tv AHTV Looks Back at the 1967 Detroit Riots CSPAN July 23, 2017 6:00pm-8:01pm EDT
in july 1960 7, 5 days of rioting erupted in detroit sparked by a police raid on an illegal are earlier today come up american history tv was live from detroit to look back 50 years. our guests enjoyed us at a detroit free press room to talk about what happened and why and to answer your questions. this is about two hours. you are watching american history tv on c-span3. riotsrs ago today, in thepted --erupted city of detroit, michigan, sparked by a police raid on a bar called the blind take. president lyndon b. johnson said 5000 federal troops. property damage was estimated at more than 30 million. the affected areas still bear the scars of the riots.
spaces mark where a thriving commercial district once stood. there are lingering questions and issues that led to the rioting. we are here with the detroit free press. and we are joined by heather and thompson and detroit page editorial editor. we will be live for the next two hours taking your calls, tweets, and facebook posts. can we start with definitions in the sense that the event is described as a riot. would you describe it as such or is there a better way to define what happened? >> that term connotes chaos and it is suggested everyone showed up and destroyed city for no reason. it also suggests how we should understand what happened and the
impact it had. we prefer to think about it like a rebellion because all of the energy and anger at that went into that moment had long been predicted. the economic discrimination, that frustration cannot be understood as chaotic and incoherent. it was a rebellion. >> the word i have come to over some time is "uprising" which captures what happened in 1967. and oppressze african american people, destroy african-american communities even. that was the buildup to what happened in 1967. the flashpoint was packed specifically against a police of aggression and police brutality. you also had a lot of other
kinds of pushback. people in the streets looting stores were pushing back against the economic depression. they were pushing back against the housing discrimination. and uprising really captures all of that in a way -- one of the things that is true is language has real power in our culture and the word "riot" was used to dismiss all of those things after what happened happened. it was used to say ignore this, don't worry about the things that are behind this. we have taken care of it with police response and we will move on. what else was going on in 1967, particularly as other areas in the nation were struggling with uprisings. >> there are common themes in
the cities. newark was 11 days before detroit. los angeles was a few weeks later. you have this moment partially fueled by the questions asked by the civil rights movement. this was the time when african americans were no longer sitting back and saying we will wait for equality and justice. we want it and we want it now. at the same time, they were realizing how far they were to that realization and there was this real effort to deny that systematically. you see this outbreak happen in cities across the country. all in that same context. >> beginning in 1964, philadelphia erupts, rochester erupts harlem erupts. ,it was all for the same reason.
it was that sustained critique police activity in the black community overwhelmingly and the sustained critique of we passed all the legislation. why is there still such a disparity in income and lifestyle in general? -- afterculmination of a decade, that we are not going to ask anymore, we are going to demand. >> if you want to call on the phone lines -- if you live in detroit currently or lived during what happened in 1967 we invite you to call as well. you can also tweet us at c-span history and post on our facebook page. at facebook.com/c-span history. let's go back to 50 years ago today. put in context specifically what happened.
>> specific -- specifically, it was a night like many other nights. where folks in the black a community, at an after-hours drinking establishment were having a party, a get together aided by the detroit police department. people were routinely pulled over, routinely thrown up against cars, stopped, frisked, and it just touched a nerve in this particular community had experienced a lot of that aggressive policing even more than others. it was a match to candling. >> at the blind pig, why wasn't like that?it known >> it is a way to talk about after our bars because the pigs
were blind to them. they often avoid the gaze of police officers. >> and the celebration were a couple of folks from vietnam, they were celebrating early morning hours. please come. people are being taken out. what specifically happened? >> there is a conflict between the people inside the bar and the police. i think history shows this was planned by the police and they were there to show some force and be particularly aggressive. it spilled out into the street as they try to get people into paddy wagons. they were arresting a large number of people in this establishment and there are other people in the streets who see this and start to react, start to ask questions. saying this is not right and we are tired about this. >> they were concerned about what would happen to those that were being arrested. there is a long history of arrest, it is not that someone got arrested, locked up, tried
and charged or issued a ticket. people ended up harmed. there was a history of people being severely injured. people's concern by so many arrests was not just frustration, but genuine concern for what people knew to be true. >> there are more people than officers and at some point they can't control what is going on. >> if you go to the detroit free press this morning, you will see on the headline of this coverage, you will see we've got trouble. that statement from the police chief at the time talking to the mayor. talk about the role of the mayor. when he puts the police in, action, how to do that. the mayor at that time is jerome cavanagh. -- he is a very hopeful political figure elected
with great promise in the early 1960's. around the same time as john kennedy. there are often comparisons drawn between the two of them in their early careers. he is also a pretty dark figure in our history for the things that he ignored that were brewing when he was mayor. leading up to 1967. and then the way that he handles this. it catches him by surprise in a way that it should not have. about warned many times the things going on inside the police department with regard to the community and in the community, with regard to the kinds of segregation and discrimination going on in the city. he kept saying -- i think we will avoid the things we are seeing in other places. it was really naïve of him at best. his response was to let the police department lose on the community. and that, i think, not only leads to this massive
confrontation over the next few days that it leads to the end of his political career. it really ends jerome cavanagh. >> we hear about this starting at 12th and claremont but how far does this spread over the five days into the acreage of detroit? and how did -- and why did it happen? >> it just spreads and spreads and the only way to understand is the prehistory. shouldrome cavanagh, he have known because his own police commissioner, someone he appointed to remedy this problem of police brutality, george edwards quit because he says the police department, 90%, is irre formable. every neighborhood that hears the story -- and the rumor spread. was shooting out lights. people are fearful and it is chaotic. that spreading was inevitable
because of the way the policing operated after the initial confrontation. where there are no lights. fires are burning. people are armed. and then there is a rumor of sniping even though there is no evidence in retrospect that this what was -- that this what was going on. there is no evidence of people being fatally wounded. it is also the license for the really bad actors inside the department to go do the things they had in doing so far, under the cover of darkness. they are doing it in broad daylight now and they are doing it wantonly. wandering thele streets, shooting into the houses because they say that someone is inside and i need to take care of that.
ike mckinnon, who was later if -- who was later a police chief in the city, was one of the few black patrolmen at that time in detroit. he is accosted by two other officers who say they want to kill him. it really escalates to a point where there is no rationale for the behavior that the police are undertaking and that makes everything worse. it fuels what goes on for the next few days. mckenna will join a shortly to give us his experience. we will start our calls today with david who lives in detroit, michigan. thank you for calling. you are on with our guests. go ahead.
color: it is good to see -- caller: my question to dr. heather -- they are going to be releasing a new movie called "detroit." accuracy ork to the is there going to be much in the way of accuracy, historically, with this movie. secondly, i would like to reflect for a moment with regard to the 1967 riot. we lived on vine would in grand d and grand vinewoo river. i was seven years old. i remember how it rolled out. i remember hearing the sirens. everyone was startled. and then you sell the billowing black smoke coming up from cunningham, on the corner. subsequently, real quick, again,
i was seven years old so this would probably have been a day after. but i ventured up there and i -- and i caught myself going into one of the stores and grabbing a pair of shoes that did not hit me as i recall. thatted to reflect on because it feels like yesterday. if you could answer that in terms of historical accuracy. >> david, thank you so much. >> first, i want to say thank you so much for telling that story. it really shows that even the so-called looting. people were getting very practical things that they need it, often. shoes, clothing, food. that is often missed when we talk about this just as a "riot" as a reference back to our terminology.
everyone wholm, experienced it is going to have to decide whether they feel that it captured the out year -- the algiers motel murders. an incredibles historian, danielle mcguire. we are going to get the real nitty-gritty of what happened. i think it will capture the extraordinary level of violence directed against young people, particularly young black kids. one wasway in which no held accountable for that kind of violence. if nothing else, if the film captures that, it does a service to that. algierscontext for the incidents. >> a group of african-american teenagers during the uprising at the algiers motel.
