Detroit Museums Examine the Riots That Changed the City

Detroit’s riots began early on the morning of Sunday, July 23, 1967, set off by a police raid on a “blind pig,” local terminology for an illegal club. A combination of tensions, from employment, discrimination, police brutality and increasingly crowded living conditions finally boiled over. Parts of Detroit burned for nearly a week, leaving 43 dead.

“It’s like 9/11,” said Mr. Stone, a Detroit native. “Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing in 1967 in Detroit.”

The historical museum’s exhibition, “Detroit 67: Perspectives,” has three sections: before, during and after the riots. In the first, timelines, photographs, movies, newspaper clippings and other ephemera plot the growth of Detroit’s black community during the Great Migration, with earlier examples of racial tension highlighted.

In addition to timelines and placards, visitors are exposed to the riots through more immersive displays, including a midcentury living room with TV sets blaring ABC News, and a mock-up of looted 12th Street businesses, including Joe’s Record Shop.

A mock tank is around the corner, its side split open, displays graphic-novel-style montages of residents recounting the riots. Tanks are a common theme. Sounds from the looted shop fronts and TVs compete for attention, a cacophony of smashing glass, crackling fires and panicked news coverage that brings a heart-pounding sense of confusion.

Photo

Tanks are a common theme in the exhibition “Detroit 67: Perspectives” at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Credit
Morley Companies/Detroit Historical Society

The historical society has also created programming outside the museum, including at the site where the riots began. It has dedicated a historical marker in Gordon Park, which is built over the site of the long-gone club. Curators from all three museums put…

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