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Violence in the Model City

The Cavanagh Administration, Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967

Sidney Fine

Publication Year: 2007

On July 23, 1967, the Detroit police raided a blind pig (after-hours drinking establishment), touching off the most destructive urban riot of the 1960s. It took the U.S. Army, the Michigan National Guard, the Michigan State Police, and the Detroit police department - 17,000 men — more than a week to restore order. When all was done, the riot had claimed 43 lives (mostly Black) and resulted in nearly 700 injuries. Over 7,000 individuals were arrested, with property damage estimates over $75 million. Yet, Detroit had been lauded nationally as a "model city" in the governance of a large industrial metropolis. On the 40th anniversary of this nation-changing event, we are pleased to reissue Sidney Fine's seminal work — a detailed study of what happened, why, and with what consequences.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Front Matter

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pp. i-v

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From the Publisher

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pp. vii-viii

To mark the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 Detroit riot, Michigan State University Press is issuing a new paperback edition of Sidney Fine's masterful work Violence in the Model City: The Cavanaugh Administration, Race Relations and the Detroit Riot of 1967. Published originally in 1989, this book...

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pp. ix-x

I have sought in this volume to place the great Detroit riot of 1967 in the context of race-relations developments in the city during the years 1962-69, when Jerome P. Cavanagh was Detroit's mayor. The Detroit riot of 1967 was the most destructive of the many urban riots of the...


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pp. xi


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pp. xii

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CHAPTER 1: "Phooie on Louie"

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pp. 1-16

In an editorial of July 25, 1967, the Washington Post characterized the riot then raging in Detroit as "the greatest tragedy of all the long succession of Negro ghetto outbursts." "For years," the Post editorialized, "Detroit has been the American model of intelligence and courage...

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CHAPTER 2: The Model City

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pp. 17-37

"Detroit in Decline" was the caption for a Time magazine story of October 26, 1961. The article noted the federal government's classification of Detroit as a place of "substantial and persistent unemployment," the exodus of the white middle class to the suburbs, and the blight that was...

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CHAPTER 3: The "Divided City"

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pp. 39-70

Following the riot, a Kerner Commission staffer reported that he had not found a single black in Detroit who was "happy" about conditions in the city.1 Throughout the years of the Cavanagh mayoralty preceding the July 1967 riot, there was, indeed, a steady drumbeat of complaints by...

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CHAPTER 4: Detroit's War on Poverty

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pp. 71-93

Low incomes, unemployment, and the poverty that resulted were disproportionately the lot of blacks as compared to whites in the nation and in Detroit in the 1960s. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in his State of the Union address in January 1964, and Congress responded in...

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CHAPTER 5: "The Single Most Important Problem": Police-Community Relations

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pp. 95-125

"Perhaps the major domestic conflict of the 1960s," Harlan Hahn and Joe R. Feagin have asserted, "was produced by the urban confrontation of predominantly white police forces and expanding black communities." The "black hostility toward the police," they noted, "became so common...

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CHAPTER 6: "The Riot That Didn't Happen"

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pp. 127-154

"I feel," Ray Girardin declared in March 1967, "that police departments are as obliged to prevent civil unrest as they are to prevent crimes." This meant having not only an effective program of police-community relations but also a plan to prevent civil disorders from getting out of control. When Girardin...

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CHAPTER 7: "A Little Trouble on Twelfth Street": July 23, 1967

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pp. 155-191

The precipitating incident of the Detroit riot of 1967 was a police raid on a blind pig that began in an entirely routine manner. Blind pigs, after-hours drinking establishments, had served middle-class blacks in Detroit when they were effectively barred from downtown restaurants and bars...

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CHAPTER 8: "They Have Lost All Control in Detroit": July 24, 1967

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pp. 193-217

In terms of criminal offenses reported to the Detroit Police Department, the hours between midnight and 5:00 A.M. on July 24 were the most violent of the entire Detroit riot.1 It was during these hours that Governor George Romney first contacted Washington about the possible use...

