See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967

See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967

Jacob Miller - October 7, 2017

The 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 12th Street riot, began early in the morning on July 23, 1967.

The riot began after the police raided an illegal, unlicensed bar known as a blind pig in the United Community League for Civic Action office. The officers were surprised to find a party of 82 African Americans celebrating the return of two local GIs from the Vietnam War. While the police were arranging transportation for the arrested lawbreakers, a crowd of onlookers gathered. Walter Scott III, whose father was running the blind pig, threw a bottle at a police officer.

When the police left, the crowd began looting the neighborhood. Due to the large number of rioters, the police were unable to control the crowd. When the first fire broke out, the crowd prevented the firefighters from extinguishing the flames and the fire spread.

On July 24, Michigan State Police and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department were called to Detroit to assist the Detroit police force. Police made numerous arrests and eventually resorted to detaining people without any criminal charges just to get people off the streets. Throughout the day, 483 fires were lit and 1,800 arrests were made. 2,498 rifles and 28 handguns were stolen from local stores. Just before midnight, President Johnson authorized the use of federal troops in compliance with the Insurrection Act of 1807, which authorizes the President to call in armed forces to fight an insurrection in any state against the government.

On July 25, 8,000 Michigan Army National Guardsmen were deployed to quell the riot. Eventually, 4,700 paratroopers and 360 Michigan State Police officers would join to help end the riot.

Tanks and machine guns were used in effort to keep the peace. By July 27, sufficient order had returned to the city and troops began to withdraw the 28.

It is estimated that 10,000 people participated in the riots and 100,000 gathered to watch. By the end of the riot, 2,509 stores were looted or burned, 388 families were rendered homeless or were displaced, and 412 buildings were burned to the point where they had to be demolished. The riot cost the city between $40-45 million. 7,200 people were arrested. 43 people were killed. Among the deaths were a Detroit police officer, two Detroit firefighters, and a Michigan Army National Guardsman.

See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A man involved in racial a disturbance in Detroit hurls a shoe at police who have sealed off the troubled area on Sunday, July 23, 1967. Later the rioting with resultant fires and looting spread to other surrounding areas. AP Photo
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Hundreds of black residents charge down 12th Street on Detroit’s Near West Side, about three miles from the downtown area, throwing stones and bottles at storefronts, and looting, July 23, 1967. Violence erupted early Sunday morning when police raided an unlicensed after-hours bar known as a “blind pig”. (AP Photo/Alvan Quinn)
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
In this July 23, 1967, file photo, hundreds of people run down 12th Street on Detroit’s westside throwing stones and bottles at storefronts. The riot started after police raided an after-hours club in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The raid, though, was just the spark. Many in the community blamed frustrations blacks felt toward the mostly white police, and city policies that pushed families into aging and over-crowded neighborhoods. AP Photo/File
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Soldiers take cover behind both army vehicles and parked cars as they attempt to restore order to Detroit. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Police blockade a street on Detroit’s Near West Side, about three miles from the downtown area, throwing stones and bottles at storefronts, and looting, July 23, 1967. AP Photos
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A police car blocks off an area of 12th Street in Detroit where racial violence erupted, July 23, 1967. Police were met by a hail of bottles, bricks, and fruit when they tried to clear about 400 people from the streets and sidewalks Sunday afternoon. AP Photo/Alvan Quinn
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A loan office which had been looted in a Detroit Negro area, July 23, 1967, where the racial violence began on Sunday and is continuing with new fires looting and shooting reported. AP Photo
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Police face a crowd on Detroit’s Near West Side, about three miles from the downtown area. AP Photo
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A man being stopped and frisked for weapons by police. AP Photo
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Newsmen take to their heels fleeing down the middle of the street to escape rock and bottle-throwing on Detroit’s near West Side, July 23, 1967. Violence erupted after police raided a blind-pig and continued throughout the day. The newsman at right is Associated Press writer Justinas Bavarskis. AP Photo/Alvan Quinn
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Determined to protect their own property at any cost, both African American and White store owners brought out weapons and stood ready to use them. Time & Life: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Detroit Police Officers preventing the crowd from getting too close. Time & Life: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Detroit, July 1967. FIremen work diligently to put out a fire that had been set during the rioting. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Part of the five-block Detroit area where racial violence continues with new fires and looting reported July 23, 1967. AP Photo: Alvan Quinn
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A man is taken into custody during a race riot in Detroit, July 23, 1967. AP Photo: Alvin Quinn
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Michigan National Guardsmen move into Detroit’s riot-torn area aboard carriers, July 23, 1967. Shown is a business district littered with debris. Smoke is from the numerous fires started by firebombs. AP Photo: Alvan Quinn
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Michigan National Guardsmen move into Detroit’s riot-torn area aboard carriers, July 23, 1967. Shown is a business district littered with debris. Smoke is from the numerous fires started by firebombs. AP Photo: Alvan Quinn
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Unit of the Michigan National Guard disperses to assigned positions in front of burning residences in Detroit’s riot-torn section, July 23, 1967. Numerous homes and businesses were firebombed during the racial violence which began following a raid on a blind pig (speakeasy). (AP Photo/Alvan Quinn)
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
One of the worst racial disturbances in American history erupted in Detroit, Michigan, the nation’s sixth largest city, July 23, 1967. More than twenty people were killed in the rioting. AP Photo
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
In this July 1967 file photo, a National Guardsman stands at a Detroit intersection during riots in the city. Detroit wasn’t the first of the riots in the summer of 1967, and it was far from the last. Buffalo, New York, and Newark, New Jersey, preceded it; in the course of the summer, more than 150 cases of civil unrest erupted across the United States. AP Photo/File
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Detroit in flames. goldismoney2

