Roots of the Rebellion

Boyd, Melba Joyce

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/07/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21613

Kim D. Hunter interviews Melba Joyce Boyd about the 1967 rebellion.



Against the Current: Let's talk about the language used to describe what happened in Detroit in July 1967, "riot" versus "rebellion." People broke into stores and took things, pretty much at random and people consciously, intentionally set themselves up in buildings and shot at law enforcement. Over all, something pretty deep has to be happening when people set fire to hundreds of buildings. Both terms are being used with regards to the 50th anniversary.

Melba Joyce Boyd: I think you have to consider how it started, as the result of an altercation with the police. People started fighting back against the police. That's a rebellion, not a riot. Sniping became bigger and bigger, spread to the point where the Detroit Police couldn't quell it and, I suspect, were afraid to go in to certain parts of town and for good reason. The police knew they had been wrong, abusive.

The National Guard comes in; they can't really put it down either. It's not put down until President Johnson sends in the army. What's significant about that is there were large numbers of African-American troops, and many snipers refused to shoot Black troops. That had a lot to do with why it stopped - it's not talked about a lot, but I'm sure it was partly because many of the snipers were veterans.
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