By Gabrielle Reid
It started at an illegal underground drinking and gambling joint. It was about 3:45 a.m. July 23, 1967. Police were grabbing the mostly African American crowd and arresting them.
When a 19-year-old man named William Walter Scott decided to throw a glass bottle for “the pleasure of hitting one in the head, maybe killing him,” a riot ignited.
Do you know anyone who lived through the Detroit riots of 1967? Would you like to hear firsthand accounts from the experience?
The Detroit Historical Museum located in Detroit’s Cultural Center on Woodward Avenue has free admission. It also has the Detroit ‘67: Perspectives exhibit that has hundreds of oral histories that will give you an insight to the situation as you listen to the memories of people who lived through the riots.
As you walk through the entrance, you are greeted with pictures of events and photographic examples of the time period.
Next, you are greeted by a short two minute video of people talking about the riots. Each sees the experience from their own unique view. Words like “Riot” and “Rebellion” greet you from the wall.
When you continue on, you will see the news perspective through a gallery of newspaper clippings and an interactive activity where you become the news reporter who has the chance to “report” your own eye witness to the event.
On the opposite side of the news perspective is a wall flooded with information about the history of the racism in Detroit including the differences in school life and the home life.
When you round the corner, you stumble across a living room with a phone and some televisions. While you are in the living room, the television plays the biased news as reporters downplay the riots. While you watch the news, the phone rings and if you choose to pick up the phone, your friend Loretta will check on you to see if you are fine and tell you that you need to stay clear of the windows because they are shooting outside and there are fires everywhere. As you look at the televisions, you see the normal programming on two of them and the news showing bits and parts of the looting and fires making it seem minor.
If you leave the living room, you find yourself standing in front of another interactive screen where you are watching your neighborhood shoe and record shops being vandalized and people looting. Then from out of nowhere people throw glass bottle bombs at the stores burning them to the ground.
As you round the corner for the last little part of the exhibit, there are videos about current day Detroit showing its rebirth and comeback. But you don’t finish there. If you cross the hall and make a left, you will find a little corner named “Moving Forward” and this part of the exhibit shows what is being planned for the future and they have a little box where you can write what you plan to do to build up the city of Detroit yourself.