Historical Society focuses on 1967 Detroit disturbance

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

The Detroit Historical Society announced the launch of the “Detroit 1967 Project” on Thursday, an ambitious, two-year look at that summer’s disturbances that forever changed life in the city.

The goal, said Executive Director Bob Bury at a public announcement at the Detroit Historical Museum, is to generate a conversation about events often thought to be too charged for discussion.

“When we started this,” Bury said, “we knew it would be complex, controversial and outside our comfort zone — and that it would only work if it was inclusive and objective.

“What we didn’t know,” he added, looking out over the surprisingly crowded news conference, “is that it would be of such interest.”

The society is appealing to Metro Detroiters to contribute their images, memories and observations. The end result will be a new, permanent exhibition at the museum, opening late next year, as well as an archive of media coverage, images, stories and artifacts.

Sharing the stage with Bury were a range of partners in the enterprise, including New Detroit Inc. President Shirley Stancato, Detroit Deputy Mayor Isaiah McKinnon, Tyrone Davenport from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, John Hardy, on the museum’s Black Historic Sites Committee, and Joseph L. Hudson Jr., the first chairman of New Detroit.

Any number of other august Detroit names are involved, including Rep. John Conyers, federal Judge Damon J. Keith, former Rep. John Dingell and former Mayor Roman Gribbs.

Looking out over individuals in the crowd, many with graying hair, Hudson joked, “It’s like a reunion of the Class of ’67.”

Surveying the distance traveled since that era, McKinnon related a harrowing event that same year when he — a young police officer — was pulled over on the Lodge Freeway by two white Detroit cops who announced their intent to kill him. McKinnon said he only escaped by diving into his car and flooring it.

“That was when there were perhaps five minority officers in my entire precinct,” he said.

Those interested in getting involved with the project can visit Detroit1967.org and click on “Get Involved,” or call the project’s phone line at (313) 885-1967 and leave a message with your reminiscence.