Detroit's Rebellion at Fifty
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/07/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21612
From the days of the Marcus Garvey nationalist movement in the early decades of the century, to Malcolm X, revolutionary autoworkers and the Black Power movement in the 1960s, Detroit was front and center in debates on strategy and tactics to win Black freedom.
The 1967 rebellion reflected deeper political and economic problem that African Americans suffered then (and continues today). The class division that always existed within a segregated Black population became more pronounced with the rise of a new Black political and economic middle class.
The 1967 rebellion showed the depth of the crisis of the United States: "two nations, one black and one white, separate and unequal" in the language of the 1968 Kerner Commission. The civil rights revolution did end formal de jure housing segregation and discrimination, but not the de facto realities.
The Republican Governor George Romney sent in the National Guard; the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson sent in the Army, while Democratic liberal Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh let loose the cops targeting "looters and rioters," especially in the near west side and east side of the city where most African Americans lived.
After the five days of the "12th Street rebellion," Johnson set up the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) to look at the fact that Blacks were angry and demanded fundamental change especially since the laws did not bring real equality.