Detroit museum to collect stories of 1967 riots

DETROIT – The Detroit Historical Museum is working to record the oral histories of people who experienced Detroit’s civil unrest in 1967.

The Detroit Free Press ( ) reports that the project is called Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward. The museum will host an Oral History Collection Day on Saturday. Other collection days will be held July 23 and Aug. 20.

Collection days will be scheduled for other sites, including the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Grosse Pointe War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms and Temple Beth-El in Bloomfield Township.

Rioting began when officers from Detroit’s nearly all-white police department arrested black patrons at an after-hours bar, triggering a five-day period of violence that ended after Gov. George Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into the city. President Lyndon B. Johnson also sent in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

The museum has recorded oral histories from former Detroit Deputy Mayor Isaiah McKinnon and federal Judge Damon Keith.

Museum docent Ted Van Buren recorded his experience for the museum in March. The 69-year-old Van Buren worked at the Detroit Medical Center as a lab technician at the time of the riots. He said that he stayed at the hospital, along with doctors, nurses and the police guarding them for most of the duration of the violence.

Van Buren said that his grandmother’s beauty shop was struck by looters during the riots.

Seventy-two-year-old Jackie DeYoung, who has also recorded her memories for the museum, worked in the office of Detroit Police Commissioner Ray Girardin at the time.

“I don’t recall anyone in the office debating about why it was happening. We were all just on the side of, let’s get things calm again,” said DeYoung.

She said that there weren’t many changes in the city in the riot’s immediate aftermath, but she saw change and diversity in the city’s police ranks during her career with the police department.


Information from: Detroit Free Press,