Childhood memories from Detroit 1967: ‘It was war’

What Venita Thompkins remembers most from July 1967 is her Easter dress.

It was cut from pristine white cloth, adorned with frilly lace, complete with a set of even purer white gloves.

Her mother was wary of giving her chocolate for fear that she might sully the spotless garment. On Easter morning, as her family went to church, Thompkins’ mother stashed the treats in her purse.

It was hot then, as hot as it is in July 2017. The chocolate melted, and when she ate it, Thompkins got it everywhere.

She never got her dress back – it was burned to a crisp at the local cleaners, one of the first casualties of destruction and looting on 12thStreet in the Detroit 1967 riots.


Looter in Detroit 1967 riot: ‘You can only be held down for so long’

A rebellion: That’s what Frank Thomas, like many longtime Detroiters, calls the riot of July 1967.

To most observers, a riot is a riot. It was senseless violence and opportunistic looting.

For Thomas, it wasn’t that simple.

It was an uprising; a vent for homebrewed rage simmering in the black community for years.

Cops remember Detroit 1967 riot, racial divide that persisted

Tom Robinson never wanted to be a police officer.

But he was broke and unemployed, laid-off from his factory job in 1963.

Eventually, an unemployment counselor insisted he apply to join Detroit police force.

“He said, ‘you want your next check?'” Robinson recalled. “‘Then you’ll take that exam.'”

After two attempts, Robinson became a Detroit cop stationed at the city’s 10th Precinct.

By his own account, the retired 79-year-old sergeant picked a hell of a time to join the force.

Four years later, at 3:30 a.m. on July 23, 1967, police raided an after-hours club at the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount Avenue.

Written by Ben Solis.