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Finley: Remember the ’67 riot

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

I was on hand Thursday when the Detroit Historical Museum announced its plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit riot with a major exhibition. It’s a big, ambitious idea, one that could put the museum on the national map.

The scope of the initiative will depend on the amount of money raised, of course. But what’s envisioned is a project that will not only commemorate the riot, but also examine how it changed Detroit and the region and fit into the national civil rights movement. There will be interactive displays, oral histories and community conversations.

The ’67 riot, or rebellion as some call it, was transformative for the city and the region. For Detroit, it marked, if not the beginning of its decline, at least the rapid acceleration of an abandonment already in progress. It certainly heightened white flight.

And in that respect, it also had a huge impact on the suburbs, which experienced explosive growth in the years after the riot.

The riot hastened the rise of black power in the city. And it also was the point at which many whites whose families had been in Detroit for generations broke their link to the city.

As museum chief executive Robert Bury says, the riot was the most significant event in the past 100 years in Detroit, and its effects are still being felt.

This is a project worth supporting.