they were with some white teenagers. i don't remember exactly the reason but the police show up. over several hours, it escalates to the point where they kill some of these black kids and there is never a good reason for that killing, there is never an explanation. and they are never held to account for it. no one is ever brought to justice. >> to be clear, these were kids that were in this hotel because there is so much chaos on the streets. some of these kids were musicians. do not comesay -- home. it is too crazy. stop at the hotel where you will be safe. the police show up under this rumor of a sniper and for hours, these kids are beaten, tortured and the officers play russian roulette with them. three of the teenagers and of dead. at least, i think the movie captures that. and that is critically important because that is a microcosm of
the reason why the city erupted in the first place. >> let us hear from philip in las vegas. go ahead. are you there? i think we lost him. >> hello. can you hear me? >> go right ahead. mann and i want to say that i was born and raised here in america and i love america. emphasize on -- we were the only people brought over here at gunpoint. second of all, you have to freeber that we worked for and did not get a dime. when lincoln, supposedly, set us
was because the nonblacks did not have any work and they became employed after slavery and then we had no work at all. from that point, we did not receive what we were supposed to get. we were denied, like the indians to get a treaty and a conversation, there were senators and congressmen who stood up and fought and said that african-americans were too ignorant to discuss a treaty, or whatever. philip, thank you. we got your point. and stephen henderson, to the economic question he brought up your for the average black person in detroit, what was it like economically? >> there were a couple of things
going on. you did have this emerging black middle class in detroit. my family, my mother's family, was part of that black middle class living in russell woods, just off of dexter avenue, one of the flashpoints of the stripng, a commercial that had been hit hard. you had an emerging black political class emerging in the city. people being elected to city council and congress. but at the same time, you have this underclass that is being pushed further and further behind in further and further marginalized. andarea around 12th claremont had become an african-american neighborhood of the other prime african-american neighborhoods in the city had been destroyed. they had nowhere else to go. and the opportunity that they could see, not only white but theys enjoying,
started to see other african-american detroiters enjoying, was a real source of tension. i think there was no question that people understood that if you were african-american, your chances of moving ahead were just very slim and the deck was stacked against you. agree.mpletely incidentally, i think that is why it is so important that we are commemorating this at 50 years. detroit is now the comeback city. detroit is now doing a lot of gentrification again including the slum clearance of yesteryear that you eradicated the black bottom area of the city, that pushed people out of their homes. may people homeless. we have this opportunity to how dider or consider things go so wrong in the first place? people do not realize but detroit was the model city of
1967. it was the apple of washington's eye. johnson and schreiber -- they all said that detroit was the best we have accomplished. and then it went up in flames and everyone was surprised. i think that is a real lesson for us today. detroit is coming back but will a comeback for everybody or just for the middle class and for rich, white folks that can move into the city? >> heather n thompson is professor at the university of michigan, annrich, white folks e into the city? arbor where she teaches afro-american studies and stephen henderson is with the detroit free press, he is their editorial page, page editor. thompson winning a pulitzer prize for her book "blood in the water." let us go to janet in east lansing, michigan. wanted to draw a
verbal picture of what it was like to be in the city when everything blew up. i was on the northwest side of the city, west of greenfield. people who know the city will note that it is a major north-south artery in the city. parents.iting my in the house that i grew up in. i got a funk call from a friend who lived much closer to where everything was burning, already. and she said -- you better get home. area,ed in the lansing about 90 miles away. my husband and i said -- what is going on? nothing was on the tv or the radio. nothing. she said -- well, some kind of riots are going on you better get out of there. and i said --what are you seeing?
and she was hearing a lot of gunshots. i got in the car and drove back to lansing. 90 miles. but armything vehicles. not tanks. but trucks, foot soldiers with weapons and helmets and overhead, helicopters. and everything was going into the city. from all of the expressways. they were coming in from the army bases in lansing, and you name it. 100 mile radius around the city, coming in. and this was my first experience of what it is like to live in a city or a country where martial law takes over. -- where marshall law takes over. >> thank you for the call. she is referring to the governor's decision to bring in the national guard. is overmatched almost
immediately because of the incident. and there is some debate in lansing about what to do. romney does eventually say we have to bring in the national guard which makes things much worse. the national guard troops they bring are not remotely prepared for what they are encountering in detroit. notmost of them are experienced in any sort of urban area at all. aboutare a lot of stories the kind of racial tension that they heightened with their behavior. once the federal troops arrived, which is later, that actually has the better affect than the guard did. the guard, i think, was responsible for a lot of the escalation in those early days of the uprising. >> including one that is killed by a fellow guardsmen. it is so chaotic with the shooting. anyone is a target.
imagine a situation so chaotic that a fellow guardsman shoots -- they were shooting one another. >> they were scared. ,he guard troops were young experienced and scared. they had no idea what was going on and they were frightened. when that happens, you get the kind of chaos that we saw. >> was it a quick decision by the mayor to do this? realthink there was tension between the mayor and the governor to do this about the guard coming in. and, of course, neither of them are quite sure what they are dealing with or the scale of what they are dealing with. in the early days, there is a belief that may be this will just subside on its own if we wait it out. as lyndon baines johnson. how did he factor into all of this when it came to the national guard? >> there was real tension.
romney has to make some real choices about bringing in federal troops because he is essentially admitting that he has lost control of his city and his state. remember, detroit was the apple of washington's eye. there is a lot of funding coming into detroit the yet the office of economic opportunity. all of this is in jeopardy. what is interesting is that because detroit was so important to the johnson administration, after this, johnson himself is a little shocked and stunned. this is the first time that we get calls for a federal study of what in the world is going on. notably, even though he calls for this, he does not ultimately take it seriously and he does not implement what the so-called kerner commission suggested was needed. but, it really was that moment. detroit was the moment when everyone woke up. >> let us go to longview, texas. pierre.
: i just wanted to say that this is an interesting story in that -- just to put this in perspective. i was born in 1969 in longview. my mother was born in 1941. my grandfather was born in 1896 and slavery was abolished in 1865? of course, my great-grandfather was a slave. up, havingim growing hethed a son in 1896, it relayed some of those slavery tendencies, poster medic slave disorder to his son. my grandfather, i am sure relayed it to my mother born in 1941 and of course, some of that rubbed off on me.
i am 48 years old. but,to med school and all to put this in perspective, we still have police brutality same and some of the apprehensions toward the other side, just like it was passed down to me from my mother and great grandmother and grandfather, was also passed on the other side. the same ill will and feelings. to put this in perspective, this is not too long ago. this uprising happened in 1967 that far, just a couple of steps away from that. and still in dallas, texas and longview, there is still so much of this going on and we really need to sit down. >> thank you berry much. >> he could not have said it better.
importanty it is so that we pay attention to 1967 and the uprising, why we pay attention to why it happened, what its legacy was and was in. it is not the uprising that destroyed the city. it was a response to it. if we do not get that right, we are on the corner again. erupting, ferguson, chicago, baltimore, dallas. the reasons are the same -- people want equal justice under the law. things have gotten worse. we have mass incomes -- mass incarceration. swaths ofbeen entire the black community that has been criminalized and are in prison. >> give us a snapshot of what the police force looked like in 1967 and today. >> 1967, and all white police
force with a few african-american officers that had been hired but they do not amount to more than a couple percentage points. today, it is a much more integrated force. it is not as integrated as the city is. you still have an imbalance there but it is really different. we have had a series of african-american police chiefs dating back to the early 1970's. elected.g was we also have a different relationship between the police and the community here today than we did then. that is one of the things that i think actually we can take some credit for here in the city. that we do not have tensions. it is not that we do not have issues. but, the fundamental relationship between the police looks a lotunities different than it does in a lot of other cities right now.
