Tag Archives: Detroit Riots of 1967

Significance of the Detroit Riots of 1967 for current efforts to rebuild Detroit

 “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

The African-American community in Detroit has still not recovered from the cataclysmic Detroit Riots of 1967.

Tanks in the streets of Detroit after the President of the United States sends over 5,000 federal troups to Detroit to stop the riot. Photo courtesy Shorpy Historic Picture Archive
Tanks in the streets of Detroit after the President of the United States sends over 5,000 federal troops to Detroit to stop the riot. Photo courtesy Shorpy Historic Picture Archive

Tanks rolled in the streets of a U.S. city as the phrase coined during the iconic Los Angeles Watts Riots two years previously resonated through the streets of Detroit: “Burn, baby, burn.”

“By the end of 1967, race riots would rock 127 U.S. cities,” explains the narrator of the following video. “Detroit’s would become the deadliest and most notorious.”

History Repeats: Detroit Riots of 1967 is described in You Tube’s About section: “This video is in the Public Domain. The Master Copy can be found at the National Archives and Records Administration.” This version using  National Archive footage is  narrated by a woman described as: The Kneady Homesteader

The first must-see  12 minutes show footage of Detroit burning, riots in the streets, police fighting. The narration is clear, dispassionate and extremely informative.

“The final tally in the riots in Detroit in 1967: 43 deaths, 342 injuries, 7,231 arrests…more than 500 businesses destroyed,…and 1,000 families left homeless.

“Why did I find it necessary to blog about  the history of my city of Detroit? Because history repeats itself.”

Caution after 13 minutes Hilary, as she identifies herself, erupts into obscenity worth listening to  for the expression of rage that, as she states over and over, “Nothing has changed.” Hilary posted her documentary in 2011 quoting Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”   

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6mpbxpVGag[/youtube]

Above, on  July 24th, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson announces sending federal troops to Detroit, for the purpose of helping local authorities quell rioting . Permission courtesy President Lyndon Johnson Library.

Note, standing next to  President Johnson, on your right as you face the screen, is Robert McNamara. McNamara was President of the Ford Motor Company when President John Kennedy selected him to be Secretary of Defense, a position he continued to hold under President Johnson.

President Johnson appointed a special commission [the Kerner Commission] to study what had taken place and provide recommendations. This was how the Presidential commission introduced its report:

“The summer of 1967 again brought racial disorders to American cities, and with them shock, fear and bewilderment to the nation.

“The worst came during a two-week period in July, first in Newark and then in Detroit. Each set off a chain reaction in neighboring communities.

“On July 28, 1967, the President of the United States established this Commission and directed us to answer three basic questions:

“What happened?

“Why did it happen?

“What can be done to prevent it from happening again?

“To respond to these questions, we have undertaken a broad range of studies and investigations. We have visited the riot cities; we have heard many witnesses; we have sought the counsel of experts across the country.

“This is our basic conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

 Martha & The Vandellas “Dancing in the Streets”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdvITn5cAVc[/youtube]

Ironically, not that much earlier, the black community of Detroit was producing joyous upbeat music, a sound known as MoTown, a record  company that produced a series of artists including Diana Ross and the Supremes.

Watch  a second version of MoTown’s  Martha & The Vandellas performing  “Dancing in the Streets”on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 5, 1965 less than two years before the riots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGpgkCE41x8

“There’ll be dancin’, they’re dancin’ in the street
This is an invitation, across the nation
A chance for folks to meet
There’ll be laughin’, singin’ and music swingin’
Dancin’ in the street

“Philadelphia, P.A., Baltimore and D.C. now
Can’t forget the Motor City
All we need is music, sweet music
There’ll be music everywhere
There’ll be swingin’, swayin’ and records playin
Dancin’ in the street”

—Excerpt from lyrics: “Dancing In The Street” by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas