This exhibit explores the history of Detroit’s 1967 Civil Unrest through the deliberate and transparent use of primary sources located at the Reuther Library. We aim to let archival documents speak for themselves, allowing visitors of the exhibit to draw their own conclusions. The exhibit begins with World War II, in order to better understand how Detroit's social and political landscape developed into the 1960s. Events of late July 1967 are illustrated throughout the middle portion of the exhibit. The last panels of the exhibit highlight organizations created to address some of the root causes of the unrest in the years following.

As much as possible, the information you see here has come directly from the archival documents in this building. It is important to understand that these primary sources – evidence of the past that historians use to tell the course of events – are not the entire story. Archives preserve the materials that are donated for future research and that are kept after events unfold.

Unfortunately, some stories are lost in this process. For this reason, ask yourself the 5 w’s as you interpret this exhibit:

Who made this document? Who did they make it for?

What is the item?

Where did it come from?

Where was it created?

When was it made?

Was it created as events unfolded, or after? Why would someone create this item? How do you know?

Then add a 6th w: Wonder. Wonder what stories and perspectives are not included in this exhibit, and ask yourself where they might be found. Oral histories are one way individuals can tell their story if it wasn’t recorded as it happened. Other experiences may be documented in scrapbooks or cameras in an attic, lost to the historical record if not donated for research.


Begin Part 1: Before the Unrest