going back to 1967, you heard about the program called "big four." talk about the effect it had on the african-american community. >> when i said that it was not "big four." the uprising that destroyed the city but the response to it, rather than try to remedy what had caused this in the first the uprising that destroyed thet
sadness almost at the things that she saw with the tanks rolling down the street or the fear or the uncertainty about these guardsmen propositioning her. there was all kinds of stuff going on during those days in the city that really changed people's lives. it changed who they were. and we have come a long way in 50 years. a lot has happened. a lot has gotten better. a sum has gotten worse and some has not changed at all but people here still carry all of that weight with them, a half-century later. >> we heard earlier from a caller about the possibility
that you could have these incidents happen, but you could live in an area other than detroit and you would not know what is going on. >> there was a blackout first of all. a media blackout. it is hard to understand today the idea that you could say -- we are not going to report this and everyone would do that. shatters theloan construct there. but that made it hard for some people who were not seeing what was happening to understand. some people were really confused. i see smoke. i hear sirens. but the radio does not say in theg is going on television does not either. i am not sure what is happening. >> with the media blackout, imagine what happens with the rumors. there were rumors that armed blacks were going to come down grand river.
or start attacking whites in their homes. and verye rumors, possibly true stories, of sexual the part ofg on on outsider members of law enforcement, namely the national guard. who knows. imagine what the news blackout -- nobody knows what is going on and it creates even more tension and chaos. >> you had white people in the suburbs standing on groups with shotguns waiting for the "mob" of black people to come up history towards their house. bythere is a column today anthony, one of the police officers, back in 1967 who was at that blind paid and he described the incident as part of oral history being done here in the trade. we will have you listened to that and get our guests to respond. >> so, we were told to enforce the law and that was the law. you could not do anything in that venue after 2:30 a.m. and
you had to be licensed. cake, -- pig it was mostly to sell liquor. prostitutes up was and you could go in a room and do whatever you wanted a prostitute to do. dicedthere would be tables. and you would gamble. and you could do all of that stuff in a blind pig. any time somebody took a cut of the money, it became illegal. to that gave us the right break in and rescue the undercover officer that was inside the place. we would -- after we saw him walk in the door, we would give to make a wagerwe would or buy a drink, and see the guy except money, see him take his
cut. at the gambling table. and then, we would raid the place. started, to2 when i the night of to make a wager the riot, july 23, 1967, a crowd would gather when we made a rage. -- when we made a raid. but the country was getting tense and things were happening all over. a lot of the black community was unhappy. they felt they were segregated. they felt they could not get the employment that they wanted. and they were stuck in apartments that had been cut up, and one apartment became to. and just a few people had air-conditioning in , summer nights. and they would go out to see what was happening and it got out of hand. >> that was his description of a
blind cake. how does that square with what history or experience tells us? that was an amazing rendition or accounting of exactly what happened. in essence, it was entrapment. the police officer would go when and hope that something illegal would happen so a raid could then commence. what is interesting is that there are after our drinking establishments all over it the city. they were just not being policed. the law was not being broken. they were just enforcing the law. was -- where was the law being enforced and where was it not? were clearly gambling, having poker parties and selling alcohol in the white community, but it was only when it was in the black community that the police would show up, or there would be an undercover officer or there would be a raid.
just like the drugs today. everyone knows that the white folks do more drugs and sell more drugs than the black folks. himt is interesting to hear describe that. years later.0 again, think about how clearly he can recall those things. the one thing he does not say, as heather was saying, is that this was selectively enforce. the police knew about the blind in the city. it was part of the culture in detroit. it was true in black and white detroit. but the problems and the tension only existed between police and the black community. this was not, as he points out, the only time that they had done that. and the only time that they had decided to go in and read -- and raid a place.
there was something about that , that probablyd escalated things faster and to a higher level. it did spill out onto the street and there were people there and that is what becomes the flashpoint. mesa,hael is from la california. he says he was in the national guard. good afternoon. caller: the only unit that was actually in the city at the time, everyone else was at summercamp. there were 300 of us. we were the first to go down there. i lived on eileen street. i went to school a high school. i knew the city. tonove a two and a half truck. and we were picking up prisoners. as they would bring the prisoner's the truck, the police would just beat them up. it was unbelievable. i will never forget.
how really violent they were. was actually shocked to see this going on in my city. it was really heartbreaking. >> michael, was the national guard involved in>> that as well as far as the roughing up of african-americans than or was it just the detroit police? >> from what i saw, it was just the detroit police. just the, it was police. the national guard, most of us were in shock, i think. we were not really involved. that was the beginning of it. out of control. we really had no idea what was going on or what we were supposed to do. >> the confusion and the fear. this was a guardsman that lived in the city. he was clearly in the minority of the troops that they sent. and i think the unfamiliarity
with the city, with the tensions that already existed between detroit police and the black community, and with -- and the situation did lead to some pretty bad behavior. one guardsman ended up shooting another. at some point. probably out of confusion and fear. it was not something that got better because they were here. >> what is interesting to hear -- we had this long history in the 20th century of these terrible decisions made in these moments of uprising, to send in law enforcement who are not trained, have fearful -- are fearful, and bring their own prejudices to the table. voice,hear that in his one of the results of this is that people are traumatized who
participated in this as well. it is one thing to hear about it, it is another thing to see on -- and another member of law enforcement seriously hurt someone else who is not doing anything. and in all of these rebellions of this period, there are a lot of traumatized people, members of law enforcement and the community members that severed the abuse. >> were those participating in the looting, what was the general reaction of the police? did they sit back or did they take a stronger hand to stop this? >> they were very aggressive. this is where the recorded 43 deaths come from and i say reported, because i think most of us believe that number was quite a bit higher. where all of the injuries come from. filmsare six pictures and brutalityotage of the that was inflicted on people that were caught "looting" in
those days. when you talk to the police department -- when you talk to people in the department then, there was a sense of revenge being pursued. there was an embarrassment on their part and that they had lost control. show that they could get control back. the way they did that was through extreme violence. it is amazing to think that with all of the presence there, it took five days to end what was going on. >> only amazing when you consider how they handled it. shooting out streetlights. not creating a situation where there was so much gunfire that members of the fire department cannot get to know or want to get to burning buildings. and a situation where people inside their homes are too terrified to come out.
decisionsat it is the on how to handle this that made it go on. >> this is kim from milford, michigan. >> i am glad that heather just said that about the firemen. my father was a fireman during the riots. the day it started, we were at a fireman pulled party and all of the firemen had to leave. i was nine years old. and our moms all had to leave. my dad was shot at while he was trying to put out fires. they even had molotov cocktails thrown at them. my grandfather was a fire chief of the water division. it was difficult for the firefighters to do their jobs. they were being shot at and having molotov cocktails thrown at them. nothing was happening where we lived but it was very dramatic. i did not see my dad for about
four or five days. we knew what was going on. that is really all they wanted to say. it was difficult for the firemen and i am sure for the policeman. they were trying to do their jobs and they were being shot at with molotov cocktails being thrown at them. kim, from michigan, thanks for your call. stephen henderson, we had a chance to shoot video at 12th and claremont. give us a sense of what that neighborhood was like. we see a lot of green space where the blind pig incident took place. put some perspective on that. this was a ago, commercial center. on the near west side. a lot of businesses. a lot of jewish owned businesses. a lot of african-american owned businesses along that stretch. and it was becoming, like much of the city, was changing demographically.
more african-americans were moving into the area. the density is the thing that is the starkest contrast. every lot along that stretch had a store on it. on 12th street. each of the residential streets had homes, home after home. if you go there now, it is .retty green, pretty barren we do not have that kind of density in almost any part of the city anymore. that is one of the things that this did change about detroit. it sends us on a downward spiral that had already started but it accelerates it in a way that empties big parts of the city. >> no sense of recovery in that area from this incident? >> it is a mixed legacy. uprisingink about this as the moment when, for example, white folks fleet the city in droves.
