Detroit: 1967 Forum

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The forum last night was quite special, I thought.  The two speakers, Betty DeRamus and General Baker, each made some points I think we should further consider here on the blog.  Several UM alumni and other friends of SID were in attendance last night.  I plan to encourage them to read our SID Community Blog and to share their thoughts as well.

Here are two points that resonated with me last night:

-Betty DeRamus suggested early in her remarks that we call what happened in late July 1967 an “uprising”, and more provocatively, she postulated that – even 45 years later – it really hasn’t ended yet.  She didn’t use these precise words, but what I heard her suggesting was that a fundamental social turbulence erupted that summer in Detroit and that its effects and consequences have really never subsided.

-General Baker made a very important point that I think we should also further consider.  During the 1967 rebellion (as he always makes sure to label it), he stated that many Detroiters in certain areas of the city were temporarily shut-off and restricted by the police/military from various public services – food pantries, shelters, etc.  The one place police allowed Detroiters to freely access were the manufacturing plants (i.e., the workplace).  Awareness of this dynamic sparked many workers, including General, to realize that the only place the State really needed them was in the workplace.  The workplace, therefore, came to be understood as the one place where everyday Detroit workers (black and white both) had the most power and leverage to change society.  Ultimately, General Baker suggests that – as awful as it was in many respects – the 1967 rebellion also sparked a fundamental shift in consciousness for a whole lot of working-class Detroiters.  In many respects, it seems, General Baker believes 1967 sharpened the boundaries of the broader social struggle in Detroit.  This would have tremendous affects on how black auto workers chose to organize their struggles in the years that followed the rebellion.

What do you think?  What did you hear last night that peaked your interest, that raised questions, concerns, and more discussion?  Please share them here by adding your comments to this discussion thread.  Thanks, Craig

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One thought on “Detroit: 1967 Forum

  1. From discussing 1967 in class, I learned to use the term “rebellion” rather than “the riots,” but in my head I always referred to them as “the riots.” However, when General Baker plainly said that the summer of 1967 had very little to do with pure racism, I was a tad startled, as though everything I had been taught was now up in the air. While trying to fuse some of the parts back together, the term “rebellion” makes more sense to me; it’s a phrase that gives a better outlook to the intentions of the people that instigated the whole thing.
    ~Dorothy

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