See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A National Guardsman patrols the streets after the shocking race riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A soldier on patrol next to ‘Black Power’ graffiti on the street. Time & Life: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A soldier stands in the crosswalk in the early dawn. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A member of the Coast Guard overlooks the destruction of the city. goldismoney2
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A US Army Tank on patrol at night. Paint had been thrown at the tank in protest. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
An armed security guard watches over a grocery store that had been looted. A window has been smashed and glass is littered on the sidewalk. TIme & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Police evacuate an apartment building in search of sniper suspects during riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Police have rioters and bystanders line up against a wall. 2.bp
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A statue of Jesus Christ painted black during the riots. Time & Life: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A woman sits in her smoke-damaged home, broken records on the floor. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
People walk by destroyed and burned out building caused by the July Race Riots in Detroit, Michigan, in 1967. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A family carrying their personal belongings in sacks leaving the destroyed district. Time & Life: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A mother walking with her children past burning buildings being tended to by the fire department in the aftermath of the riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Burnt out buildings in the aftermath of the riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
An aerial view of the destruction. goldismoney2
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Cars and shops destroyed by the riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
Crowds gather to watch authorities clean up debris after the riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A family taking a walk in a neighborhood destroyed by the rioting. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A Detroit police officer stands guard over a grocery store looted during the riots. Time & Life: Getty Images
See How Racial Tensions Exploded in Detroit in 1967
A family moving after the Detroit race riots. Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images

 

Sources For Further Reading:

Black Past – Detroit Race Riot (1967)

History Channel – Detroit Riots Of 1967 Begin

Freep – Detroit ’67: The Officer Who Led the Raid on The Blind Pig That Ignited the Riot

Think Big – The History of Using the Insurrection Act Against Americans

Freep – He helped start 1967 Detroit riot, now his son struggles with the legacy

Smithsonian Magazine – Understanding Detroit’s 1967 Upheaval 50 Years Later

Time Magazine – What We Still Get Wrong About What Happened in Detroit in 1967

Aljazeera – 1967 Detroit Riots, ‘Resistance’ Then and Now

The Guardian – The Detroit Riots Of 1967 Hold Some Lessons for the UK

History Collection – Riots and Civil Unrest that Shook History

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