that was not the case. for the next five years, there contest over who will run the city, will the city remedy itself, will it desegregate the police department or double down on law enforcement. it all comes to a head in the 1973 mayoral election. between a black candidate and the chief of police who had created that stress unit we just discussed. when white folks use that election. some white folks also vote for young. but at the end of the day, there is an abandonment. that does not happen for five years. when it happens, the tax base leaves, the businesses leave. when we look at the empty fields -- on the one hand, we are inclined to say that is because of the uprising. but in fact, it is because of the decisions made after it. we forget that there are still over 700,000 human beings living
here, overwhelmingly black human beings. that means that the city is not just empty for people the come in and develop only in the snazzier parts of the city. this is a city that still has children, old people, and families. from detroit.n >> i would like to ask the professor, if he would be oferested in writing a book different people involved in the 1967 riots. for example, the police officer in the algiers motel, class of 1963. he is still alive. there is a dr. cynthia fleming in the class of 1967. she is doing research for wade stay. nodesrick, she has the from the people's tribune that
after the algiers hotel incident. is also.non and the chief of police. a graduaten is also and a lawyer. 36theraldine served on the district court at the time of the 1967 riots and now her daughter, deborah bledsoe ford is on the district court now. that is what i would be interested in and would you be interested in writing and interviewing these persons. >> thank you for the rollcall. >> go tech missions. -- go technicians. always a technician
sitting in the audience. it is one of the most important magnet high schools in the city of detroit. it was there from the beginning, and it is one of the best detroit public high schools and it has a long, illustrious pedigree of folks that have graduated from it. i will consider that. in the meantime, i did write a referringis detroit" to people at that time. what she is speaking to is that there is this incredible detroit pride, and incredible spirit of detroit still. even in those moments of trauma and crisis, detroit never went away. detroit did not just disappear or collapse. >> does the younger set of detroit get what happened in 1967? it we have tried
for a long time to be honest to push behind us. 10 years ago, when we had the 40th anniversary, i had a conversation with quality kilpatrick, the mayor at the with kwame kilpatrick. how -- we didt not see it as the thing that was shaping our children of detroit. is a little bit of wishful thinking and naïveté on both of our parts to say that or 50id not matter 40 years later. it seems like it matters more than it did 10 years ago. has, full circle. it is resonating now with young people.
police-le question of community relations is resonating. i do a history of detroit class and they do not know the history but they are deeply interested. because it resonates with them. there is a part of them that says it could be today. >> thank you for calling. >> this has been very interesting. i am a native detroiter and a graduate of that technical high school. i used to take an hour bus each way. >> me too, the grand river bus. in 1967.in high school we lived roughly a mile or less from the armory. i remember hearing the trucks. i thought it was also tanks coming down eight mile. scary hearing all
of that coming through. a couple of things -- when i used to go driving in detroit around the wayne state area. oftentimes, we would be black and white in the car. my circle of friends and family has always been black and white, all kinds of different people i grew up around. police stopped us for the tail light being out. i also went to the university of michigan. i was driving a car, we had black and white in the car, and we were stopped by the police in ann arbor. it was scary. >> what would you like our guests to address? >> i just wanted to agree with them. me and my friends and my family did not see it as a riot that a
rebellion because there was so much inequality, economic inequality. in different neighborhoods in the city. i am not really sure. >> thank you for your story. we really appreciate that. anything you want to take away from that? age inyone at a certain the city had the similar kinds of memories growing up and learning to navigate these things. learning how to deal with police behavior that is not entirely appropriate. i can remember when i was 16, in , here, in80's detroit, the number of times i would be pulled over because i was driving a car that looked new or expensive even though it wasn't. and they would search the car. search the trunk. sometimes take everything out.
looking for whatever it was they thought. this was a common experience for people here in the city. and we can all remember that. >> i like her, and also to remind us -- she mentioned that she was often in cars with black kids and white kids. that is another part of the story that we haven't mentioned which is that as divided as the city was, there were a lot of progressive white folks in the city who considered themselves real allies to fight against police brutality, to show up against stress, filed lawsuits against the police and who did not leave the city. that is important to know. i grew up in the city. a lot of white families stayed in the city as a conscious decision not to flee. that is why i went to high school where i did. we need to remember that also. it was not all about racial tension.
it was certainly about racial tension between police and community and certainly in some white neighborhoods it was a real problem. was a real problem. >> go ahead, you are on. >> i have been exactly 10 years later i was laid off from my dream job from , they alwaysny come up with these reasons, but i had someone i knew. said, you and the rest of them were laid off because the --eral government told this told us we can only have a percentage of minority employment that would lose federal contract. i live in a six year old
subdivision for the first 30 years or so. all these living in my subdivision. my question is, how can someone canis young today -- how they see that they cannot make it based on something that happened to their family 150 years ago? one more comment i would like to make is that, my son, who is a white male was pulled over two nights ago by the police because he had a low beam out. have how can you say you cannot make it today based on something that happened to your family 150 years ago? >> for starters, this whole idea of 150 years ago, yes, slavery ended about 150 years ago.
the discrimination that is baked into our system continues today. i tell the story all the time about my father. not somebody i read about in the book. not some ancient relative. my father was born in 1933 in mississippi. he goes off to fight in the korean war. comes home to a mississippi where he cannot sit at a lunch counter, he is not allowed to vote, he does not get to participate in the g.i. bill that are offered to people coming back from the war to go to go to college where he cannot get the home loans that are offered as they are building big suburbs. this should to my economic life. . i am his son. how could it not have any effect on me? there is tremendous opportunity available now for people that there wasn't 50 years ago or 150
years ago, but we are still dealing with the nation whose fundamental infrastructure is about inequality. it is about saying african-americans could not be equal. it is difficult. i get everything the caller is saying about his personal frustration with the circumstances, but you have to put that in a much larger context of the country we live in. >> i also wanted to add to that two things. one, i am always sorry to hear when people lose their jobs that the employer tells him it is because of some black person getting their job. we need to know the history and know the employers throughout the american history, when they have wanted to downsize, when they wanted to cut wages, they pitted black workers against white workers. i don't know the exact circumstances of the caller's employment, but there is a long history of this not being true but white workers made to feel very resentful about black
employment. the fact his son was pulled over, that was my point. we have not criminalized so much the youth are being criminalized in general. the final thing i want to say is as a white person the grip in -- that grew up in detroit and writes about a lot of race, i think there is a moment in american history where white people just need to start being much more honest about the way in which we are privileged, even if we are not in a privileged position ourselves. we may not make $1 million, but we do know it makes a difference being white when you are pulled over by police officer versus being black. we know about the hiring prejudices. we do know that. when white folks get together, they are honest about that amongst themselves. i feel like it is really important we start being more honest about this publicly. >> let's hear from rick in stockbridge, georgia. >> thank you, and thank you heather ann thompson.
four years old, i remember diving under the bed, ducking bullets of my brother and cousin and sister and my family. hear the stories about how the white people would sick their dogs on my brothers going to school, or turn the water sponsors on that water sprinters -- sprinklers on. indian mothers and black mothers to teach their kids underground in the basement get to they could not school. coming up through the school system, i remember getting summer jobs. one of those jobs of the police cadet. officer mohammed instilled this in us, at that point i was becoming best beginning to
understand you were part of the problem or the solution. remember graduating from the police cadets. i noticed it is an armory, right there on grand river. i don't know the corner, but it is an armory. on 8 mile there was another armory. why were these armories? now i am getting ready graduate from high school. on graduation day we are walking down the hall going to see our teachers and saying bye and teachers and saying bye and getting some wisdom before we leave, and this teacher who i never had but i would hear my brothers and other friends talk about this teacher and other teachers. he had the nerve to put his middle finger up at us. i am a child, i was 18. i turned around and laugh at him because i had -- i was more man in me to be able to laugh at him, even though it pissed me
off that he was in his powered -- powered -- coward way. i'm glad miss thompson brought up -- black leaders almost of a milquetoast way of approaching it. being more honest about how cowardly it has become in the covertness from then to now. after i went into the military and saw my own white authority figures were the one blocking our promotions. i called home and said this is racist, mom. she said it is racist everywhere in america. >> thank you for your story and think you for giving us perspective. stephen henderson talks about moving forward. he talked about this idea of trying to make the best of this situation. what did you take from that? >> take the two last callers together. one of the real issues we have is the idea that it has to be in either, or.
