Detroit Riots

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DETROIT RIOTS. Riots in Detroit have occurred over particular issues of justice, economics, and race. The city's first major riot, which took place in March 1863, stemmed from the trial of a black man for rape and was fueled by the local press. The violence resulted in the killing of one black and the burning of thirty homes and buildings. For a long time afterwards, Detroit avoided major civil violence, even into the period following World War I, when riots broke out in many other major cities. Detroit's avoidance of mass social upheaval lasted until June 1943, when poor housing conditions, racial tensions, and a heat wave contributed to making a riot in that city the worst of the year. The violence resulted in the deaths of nine whites and twenty-five blacks along with the destruction of millions of dollars of property. The city responded by creating a committee on racial relations, but worse violence was to come. In July 1967 the increasing economic and social isolation of blacks in the inner city of Detroit contributed to the outbreak of violence that left forty-three dead and thousands injured. The riots shattered Detroit's image as a model city for race relations and deepened the metropolitan region's racial divide into the twenty-first century.


Capeci, Dominic J. Layered Violence: The Detroit Rioters of 1943. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 1991.

Fine, Sidney. Violence in the Model City: The Cavanagh Administration, Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989.

Schneider, John C. Detroit and the Problem of Order, 1830–1880: A Geography of Crime, Riot, and Policing. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980.

Matthew L.Daley

See alsoMichigan ; Riots, Urban ; Riots, Urban, of 1967 ; andpicture (overleaf).