LSA Symposium looks at Detroit’s 1967 civil unrest and its legacy


The 1967 civil unrest in Detroit rocked the city, and its impact and legacy is still felt today.

The final “Making Michigan” LSA theme semester symposium, called “1967: Shock Waves — The Detroit Rebellion and its Reverberations” will focus on the events of that pivotal year and their effect on the University of Michigan campus and the nation.

All events will take place Friday in the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery (Room 100). The symposium is open to the public.

“It matters what we call what happened in Detroit in 1967,” says Heather Thompson, professor of Afroamerican and African studies, and professor of Residential College. “To call it a riot suggests that it was incoherent and the result of people with little on their mind than creating chaos.

“In fact, it happened because people were bone tired of the racial discrimination that so devastatingly shaped black lives in the city. The city exploded because of that, black residents were protesting that, and therefore what they engaged in was a rebellion.”

The first panel, “Experiencing the Rebellion in the City of Detroit,” will highlight the experience of Detroiters who lived through and helped shape these events.

The panel, including community activists, journalists, police officers and ordinary citizens, will share their stories and thoughts on the rebellion, which heightened national urgency over racial and economic exploitation, police brutality, and African-American protest.

The panel includes author and activist Herb Boyd, LSA and Institute for Social Research professor Christian Davenport, Deadline Detroit journalist Bill McGraw, Wayne State University professor Danielle McGuire, and former Detroit police chief and recently retired deputy mayor Ike McKinnon, and will begin at 11:15 a.m.

The events of 1967 also had broad-sweeping implications for U-M’s campus and community. A second panel discussion will address the impact of the rebellion in Ann Arbor.

It will feature campus activists and U-M alumni Rich Feldman, Cynthia Stephens and Austin McCoy, and will be chaired by Matthew Lassiter, professor at LSA and the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Panelists will discuss the protests and accomplishments of the Black Action Movement and the connections between black power and left-labor activism at the university and in Detroit.

“Experiencing the Rebellion on Campus and in Ann Arbor” will begin at 2 p.m.

Finally, the civil unrest in Detroit and the era’s broader shock waves left enduring marks on Detroit and U-M. A third panel features activists, journalists and scholars who will discuss the legacies of these intertwined rebellions — including how, and to what extent, city leaders and university officials have attempted to remedy racial inequalities and injustices.

The panel includes former Detroit City Council member Sheila Cockrel, LSA and Residential College professor Angela Dillard, Detroit Free Press journalist Stephen Henderson, author Suzanne Smith and Thompson, and will begin at 4 p.m.



  1. Barbara Strane
    on March 28, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Is this event open to the public or for UM faculty, staff and students only?

    • Rachel Reed
      on March 28, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Hi Barbara,

      The event is free and open to the public. We hope you will be able to check it out.

  2. Jennifer Downey
    on March 28, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Will any of the panels be recorded and the video made available?

  3. David Erdody
    on March 28, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Sidney Fine’s recorded presentation (audio) on how the riot started is one of the finest historical lectures you will ever hear. Contact the UM’s Bentley Library for availability.

  4. Bonnie Pauly Paine
    on March 29, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    In 1967 I was a new UM graduate with a new job in Detroit. I was never so scared as when we disembarked from the train at the Michigan Avenue Station met by Federal Agents with their rifles AIMED at us, worked on the 13th floor with constant siren sounds below us. We saw guns everywhere. I decided I would not emerge from this alive, would die young as a sacrifice to some plan of the City of Detroit where I had only been for a few days.

  5. Lisa L Jeffreys
    on March 31, 2017 at 8:19 am

    ^^ Wow Bonnie! ^^ Thank you for sharing your story! I was a little girl but remember seeing it on the news and asking my parents what country those soldiers were from. I remember very clearly my Mom’s answer, “Those are US soldiers. They are pointing their weapons at their neighbors.”

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