the first caller believes, well, because i experienced things are unfair, white people have nothing to complain about. the second caller explains it is really different being african-american and the experiences you have. those two perspectives are not mutually exclusive. we don't have to shout one side down to acknowledge the other. that is the difficulty in the racial discussion today. the instinct is to say the other side has no legitimacy at all. that is why we cannot get past all of this. >> where do we go from here? it is not a simple question to answer in the final minute, but how does detroit move forward? >> i think detroit is moving forward. it is not even.
it is not entirely just the way that changes coming to the city, but this is a different place today than it was 10 years ago. >> three years ago. >> there is no comparison between the two. we have real challenges in making sure everybody benefits from what is happening and the investment that is coming makes its way around, but i don't think there is any question we are heading in the right direction. >> if you go to the detroit free press, stephen henderson -- sorry. you talk about your home you grew up in. tell us a little bit about this story and how it relates to today. >> the neighborhood i grew up in is just a block from the 10th precinct, which is where the people who were arrested at the blind pig in 1967 were taken. a neighborhood that has been forgotten. one of the neighborhood that has
been forgotten here in the city has had tremendous depopulation. there are hardly any schools left in the neighborhood. my childhood home sat empty and was stripped for several years. i decided i could not have that go on forever. i started a nonprofit that is taken the house, partnering with a local college to make it a writers residence and focus on change from within four the -- within for the neighborhood. the idea is not to change the neighborhood, to make it appealing necessarily to other people, but to make it better for the folks who are there. we had a soft opening yesterday at my house. we are on to several other houses on the block, and hopefully in a few years we will turn the corner. >> the idea of moving forward? >> i think stephen's story is a perfect example of how the whole rebuilding of detroit is not just on the outside coming in. it is not just investors coming
in. it is detroiters reinvesting in the city. i think moving forward we have a lot of hopeful signs. the historian in me says we really need to be very cautious as well. we need to, once and for all deal with the question of racial inequality in this city, and everything from job-training to mortgages to access to water, access to schools, good schools. if we can do that, detroit will be an amazing place again. or for the first time for some people. if we don't, we proceed at our peril. we have got to get this right. we cannot solve every social problem in american cities through criminalizing them. through the criminal justice system. it is a failure. we can do it differently.
stephen's example of rebuilding community is a way to do it. i am hopeful but cautious. >> heather ann thompson, professor on issues of these subjects. thank you for your time. stephen henderson, thank you for your time. our conversation will continue on this day 50 years ago, looking back at what took place in 1967 in detroit, michigan. two other guests joining us later on. some history about the event of that day. we spoke with a man who was at the forefront of making sure people understand this story and what went on at the time. we will hear from him and they -- then we will continue our discussion of detroit, 1967. >> my name is marlowe stottlemyre. i am the project director. we are here today at gordon park at the corner of 12th and claremont street. this is the place where many people believe the rebellion, riot, uprising in 1967 started.
detroit 67 looking back to move forward is a multiyear community engagement project design to bring diverse voices together on the historic event of a crisis so people can find a role in the present to inspire the future. it has been 50 years that rocked detroit and brought the nation's eyes to the attention of what was happening in detroit and around america with regards to civil unrest, police brutality, and unjust conditions in urban communities. what we are doing at the detroit historical society is trying to give people an opportunity to do three things. engage around the topic, have a level of reflection with their blockbuster exhibition and massive oral history project, but more importantly inspire people to a level of action so when the year 2067 comes around story beingifferent told. gordon park is a perfect example of how memorialization, commemoration to be at the forefront of the way we move forward. >> what happened here in 1967? >> there are a lot of different
perspectives on what happened, but the common knowledge -- there was an after-hours facility that a lot of people use, which was technically illegally raided at the corner of 12th in claremont. it came on the heels of years and years of unjust policing and issues between the community and law enforcement that spilled over into frustration. it was not something people planned in terms of a revolution or a scheduled uprising, it was an instant. that is why people refer to it as a rebellion because they were rebelling against a force they felt was unfair. it spread to the streets where there was a lot of unrest. if you look across the park now, it is hard to believe this is once a thriving and living business district. it really was. there were storms on by blacks, whites, you name it. a lot of people do a lot of business here. they did not have to leave the community.
before you knew it, a rock was thrown, fluting occurred, fire started. it was not just black folks. it was one of the most integrated incidents that has ever happened in detroit. it spread across the city and a lot of different components. it did not touch every aspect of the city, but it spread. at that particular time in the 1960's, the deadliest unrest we had in america and there were a lot of lives lost and arrests. for some it divided us even further than we already were. one of the reasons why detroit historical society decided to target this was why he first started there was no history. there was nothing here to tell generations of young people and even people who currently live here the true story and give them context of what happened to 50 years ago. we learned in other parts of the world they don't run from their history. they embrace what happened so you use it as a case for not to repeat it, to not do it again and let it happen. we decided to work with the city of detroit and the state of michigan to put historical marker with full context of what happened.
more importantly, to show a part can be a symbol of revitalization and the way forward for a community. not historical societies, not city government, but for the people who live in these communities. but people who either had to move away or those who stayed and fought for the last 50 years. -- thistheir part and ark and we want history to be at the forefront of why it is valuable to our future. it is not a celebration, it is a level of memorialization, commemoration, and how we all pivot to a point of moving forward. moving our conversation and actions forward. moving the engagement forward collectively and show how we will move forward together and inclusively. the community has to be involved. we are coming to their place and hoping we can be a part of this community. it is not just for today, of moving forward for the rest of our history. i hope people walk away with a few things. understanding how we got the 1957. what happened here and around the community during that time.
more importantly, there was not a period at the end of that sentence. we are still in the 50th year and this is still an ongoing narrative. if we do not take control of our narrative by leading with action and find a way to move forward, we are destined to repeat the history of the past. the young people and the people in the community now have just as much utility, opportunity and responsibility to shape the year 2067. is a physical space like a park can be something that triggers that and get people engaged in -- engaged and activated and show promise, that is what we are looking for. we are looking for physical demonstrations of how history is relevant to a community's present. >> what are other parts of this community revitalization project? >> there are other components we launch with regard to gordon park. the historical society, which works within the four walls of the museum, has launched a place making initiative. using gordon park like a pilot to provide micro grants to organizations around the community to do what we call lqc
place making projects, lighter, quicker and cheaper place making pop -- projects to demonstrate everything destroyed 50 years ago, how we can build and grow and develop things in our communities. whether it is a mural, a community park, a playground. something that will bring people together and the community and not separate us. >> you are watching american history tv on c-span3. we are back at live in the detroit free press newsroom. 50 years ago today, a police raid on a bar known as the blind pig triggered five days of rioting and racial unrest. here to continue our conversation, former detroit police chief isaiah mckinnon, and university of michigan dearborn professor tim kiska. thank you for joining us. chief, can we start with you? you were an officer back in 1967.
