1967: Detroit Race Riot Begins

July 23, 2018 all-day


A massive race riot erupted in Detroit. The summer of 1967 was a turbulent time in American history. The Detroit rioting began near 12th Street and Clairmount in a predominantly African-American, overcrowded, and low-income neighborhood. Early on the morning of July 23, Detroit police officers raided a “blind pig,” which was an establishment that illegally sold alcohol after hours. A crowd gathered as those arrested were put in a police wagon. Riots erupted and quickly spread. Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh asked Michigan’s governor, George Romney, to send in the State Police. Eventually, Romney called in the National Guard. After eight dangerous and unfortunate days, the riot came to an end. The riot’s immediate effects were disastrous. Forty-three people had lost their lives. 1,700 stores had been looted. In all, 7,231 people were arrested and over 1000 buildings were burned. Damages to property amounted to about $50 million. As a result of this debacle, President Lyndon Johnson set up the Kerner Commission to investigate the causes of civil disorder in American cities. New taxes were eventually adopted to bring increase revenue for education, welfare, and other government services. In 1972, a state lottery was also established to help raise money and alleviate the dire conditions of inner-city living.


Ben Cosgrove, Detroit Burning : Photos from the 1967 Riot, Life, July 22, 2012.

Sidney Fine, Violence in the Model City: the Cavanagh Administration, Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989 and/or Hubert G. Locke, The Detroit Riot of 1967, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1969.

Michigan Historical Calendar, Courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Vimeo Video, 33 minutes, Original footage was filmed by WXYZ TV-7, and ABC affiliate in Detroit, Michigan. The footage was donated to the Michigan State Police for training purposes. The State Police have since donated it to the Archives of Michigan for permanent preservation.

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