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 above tells the story mostly from the black perspective. “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!

“During the five days and nights of violence, 33 African-Americans and 10 whites were killed.

Of the black people who died, 24 were shot by police or National Guardsmen, 6 by store owners, 1 died when they trod on a downed power line, and 2 choked to death in a fire.”

What about the 10 white people who died? Crickets from the Sun.  A more neutral assessment is on, but no mention there, either. Also from

Here is an eyewitness account of a firefighter (presumably a white person?) killed by a sniper’s bullet from the Chicago Tribune’s archives. It reads a little like a war story, with the Detroit News reporters pinned down by the gunfire that erupted.

Here’s the conclusion of the Sun article, which has great pictures of the arrests, police and military presence, and devastation of the city, but none of the rioters attacking the police or firefighters. It has a classic video of firefighters putting out a house fire without any opposition.

“The after effects of the riots did little to lessen the pre-existing tensions, with a survey in the Detroit Free Press in 1968 revealing that 17 per cent of Detroit whites wanted “total separation” between the races.

The same poll revealed just 1 per cent of Detroit blacks surveyed wanted the same thing.

Riots still happen today, with the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month marred by anarchist violence.

There were also nasty clashes in Brazil as thousands protested against pension reforms.”

End of the Sun article.

Black mayors like Coleman Young did not help matters in later years by deriding the suburbs and lamenting the construction of shopping malls just outside the city, “Northland, Southland, all them other damn lands.” As retail stores in the city closed and moved to the suburbs, so did the people, including blacks. Same for grocery stores. Detroit public schools, once some of the best in the state, declined, too. Businesses and factories closed during auto industry downturns. You’ve probably seen pictures of Detroit with graffiti on buildings and heard about Devil’s Night arson, etc. It’s like a city that hasn’t been rebuilt after a war — ruin porn of a once great city. Actually, there was a war.

Detroit in the 1920s was considered the Paris of the North (Charleston, South Carolina the Paris of the South), with many great buildings. The train station in the picture may one day be restored; it’s owned by Matty Maroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. Many of Detroit’s great older buildings are still there, with beautiful architecture. Newer ones like the Renaissance Center, built in 1973, now houses GM’s headquarters and anchors the newly developing Riverfront, with Milliken State Park as part of the Riverwalk.

The 1967 riots were not the first race riots in Detroit. Here is a somewhat biased account of the June 1943 riots which left 9 whites and 25 blacks dead. The report does not say whether either of the rumors were true. “African Americans at the Forest Social Club in Paradise Valley were told that whites had thrown a black woman and her baby off of the Belle Isle Bridge. They formed a furious mob and moved near Woodward, breaking windows, looting white businesses and attacking white individuals.

In a nearby area, angry whites had gathered after hearing that black men had raped a white woman near the same bridge. Around 4am, a mob of white men formed outside the Roxy Theatre on Woodward. When the movie let out, black men exiting the theatre were surrounded and beaten. As word of both incidents spread, so did the violence.”

The mayor appealed to President Roosevelt for help and finally “Violence was curbed by the arrival of 6,000 army troops in tanks armed with automatic weapons.”

“No white individuals were killed by police, whereas seventeen African American died at the hands of police violence.” This states a fact in a rather biased way.

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.

Coleman Young II is challenging Mike Duggan for mayor this year.

“Look, we’ve never had it like this before,” Young said in an interview with the Free Press. “Forty-eight percent of the city lives in poverty; they’re closing schools; they’re closing churches and recreational centers and they’re building jails. …They’ve pushed out black businesses that have been here for years. Black people feel that they’re visitors in their own town. …They are single-handedly dismantling everything my father, the honorable Coleman Alexander Young, built and that’s why I’m running.”

“Forty-eight percent of the city lives in poverty.” This is a result of President Obama’s legacy and years of Democratic Party rule in many of America’s inner cities.”

“They’re closing schools; they’re closing churches and recreational centers  and they’re building jails.” Who is they? School consolidation is happening everywhere. Royal Oak and Pontiac both now have a single high school. Birmingham still has two smaller ones because it still has enough money to keep both of them open. It’s possible that suburban school districts have poached some of Detroit’s brighter students with open enrollment.  Or that black families who could afford it have also moved to the suburbs to avoid the crime.

“They’ve pushed out black businesses that have been here for years.” How? By buying them? By opening better ones next door that people prefer to shop at? Who exactly is “they”? The evil outsiders who have brought capital into the city?

“Black people feel that they’re visitors in their own town.” Will Coleman Young II represent all of Detroit residents, including its 18% non-black residents? It’s true that many non-black people have moved back into the city, especially around Midtown and Downtown. Some of the poorer residents have had to move. This is the way urban centers generally get renewed. As the tax base of the city improves, so will its ability to provide services to all Detroit residents.

I am not picking sides yet in this election, just pointing out that Coleman Young II’s apple did not fall far from the tree. He is playing the race card just like his father, in my opinion.

If you solve the crime problem and improve the schools (public schools, charter schools, private schools, homeschools), more people will want to live in a community, plain and simple.

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? More to come in the next article in this two-part series.

Other articles

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 historytraveltechnologyreligion 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.

Other interesting articles on the USA Melting Pot website have been written by Bilal Rathur on his hajj to Saudi Arabia (Part 6) and by Carl Petersen. Thanks to both of them for their contributions.