can you give your perspective? >> 50 years ago this day, and probably at this time i was in the heat of all the things going on. the weather was similar, extremely hot and humid. we had loads of people on the street who were looting. some are just spectators, but we had probably 5500 police officers. of those officers we had probably 100 left to her african-american. it was such an incredible time. some people were enjoying the spectacle of what was going on. others were looting. it was a very difficult time for everyone because of the fact that we had assumed in detroit this was not going to happen. that things were ok. eventually i worked for the mayor. people assumed what was going to happen. the police department
unfortunately was woefully unprepared to handle the situation of things that occurred in 1967. >> what do you think that was? >> the police department assumed everybody was happy. they did not and had not looked at what had occurred at this series of incidents. we had horrible police-community relations. we had horrible relationships with the black community in particular. a lot of people had been beaten up. i was one of those people in 1967 severely beaten up by the police. this was commonplace in detroit for the detroit police department. in fact it was probably around that time the naacp attempted to integrate the police department and the department went on a blue flue, in essence a strike. we had all these things that were occurring, there had been a number of people, probably in the 1950's and early 1960's shot and killed by the police. all the things festered in
addition. we had a great number of people moving up from the south who wanted to get jobs in detroit because of the big three. they found that things are probably as bad here is a was in the south. they were really frustrated in terms of things going on. >> we continue our conversation with our guess. if you want to continue with her -- with your calls to them, it is 202-748-8901 for the mountain and pacific time zones. if you live in detroit and were part of what was back then, 202-748-8902. tim kiska of the university of michigan, we referenced this earlier. was everybody aware what was going on during the riots? >> in the newsrooms, yes. but there was a blackout the first day. mayor kavanaugh, who had a pretty good press relations -- the police chief was a former detroit times reporter.
but he got in the horn. and news director was on golf course and gets a call from the mayor who said, look, can you sit on this thing? i think we can put this thing down. if you go live with all this, it is not going to help. a lot of people bought into that. the first day it became particularly strange. the detroit tigers were playing the new york yankees at tiger stadium. full house. the broadcaster gets a call from the general manager saying under no circumstances are you to make any references whatsoever to the smoke over the left-field fence. which, in hindsight, or it do you do? the you go on the loudspeaker and say there is a riot going on, please exit gracefully. yes, people exit gracefully. if this thing had gone away --
there had been an incident on the east side of the year before the cup put down after a couple of nights. these news directors might have been hailed for their separate -- hailed for their civic responsibility. strangely enough, there was a tv station across the river in winsor, canada who first broke this at 2:00 the afternoon. they set up a camera on the river. they said something is going on over there. we understand there is a civil disturbance. all we can tell you is this is what it looks like. people sat on it for the first day. >> if you go to the detroit free press again, one of the cover pieces is the baseball game we just referenced. there was smoke that people can see at the time, but not much awareness of what was going on. >> none. i think people left the baseball game -- one of my former history professors remembers driving up grand river with the smoke as
family going, what is going on here? pretty soon everybody found out. >> as far as the actual incident, what do you think as far as what -- there were a lot of contributing factors. what about the police's role? >> i had been part of the crews throughout my first two years of going to the blind pigs and rate -- and raid these after our places. we would have four men. one black and three white. maybe we would arrest 50 or 60 people without incident. because of what occurred throughout the country and the incident that occurred on the east side in detroit in 1966, i think there are people who wanted to get things started. this was the right place and the right time, and maybe the wrong place in the wrong time, but again the law enforcement community was not prepared to handle this.
once it started, it was out of control. in regards to what tim just said, there were so many fires going on. it was impossible not to see this. wherever they might be, you had to see the smoke. for those of us who were there it was truly beyond the number of stores in place is on fire. you would see the smoke and fire. you heard the fire engines all the time. the police cars that were screaming. it was very chaotic. >> again, if you want to give us a call. the first call come from hendricks in california. go-ahead. >> thank you for having me on the show, gentlemen. i was seven years old at the time. we lived on a street called tracy in 7 mile. we were one of two black families in an all-white neighborhood. i will member when the riots
broke out there was such a fear. one of the things that six out of in my mind and look at the old film footage is the national guard with their bayonets on the rifles, which to me reminds me of something you would use in a true war zone. what that did to a lot of the people on the -- the residents of detroit, and if you guys could possibly speak on the issue of redlining. i worked in television news as a news photographer for a long time so i have a very broad perspective of the riots and the history of this country. thank you very much for letting me be on your show. >> tim kiska? >> i grew up on the east side. there was a dividing line, connor. i went to a great school six blocks away. i did not have a single african-american student in the class. i went to high school on connor. once again, no african-americans whatsoever. this is 1965-1967.
this was not healthy at all. i think we wonder why the goofy race relations. it was because of stuff like that. when the kerner commission talked about several societies, i think it was very much true. i think that has changed a lot. my son went to an area high school which it previously been all white. i think it's about 20% african-american right now. no problems. back then, the scary part, that redlining part was contributing to the problem. >> very few people, in particular in politics were asking those kind of questions. people were saying, what is going on? it was in the late 1950's we had investigative arrests. they would say in person is 6'2", 250 pounds committed a crime. any young black man who fit that
description could be locked up over a weekend. they arrested 1000 young black men for a crime that occurred. the detroit police department was very proud of this. in fact, the community says this is crazy. again, an attempt to integrate the department to stop this. eventually it did stop but it was out of control. in regards to the national guard, i worked with these guys during the rebellion. unfortunately for the national guard's people, they were not looked upon as anyone to do the job. they were looked upon as weekend warriors. there was a lack of respect for them. i saw them with their bayonets on their guns and so forth. they were people who had not been trained either. neither one of us are trained in how to handle these kinds of situations. it was kind of frightening, and the fact they did not know how
to handle this, nor where they fully equipped to deal with these situations. once the 101st got in, the community says these guys just got back from the war. they are different. the reputation of the hundred and first you will see they did very little shooting in comparison to the national guard and dpd. >> we moved right over the city line the second day of the riot. it had been prearranged. it was kind of strange to see the 101st. they use the church parking lot as a turnaround spot. it was totally jarring to sit there and say, wait a minute, this is detroit. hasn't come to this? a lot of people, that is their memory. the tanks. particularly the tanks. anybody who saw a tank rolling down the street, where ever it was, they will not forget it.
i had a friend for years in the air force prior to this, the last year in vietnam. to come back to my city and to see tanks rolling down the street and be a part of this as a law-enforcement officer and to say, wait a minute. there are serious problems and what are we doing about it? i keep going back to the fact there have been a history of problems that existed, whether it is policing, housing, poverty, jobs. all of those things had existed and there was very little done about it. i think people wanted to sweep it under the rug. look, this is something they can take care of. meaning someone else or the minority community. it was not a healthy. circumstance for our city. -- it was not a set of healthy circumstances for our city. >> you can call on the phone lines to ask questions. you can tweet us at c-spanhistory. we have a facebook question from peter. are there any historical resources on the people who died in detroit? >> there is one in particular.
