Detroit Riots

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Christina Frederick
Tony Spicer
English 121
11 December 2013
Second Chance through Destruction

“The 1967 Detroit riot marked a point in U.S. history at which racial tensions between African Americans and whites reached deadly proportions” (Greene & Gabbidon 195-196). Riots in Detroit have occurred before over issues such as race, economics, and justice. The first major riot in Detroit was in March 1863, caused by a trial of an African American man for rape, and was powered by the local press. After that, Detroit tried to avoid major civil violence for a long time. This occurred even when riots broke out in other major cities after World War I. Detroit was able to avoid large social disturbances until June 1943. During this time, there were poor housing conditions and racial tensions that caused a violent riot. Nine white people and twenty-five black people were killed along with destruction of millions of dollars of property. The city responded to this riot by creating a committee on racial relations, but violence only got worse (Kutler 21). Detroit has had some famous riots, but it is the not only city that has endured them. The history prior to the Detroit riot in 1967 included racial tension, police brutality, and racial discrimination caused racial riots all over the state; including the Rochester and Philadelphia riots in 1954. There are many underlying causes of riots which include social, economic, and political tension between people. There were around four dozen riots and more than 100 smaller cases of civil disturbance in the United States in 1967, but the riots that occurred in Detroit were the most deadly. The events that lead to the 1967 Detroit riot were caused by social context. African Americans suffered barriers during this time in history including unemployment, lack of legitimate opportunities, geographical isolation from society, emotional isolation from society, and deindustrialization that caused many young, unskilled workers to lose their industrial jobs. These jobs were replaced by skilled positions that required education. A shift in the tax base to the suburbs and “White flight” were also causes of deindustrialization. The loss of all of these jobs resulted in a decline of African American middle class because they now had low-paying service jobs. Poverty and welfare became excessive and many African Americans were left behind when manufacturing jobs moved to the suburbs (Greene & Gabbidon 195-196). The residents in the neighborhood on 12th Street in Detroit faced the most extreme poverty. The people living on 12th street, where the 1967 riot began, were very isolated from society and were not able to stop the progression of poverty. African Americans and whites lived together within certain areas of the city and had intense racial segregation. Freeway construction destroyed areas where African Americans once lived and they were now forced to move into over populated areas of the city. Discrimination encouraged housing shortages and exclusion from certain areas of the African Americans. They had no choice but to remain in poor, disadvantaged housing. African Americans that lived in Detroit fared better than African Americans in other areas of the United States, and they wanted equal housing opportunities. (Greene & Gabbidon 195-196). The event leading to the riot was a raid done by a police vice squad at an illegal after-hours drinking club called a “blind pig.” “Blind pigs” were places where African Americans who lived in the city went to drink, gamble, and peacefully enjoy each other’s company. However, the police had a policy of raiding these places because the gambling and unlicensed alcohol was illegal. The report's first paragraph on Detroit stated: "On Saturday evening, July 22, the Detroit Police Department raided five 'blind pigs.' The blind pigs had their origin in prohibition days, and survived as private social clubs." (Henderson). The fifth blind pig the police went to that...
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