In Black America Podcast: Where Detroit Stand, Forty-Five Years Later
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Rochelle Riley, columnist with the Detroit Free Press. One of the most profound events in Michigan’s history is the Detroit Riot of 1967. I was sixteen years old on that faithful day in July 1967. My brother and I were on our way to visit our cousins three blocks from where the riot began. Detroit, like many urban areas in the 1960s, was a place of racial tension and social unrest. The African American community had trouble finding jobs and housing, and faced harassment from Detroit’s police force, which was 95 percent white.
The 12th Street Riot was a civil disturbance in Detroit that began in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. Vice squad officers (on their second attempt) executed a raid at an illegal after-hours drinking and gambling club at the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount on the city’s near west side. Although officers were expecting to round up a few patrons, they instead found 82 people inside celebrating the homecoming of two Vietnam servicemen. The officers attempted to arrest everyone who was in the club. While the police awaited a “cleanup crew” to transport the arrestees, a angry, frustrated crowd gathered around the establishment in protest.
The confrontation with the patrons and observers on the street there evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in modern U.S. history, lasting five days and far surpassing the 1943 riot the city endured. Before it ended, the state and federal governments, under order of then President Lyndon B. Johnson, sent in National Guard and U.S. Army troops. The result was 43 dead – many at the hands of police and National Guardsmen, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, 1,700 stores looted, 1,383 buildings were burned and property valued at about $50 million was damaged.