the free press did a piece in early september of 1957 called "the 43 who died." most people who thought the 43 who died were looters, snipers. free press did a pretty thorough investigation and found up more than half were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. ike, you are in the middle of all of this. bullets were flying and sometimes it was like a bullet was the home it may concern. whom it may concern. it was that bad. >> but go this way. it was where people could dehumanize someone. if they had those tendencies to shoot or kill someone, this was the perfect opportunity. what i saw as a police officer, and i was usually the one black officer with a series of white officers, they would say -- there was a sergeant with 11
officers. on the one black officer. we are driving down linwood avenue. people are looting. thousands of people looting. i will use a word. they are driving on the street. the sergeant stops the three cars. everybody out. we had our bayonets. we are standing in the middle of the street. he yells to these thousands of people, all you niggers get off the f-ing street. i thought i'm going to die. i went through vietnam. i lived through being shot at before, but this is crazy. when he says that, all the police officers looked at me. most of the black people are looking at me. this guy has got to be out of his damn mind. people said, what did you say? i said all you niggers get off the street. they started throwing bricks and bottles at him. we were in our cars and took off. the three officers in the car with me said, he is out of his
damn mind. does he realize what he said? but that was commonplace. ifnk about this in terms of, he was saying that the hundreds of black people, over other people saying at the time to incite? >> anton from rocky river, ohio. go ahead. >> i just wanted to get my perspective on this. the economical impact, after the uprising -- i will not term it a riot, it decimated the city because of white flight. along with the inherent trust, we do not trust black people. we do not trust white officers, and especially white male officers. engagement with them was always violent. that if the issue you see today. with the young kids and their actions with white officers. and in the psychological impact
is there because it makes the whole neighborhood frightened of the police. whenever and goodwill towards them. that will be until we start recognizing and looking at everybody's humanity. >> the economic fortunes? >> huge. there were a lot of african-american businesses and entrepreneurs on the old hastings street. they get wiped out. there was a great essay my friend, her dad owned an iconic record shop. >> joe's music shop. >> fantastic place. he ended up on 12th street, gets burned out. it literally killed him. if you talk to marcia, she did a great essay about this. he just drank himself to death. think that story got repeated over and over again. there has been a lot of talk
about african-american capitalism and why that is important. this did not help. it trashed a lot of african-american businesses, and white businesses. i want to not conflate something. my dad owned a jewelry store in 1969. he left in 1969. not because of this, but because a junkie came in with a gun and took everything. there is a lot of heroin. the old french connection. it became flat out dangerous. this had nothing to do with the uprising or race if you want to know the truth. it just became crazy. that was not good. >> marcia is my neighbor. we talk about this quite often. this was not a race riot. this was an equal opportunity riot. you would see more and more
people looting, but i think it was an exceptional opportunity for people to do things. during the course of this, the first two days or so, people would go into stores, break windows and things like that. but it was almost comical. for instance, we were driving down the street and we see this white cadillac convertible. there are two african-american men in the front seat. both of them have portable tv's. one is driving with a portable tv. two black guys, they had a sofa on the back of the convertible. he was comical. both of them had tds. they looked at us and we look at them. the reality is we could not arrest that many people. each car could probably get one or two people in the car. once the rest of those people, we would take them to the station. people would go back and do what
they were doing in terms of looting. it was always comical the things going on because we just did not have -- >> have we played the conrad tape yet? >> he will be in in an hour or so. >> i don't want to do a spoiler alert here it -- alert. he describes watching this and a guy walking out with 10 hats. one on top of the other. our jewelry store, we lived above the store. we got a knock on the door for the cops saying, look, we don't know it's going to happen on the east side or how bad this is going to get. my indirect memory is that monday morning -- enduring -- loading -- enduring memory is loading every last watch in diamond in the back of our station wagon. >> a lot of people stay in their businesses and armed themselves. it's a great number of them. in fact, we had the first wave of asian business people who would put on their windows -- not to be demeaning -- but put
soul brothers. some were protected that way. we have seen this and hope it never happens again. it is the reality of what occurred in our city. we look at the the humanization of what it -- dehumanization. >> let's go to cheryl in fort lauderdale, florida. >> but they complement you first of all on a great job you all are doing with this coverage. my cousin worked for 40 years at the detroit free press and was very proud. i'm sitting here emotional and i have tears in my eyes. not just because of the horrible memories, of because i miss my
hometown so much. i lived in fort lauderdale, florida, but i was born and raised in detroit, michigan. whenever i meet anybody from detroit, i feel a warm and fuzzy because detroiters are so special. i'm so proud to be from detroit. i graduated from wayne state university, i taught school in detroit before i moved to florida. my father had a big business and store on 6 mile road in the 1960's. it was destroyed. i saw my father, a proud detroit born man, rebuild his business. smoke,ber the fear, the and the feeling of wondering when it would all end. this is an emotional call, as you can tell by my voice.
this is a very couple of emotional hours for me. i am so glad to watch this and be able to say i am from detroit. thank you so much for listening to me and for the great job you are doing. >> cheryl, thank you. >> she mentions, when will it all end? we sat on our new front porch that monday and we are listening to the gunfire because there was a lot going on about a mile away. that was the thing my brother damien, who was four years younger, even then sitting there saying we got out in time. i'm thinking, what is next? how long is this -- then i remember this, 1968, the next year, everyone is wondering if it will light up and fire again. nobody knew. it is like the fear kept on going. >> dr. king's assassination. >> that was only one of among
many things. there were a lot of things going on. i think that five to 10 year period with your preceding guest mentioning this, 10 years is key in the city's history. our reaction to all of this and what we are going to do next. >> that was always the fear. i go back to the kerner commission and the two societies. what did we do? we had the new detroit and people who tried to do, whether it was new detroit or the other businesses that started up in detroit because of that. but there was always skepticism. we had people who left detroit. they went to mississippi and were killed. there were people who left detroit to go and help with the civil rights movement. many of those people were active
here, but also went to other places. we get people in the seminary who went out to the street to try to help. we had ministers and priests who went out to the street to try to get people to understand what is best for the city also is the best for them. a great number of people work ed hard. i think unfortunately we had a lot of people who played the blame game. they burn your houses down, let them suffer. the flight from detroit started long before 1967. it started after the second world war. in 1953 we had close to 1.9 million people. as a young boy my family could not find a place to live because of race. all these things were an integral part of what we had to live with and try and remedy.
>> this is griggs in livonia, michigan. >> how are you, sir. i was enjoying your program. i was raised on lynwood street. i heard some of your guests speak of it. i went to central high school. during the riot there were troops, national guard troops. i did not like it because that was my chance of going and getting my drivers license. i could not do it because of the riot broke out. when it first started, the first couple of days it was kind of festive. after that it was no fun anymore. i turned 17 that year. i was not a kid but not a grown man. my mother did not play that looting stuff. if i stole something, i could not have brought it back to the house. i just watched. you want to blame anybody --
this is coming from the truth. i am not being biased or anything. it was the fault of those white cops. they would come through the neighborhood. they had big board, they would call a group of them. they would just bring havoc on us. it was no fun. we couldn't do anything. it turned a lot of people to the criminal mind. my god, if i can't do anything right, let's do something wrong. you could not enjoy yourself. there were just some places there was nothing to be coming in their tearing up stuff and arresting people for. it was just drinking, having fun and the likes. >> gotcha. thank you very much. he talked about the festive nature of what was going on. >> it truly was. let me go back. he is a central grad. [laughter]
we would always play central and they would always beat us. there really was a festive nature the first couple of days. then the shooting started in a got worse and worse. people will look at us and smile because they knew we could not arrest them. probably most of the things that happened were minor things. people who owned the businesses, they would try to protect as much as they could. you would see kids going in grabbing things. of partner said some parents stopped their kids from bringing stolen stuff to their places. i saw this. i saw mothers in particular grabbing their sons and daughters who had stolen something and try to take it home, they would literally beat the heck out of the kids. that is something we should talk about because we had some parents who did this. >> talk about how ugly it got.
i have heard over and over again for the first couple of days it was festive, but after that, totally frightening. a friend, stephanie davis from cbs here spent the last part of the riot in her bathtub. that was the safest place in the house, reading books. it was that frightening because bullets were flying everywhere. nobody knew what was going to happen next. it was out of control. >> the kerner commission and some other accounts mentioned the idea of sniper fire. what was the reality of that? >> talk to ike. >> there was not as much as was reported. i was shot at multiple times. i think the reality is the police were shooting a street lights. the is some show was when you shoot a bullet up it will go someplace. i would hear and feel bullets.
i was on jerry road with some national guard people. bullets were skimming along the pavement. the assumption was people were shooting at us. no. on the other side of this there was national guard's shooting at the streetlights. there was not as much sniping as was reported. the other part of this, as you rode with people who were frightened, petrified, they would see someone in a window. they would start shooting at them. thank god the people i rode with did not hit anyone. i remember specifically we were and a guy with this machine gun started shooting at this window. what the hell are you doing? there was somebody in the window. it was a kid. thank god he missed the kid but he lit the house up.
