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Engaging with '67: Local exhibitions, writings, and movies on the rebellion

Event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

This July 23 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots (or rebellion) in Detroit. It's a complicated historical event that resulted in massive social and economic implications for our region. And it's prompted a great deal of commentary in media outlets, essays, exhibitions, and more. To help readers engage with the events of 1967, here's a mini-roundup of the ways it's being thought about across the city.

Model D published an excerpt from an essay by author Desiree Cooper, "It can happen here," about the complicated feelings surrounding Detroit's revival, and how to make sure it's rising for everyone. The essay appeared in a recent anthology, "Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies," published by Wayne State University Press, that covers a range of topics related to the riots from the history of colonial slavery in Detroit to reflections from schoolchildren at the time.

WSU Press also republished a book from 1969, "The Detroit Riot of 1967," written by Hubert G. Locke. It's a firsthand, sometimes minute-by-minute account of the riots as witnessed by the administrative aide to Detroit's police commissioner.

Crain's Detroit Business put out a special report on the riots that includes a timeline of the events that lead to the outbreak, an article detailing the history of the vibrant Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods (as well as the "urban renewal" project that lead to their demise), the economic consequences of the riot, and more. 

Bill McGraw wrote an article in the Detroit Free Press asking what is the most appropriate way to describe the events of 1967: riot or rebellion (or uprising or civil disturbance). "Riot" has been the mainstream way to describe it for decades, but "rebellion" has been gaining traction. "The word of choice [for certain politically-active groups] has become 'rebellion,'" writes McGraw, "reflecting the long-held belief among a number of people that black Detroiters in 1967 were fighting back against systemic racism."

"Rebellion" is how the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History describes those events, which it will explore further in its exhibition, "Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion," opening July 23, the day the rebellion started.

The Detroit Historical Museum has been getting a great deal of positive press about its exhibition. "Detroit 67: Perspectives" collected hundreds of oral histories and scholarly input to create a narrative that spans the years before, the weeks during, and years since the riots. 

There's also movies, recently or soon to be released, covering the summer of '67. One, simply called "Detroit," directed by Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, takes place during the rebellion. It comes out August 4, and you can watch it out at Cinema Detroit

A locally-produced documentary, "12th and Clairmount," premiered at the Freep Film Festival, and features archival footage, home videos, and interviews with eyewitnesses and historians. There is one more currently sold-out screening at Cinema Detroit on July 24, but the owners say there may be a few tickets available the night of the show. 

There's many more ways to read about or engage with the riots of 1967. Let us know about other local events by commenting below, tweeting us @modeld, or sending an email to feedback@modeldmedia.com.
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