and Col. Bolling, the city, at this time, was saturated with fear. The National Guardsmen were afraid, the residents were afraid, and the police were afraid. Numerous persons, the majority of them Negroes, were being injured by gunshots of undetermined origin. The general and his staff felt that the major task of the troops was to reduce the fear and restore an air of normalcy.
In order to accomplish this, every effort was made to establish contact and rapport between the troops and the residents. The soldiers—20 percent of whom were Negro—began helping to clean up the streets, collect garbage, and trace persons who had disappeared in the confusion. Residents in the neighborhoods responded with soup and sandwiches for the troops. In areas where the National Guard tried to establish rapport with the citizens, there was a smaller response."
However… That was then; this is now
There is new investment in midtown Detroit and new sports stadiums by the Ilitch and Ford families. Large business owners like Dan Gilbert have poured millions into the city. Shinola and numerous smaller businesses have opened in Detroit and Pontiac. Pontiac is the poorest city in Oakland County but is on its way up with new businesses locating in downtown and charities like Grace Centers of Hope revitalizing the neighborhoods.
Hopefully Detroit has seen its worst days and some of its other neighborhoods besides Indian Village and Southwest Detroit will see improvement. Brightmoor was once called Blightmoor. There is a church plant in eastside Detroit called 5.7, named after the 5.7 square miles of its area.
Other Cities and Countries
Conflict is everywhere, with raucous incivility at California city council meetings. Race relations in America are once again at a low point. Police are again not trusted and are getting body cams to protect themselves. Nations are still fighting and scheming. Refugees are fleeing Middle East war zones and overrunning Europe. Militant religions, terrorism, fear, hatred. The list goes on and on, aggravated by the 24/7 news cycle telling us how bad things are, instantly in wide screen living color.
However…. Much good is happening: people are living longer than ever, safe drinking water is more available than ever, solar powered crop-drying devices in remote rural areas of developing countries, and crowd-funding of other worthwhile projects on the internet (not just crime and pornography).
Marvin Olasky wrote a thoughtful article about Jews reaching across the aisle to blacks in Detroit after the riot and during the Civil Rights era. Perhaps their example can help other minorities stick up for each other in the future.
What can you do to make a difference? Find out in the next article in this three-part series. Here is the full article from part 1: The Detroit Riots 5o Year Anniversary.
In previous blog posts, I began telling the story of my brain tumor and the depression which followed it. The second article in the series described my faith in God which sustained me through both trials.
Having recently started a word-by-word translation of Martin Luther’s Bible from German to English, I introduced the project and published Matthew Chapter 1 . Later I wrote commentary on it; my church background and theological training is in my USA Melting Pot bio.
Dale Murrish writes on history, travel, technology, religion and politics for the USA Melting Pot club and Troy Patch. You can help this non-profit club by making your Amazon purchases through the link on the left side of their website. You can also see over a dozen ethnic presentations from people with firsthand knowledge under Culture & Country (right hand side), and outdoor presentations (Hobby & Fun), including posts on bicycling, skiing and camping.