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CHAPTER 9: "Law and Order Have Been Restored to Detroit": July 25-August 2, 1967

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pp. 219-247

The Department of the Army's July 24 instructions to General Throckmorton for Operation Garden Plot, the code name for the army's civil disturbance plan, directed him to use "minimum force" in Detroit, but without jeopardizing his mission "to restore or maintain law and order."...

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CHAPTER 10: Rioters and Judges

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pp. 249-270

"It would now appear," George E. Bushnell, Jr., wrote the deputy director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Law on August 3, 1967, "that, for all practical purposes, the United States Constitution was absolutely suspended from sometime during the evening of Sunday, July 23rd, to Tuesday, August 1, 1967." Bushnell was referring to the...

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CHAPTER 11: "A Night of Horror and Murder"

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pp. 271-290

A Vietnam veteran who was staying in the Algiers Motel during the night of July 25, 1967, stated a week later that he had "lived through a night of horror and murder in Detroit," worse than anything he had experienced in Vietnam. What occurred during that "night of horror" and its aftermath came to symbolize for many "the riot, police action, [and] the...

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CHAPTER 12: "The Worst Civil Disorder"

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pp. 291-301

The Detroit riot was "the worst civil disorder" experienced by an American city in the twentieth century.1 The damage caused by the riot took various forms: the numerous stores that were looted or burned; the homes that were damaged or destroyed by fire; the loss of wages for...

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CHAPTER 13: "A Rough Community Division of Labor"

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pp. 303-323

While the riot raged in Detroit, the black and white communities of the city reacted in various ways to the unfolding events. For public officials and voluntary organizations, the problem was how best to deal with the myriad problems the riot produced. Frustrated by the events that had shattered Detroit's image as a...

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CHAPTER 14: Rioters, Counterrioters, and the Noninvolved

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pp. 325-350

It is difficult, if not impossible, to speak with certainty regarding the identity of the Detroit rioters and the reasons why they behaved as they did. The best evidence is that the riots of the 1960s, including the Detroit riot, were unrelated to the characteristics of particular cities. After examining disturbances in 673 cities between 1961 and 1968, Seymour...

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CHAPTER 15: The Meaning of Violence

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pp. 351-367

The Detroit riot and the other riots of the 1960s were quite unlike the "communal riots" of an earlier time that were characterized by interracial conflict between blacks and whites. Was it, indeed, a riot at all, or was it, as at least some blacks to this day prefer to label it, a "rebellion"? By a four-to-one margin (48 to 13 percent), Detroit blacks questioned on this...

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CHAPTER 16: The Polarized Community

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pp. 369-386

Whites and blacks in Detroit just after the riot viewed what had happened and its consequences in very different ways. As two University of Michigan political scientists put it, "for the most part it was as if two different events had taken place in the same city, one a calculated act of criminal anarchy, the other a spontaneous protest against mistreatment...

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CHAPTER 17: The Law Enforcement Response

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pp. 387-424

In their discussion of the "ghetto revolts" of the 1960s, Joe R. Feagin and Harlan Hahn indicated that the "establishment response" to the riots took three forms: the riot commission, the "law enforcement response," and the adoption of social and economic reforms to allay ghetto grievances....

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CHAPTER 18: The Ameliorative Response

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pp. 425-451

"In addition to being the scene of the nation's worst Negro riot of this period, Detroit," the Detroit Free Press's Philip Meyer judged in November 1968, "may be remembered as the city that tried the hardest to do the most for racial peace" in response to a riot. Five years later J. David...

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CHAPTER 19: "God Help Our City"

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pp. 453-463

As the city that had been viewed as the nation's model in race relations but had nevertheless experienced the nation's worst riot, Detroit continued to attract a great deal of attention after July 1967. Periodically, especially at the time of the great riot's anniversary date, newsmen and others took the city's pulse to test the health of the patient and its...


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pp. 465


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pp. 467-605


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pp. 607-621


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pp. 623-648

Image Plates- following Index

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E-ISBN-13: 9781609170295
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870138157

Page Count: 658
Publication Year: 2007