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Detroit — Were the seminal events that commenced in July 1967 at 12th Street and Clairmount a rebellion or riot? Justified or not? How can Detroit look to its past to shape a better future?

These are some of the questions that will be explored in a 12-week class that kicked off Thursday at Wayne State University.

The class, the “Detroit Rebellion at 50: Retrospect and Prospect,” will be held on Thursday evenings through Aug. 3 and will feature a series of guest speakers. The class, which can be taken online, also will include field trips to exhibitions commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the upheaval.

Kicking off the class was Joel Stone, senior curator of the Detroit Historical Society. He touched on the exhibit that will open June 24 at the Detroit Historical Museum, which will include a retrospective of the 50 years before the 1967 uprising, the days of the event and the years since. The interactive exhibit will also include hundreds of oral histories.

Stone also explored the events leading up to, during and after the uprising, based on contributions to a new WSU Press book to be released next Thursday, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies.

Stone also overviewed the Detroit 67 project, a multi-year project with nearly 100 partners aiming at starting conversations about the uprising, reflecting on them and getting people involved in the community to shape a better future. Part of the community projects and outreach, Stone said, will include dialogues around racial equity and economic inclusion within the African American community.

“Detroit has had a long history with problems with race relations,” Stone said in an interview. “We don’t usually talk about them in mixed company. If we can get those conversations started, I think it will help. The more we talk to each other, the more we know each other. The more know each other, the less we will hate each other. Hopefully, it will make for a better city.”

Other speakers during the class will include Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon, former Detroit police chief and deputy mayor; Bill Goodman, Detroit civil rights attorney; Jim Carr, WSU Coleman A. Young Professor of Urban Affairs; Tim Kiska, associate professor of media studies at UM Dearborn and former Detroit News reporter; Bill Johnson, former Detroit News editorial page editor/columnist and Bill McGraw, reporter at Bridge Magazine and co-author of the The Detroit Almanac.

“There will never be another 50th anniversary of one of the greatest civil uprisings in American history,” said Jeff Horner, senior lecturer in the WSU Department of Urban Studies and Planning and creator of the class. “There is no better university positioned than Wayne State University to do this kind of class due to all the resources in the area, including experts who were in the event and have risen to positions of leadership.”

The class will be open to students and the public, for a fee. Students can take the course and earn three credits while others can pay $800. For information, call Cynthia Merritt, (313) 577-0653 or cmerritt@wayne.edu. The class is available online.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com

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