The Newark and Detroit "Riots" of 1967

The summer of 1967 marked the apex of a cycle of 'urban unrest' that began during the mid-1960s in Harlem and Watts and tapered off by the early 1970s. During the "summer of love" one hundred and sixty four "civil disorders" were reported in one hundred and twenty eight American cities. Of these "disturbances" that took place in the summer of '67, Newark and Detroit were arguably the most severe. Beginning on July 14th and lasting through July 17th, violence in Newark claimed 23 lives and destroyed over 10 million dollars of property. A mere six days later, on July 23rd, Detroit experienced a similar fate, resulting in the deaths of 43 people and the destruction of an estimated 22 million dollars of property damage over a five day period. Both "riots" were sparked by police activity in predominantly black neighborhoods, but the underlying causes were quite complex, including police brutality, persistent poverty, and a lack of political representation for African American residents, as well as local opposition to the Vietnam War. The language used to describe these events thus varies widely depending on one's political perspective. While some saw these occurrences as "rebellions" or "uprisings" against economic and political oppression other portrayed these events as episodic or criminal in nature, employing the terms "civil disorder", "urban unrest" or "riots" to refer to seemingly senseless acts of violence. In this site, eyewitnesses will speak for themselves as residents, merchants, militants, police officers and National Guardsmen describe their experiences during the summer of 1967.

--Max Herman, PhD
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