>> there was a four-year-old girl who died. there had been some sniper fire and her uncle is sitting next to lights up a cigarette and the national guard just lit the place up and took her out. later it was unclear how much sniper fire there was. i don't think it was any question later that even though there might have been some sniper fire, you don't light up a whole house with machine gun fire. >> you mentioned central high school. we bivouacked there. the national guard, the detroit police and state police and the county sheriffs. we had probably hundreds of officers there at some point. i guess they had to figure someplace we were going to be. i remember specifically a helicopter flying over. they told us there were two guys on the roof across the street
who had weapons. that was the one case specifically that people were armed. most of these instances, that was not necessarily so. >> deanne in macon, georgia. >> hi, i am a native of detroit. i am in georgia now. i was 15 years old in 1967 riots. at the fox theatre when they sent us home because the riot started. one comment about the blind pig. i am a retired nurse and i have met many people during my job. one particular patient i talked with, she was there at the blind pig during the raid. she said the soldier was home from vietnam on leave and they were giving him a party at the
blind pig when he got raided. during the raid, a pregnant woman -- i don't know if this was told -- was knocked down the stairs by the police. that is when it got out of hand. i have been watching your program. i just wanted to make that comment and one more for my cousin who passed, ronald, it -- who was working at max stamping chrysler plant during the 1967 riots. he had to get a pass to go to work. on his way to work he was shot by the police or the national guard. i don't know which one. they thought he was dead. they took him out and they had a
makeshift morgue out there. they say 43 people died, but i do believe it was more because he said they thought he was dead until they started packing him. when they packed him he woke up. he woke up and he lived for another 25 years. he died from cancer. he had buckshot in his head. >> thank you so much for that story. tim kiska, anything you want to add? >> there were all kinds of rumors of people being shot down -- shoved down in the sewers. they went into the sewers. >> to her thought it was a higher number than 43? >> i'm not sure. i don't think so because if somebody got killed and showed -- shoved down the sewer, it would be a missing persons report. i think that sounds about right. you are closer to it than i was.
>> since 1967 there have been rumors that more people were killed. i don't think so. there are a lot of people shot, but i don't think so. usually if someone is missing, there is some kind of report on it. that was not the case. i feel for this lady, though. >> jean in illinois? >> chief, i used to work with your sister. i was nine years old at the time of the riot. we lived on 12th street and glenn, just across the street from a gas station. i remember the national guard coming down the street in tanks. batons out. positioned in front of our home. we had to sleep in the bathroom of thenight because gunfire and everything. i remember them coming into our house asking us for a receipt for food at the time.
my mother had a friend who would bring us food. he would bring us food in because we cannot get out because everything was closed off. we had to have receipts. i remember them specifically asking us for receipts. it was just a really -- thinking about it today, i looked on and saw chief mckennan. it is just a really trying time. i remember like it was yesterday, as a nine-year-old. i remember our neighbors. we lived right there at the boston edison area, one of the most influential areas in the city now. we lived on glenn court, which was considered the hood. but it was middle-class families. two family flats. and it was a solid neighborhood until the drug and riot decimated the area. i have a friend that lived on -- lives on boston. when i went back on glenn court, the lights were off. our house was gone. it looked like a jungle. this was 2017. shame on the city of detroit. thank you.
>> thank you for this story in -- and your perspective. chief? >> please don't say shame on my city. we are happy things are changing, making some significant improvements. i understand what you are saying, but please come back and see some of the changes we are making. i was fortunate enough to become deputy mayor and was chief under mayor archer. certainly there have been a great number of things that occurred. i can tell you this. you come back and you see the significant changes being made. as we say, we started in one location and moved from the center out. we are trying to recruit more people to come into the city. mr. gilbert said he wants to make detroit the tech talent of the midwest -- i think it's important he is trying to do that. look at those buildings he saw
downtown that were unoccupied for a long period time. now they are occupied. not only that area, but in the neighborhoods there are buildings being built. there are businesses moving in. people are moving back into the city. that is important. please, please, don't say shame on my city. i have been here since 1953. we were trying to do tremendous things. when i became deputy mayor, it is important to understand detroit was the worst place in the world to have a heart attack. the worst place. the response time was around 20 minutes. now we are down to just six or seven minutes. but people left. they would say the last person to leave, turn off the light. >> my old neighborhood was a belgian neighborhood. it was built in 1925. those homes really -- nobody was
expecting these things to last forever. left,is not much of it but what do you do about that? you just can't wait your arm and say we will do all of this. this whole thing has been a long time. we got to where we are, and this is a long time coming. >> john from san diego, california. we are running short on time to -- time so jump right in with your question or comment. >> thank you. first of all, i think the problem then was separation between the police, the teachers, the people who are well paid and those that were not. the problem in detroit is it has the greatest separation now as it did then. san diego has the same problem. the median wage in detroit is $26,000. police officers makes three times that amount. in san diego it is five times, and we have a lot of problems with the separation. it is like fort apache.
you have police, teachers commuting to work, getting paid off the taxpayers. there is not a true integration and it is more than racial. thank you for everything you are doing. i love detroit. i was there during the riots -- the uprising. i think uprising is correct. >> go-ahead. >> john, you get something. we used to have something called residency. some people don't like this, but when residency occurred detroit lost most of its population. in terms of city employees. of course we have black and white officers and black and white people that have left the city. this is the most district of -- destructive to our city. we have people who committed crimes and so forth, but this is very important. people tend to care more about the city. the mayor and i drove around the city. we could see all these vacant homes.
at one point we had 60,000 vacant homes. this takes a long-term process to remedy the situation that has been going on for 60, 70 years. more than 50 years. it will take some time to do a -- do what we have to do to change this. >> mild neighborhood was already going down 50 years ago. it got worse, particularly during the 1980's with the crack cocaine. nobody is going to turn this thing around. and stuff like de-industrialization. auto factories moving out, this is been going on since the 1950's. >> the drug problem was so critical to our city and a lot of cities. because detroit was not like most cities that had so many high-rises, we were single homes. but drug problems caused us to be the murder capital of the world. it caused us to lose a number of police and other people. we had to have a true
renaissance of people concerned not only about the city and people moving up, the rating the -- rating the community of the drug problem and the impact it had on so many young people and educational process. >> what is your source of hope. you talked about the future of detroit. what do look for specifically as a source of hope? >> i think we are at least talking. 10 years ago i did some stuff 40 years after. i did not get a lot of people at least talking about it, people are at least talking about the problems. i think i'm starting to see -- i do want to sound cynical, but young people moving back. my joke is, you can turn detroit around one vinyl records store at a time. there are other things. a couple of people said how much they love the city. in the end a lot of people are left that we care about.
>> i see people talking about it. there are people when i traveled that would never city or from detroit. now people say i'm from detroit and i want to be from detroit. people in the suburban community are saying i'm from detroit. and they are coming into the cities and people are moving into the city. it is all races doing this. that is really important. >> we have been joined by ike , former police chief, former deputy mayor and tim kiska talking about the 50 year anniversary of what happened in 1967. to both of you gentlemen, thank you very much. of detroit mercy. >> i want to thank the detroit free press are letting us use the facility. we want to thank the detroit historical society for the input and help on this project as well. this is all taking place today on the 50 year anniversary. but want to thank you for
watching as you are watching american history tv on c-span3.u are watching american history tv on c-span3. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. announcer: 50 years ago on july 23, 1967, a series of riots erected near present-day gordon in detroit, michigan. we have a historian there to learn about the causes and events of the uprising which led 43 deaths, over 7000 arrests, and the deployment of 5000 federal troops to restore order. >> my name is jamon jordan. i am a historian and a tour leader with blacks scroll network history and tour. i do history tours throughout the city of detroit.