The Great Rebellion was Detroit's defining moment.  The Vietnam War, together with the Civil Rights Movement and the urban riots, represented three monstrous rogue social waves which would all meet up  in the mid 1960s to form the perfect storm of tumult - a tsunami that covered the country, leaving it submerged in racial and generational hatred.
    The Civil Rights Movement had created great expectations but its hard-fought gains were too slow in coming and the economic gains were not proportional to the social advancements. As decades of lingering ghetto frustrations mounted, peaceful civil rights demonstrations were replaced by urban riots. 
    "Rioting is the voice of the unheard," said Martin Luther King. The ghetto riots of the 1960s were a unique strain of madness, a blind man's bluff of aimless rage triggered by decades of desperation, frustration, prejudice and hopelessness.
    As the flame of rebellion spread across the country, one could have reasonably expected the trouble to have come from the Jim Crow South, yet the vast majority of riots were not only in the North but oftentimes in cities where black opportunity was the greatest, like Detroit.
    The Kerner Report of 1968 was an attempt to explain the ghetto riots. It primarily blamed white racism for the oppressive conditions that had been building up in America's big cities since WWII. This is not what the American public wanted to hear in 1968, but a wiser more philosophical America is  now ready to explore other possibilities. 
    Were these riots actually race riots, as the media lead us to believe or were they rebellions against circumstances, the inevitable reaction for people who had faced a great wall of hopelessness their whole life? I would wager that many of those who answer race riot probably grew up middle class (or better) and have never experienced the character changing attributes that perpetual hopelessness and despair can inflict, have never experienced true poverty except what they see on t.v. or felt the constant, excruciating sting of prejudice. Much like the Kerner Commission in 1968, I spent six years investigating this event, traveling the country to ascertain the facts and found that they are not pretty. I have marshaled over 350 poignant photographs, many previously unpublished, to assist in telling this tragic story.This book chronicles the building of Detroit, the decades of social and economic change around the country and the hundreds of riots that preceded Detroit, namely the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations of 1963, Harlem riot of 1964, Watts riot of 1965, Hough riot of 1966 and the Newark riot of 1967, all of which acted as a catalyst for The Great Rebellion.
    If viewed in its entirety, the causes of The Great Rebellion would look something like a great layer cake with each layer representing a different time period in Detroit and racism being the all-encompassing frosting. America paid a terrible price for its centuries of racial intolerance. It took a contagion of riots across the country to get that point across. As the specter of The Great Rebellion now fades into the shadows of memory, one question has always continued to haunt us: What have we learned?
 
This page was last updated: November 27, 2015
                                         The Great Rebellion


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How would you classify riots of the 1960s?
Race riots
Rebellions against circumstances
Both
Neither
Opportunists delight

The Kerner Report of 1968 was a comprehensive attempt to explain the hundreds of urban riots of the 1960s. Among its primary conclusions was that  "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal."


           President Johnson's instructions to the Kerner Commission

     "One thing should be absolutely clear: this matter is far, far too important for politics. It goes to the health and safety of all American citizens.
Sometimes various Administrations have set up commissions that were expected to put the stamp of approval on what the Administration believed. This is not such a commission. We are looking to you, not to approve our own notions, but to guide us and to guide the country through
a thicket of tension, conflicting evidence and extreme opinion.
So, Mr. Chairman, let your search be free. Let it be untrammeled by what has been called the “conventional wisdom.” As best you can, find the truth, the whole truth, and express it in your report. I hope you will be inspired by a sense of urgency but also conscious of the danger that lies always in hasty conclusions. "

                   President Johnson’s address to the nation at the conclusion
                                           of the Detroit riot – July 27th, 1967



     Those charged with the responsibility of law enforcement should, and must, be respected by
all of our people. The violence must be stopped: quickly, finally, and permanently.
It would compound the tragedy, however, if we should settle for order that is imposed by the muzzle of a gun.
In America, we seek more than the uneasy calm of martial law. We seek peace based on one man’s respect for another man and upon mutual respect for law. We seek a public order that is built on steady progress in meeting the needs of all of our people.
Not even the sternest police action, nor the most effective Federal Troops, can ever create lasting peace in our cities.
The only genuine, long-range solution for what has happened lies in an attack – mounted at every level – upon the conditions that breed despair and violence. All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs. We should attack these conditions – not because we are frightened by conflict, but because we are fired by conscience. We should attack them because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society in America.
This is not a time for angry reaction. It is a time for action: starting with legislative action to improve the life in our cities. The strength and promise of the law are the surest remedies for tragedy in the street.
There is a danger that the worst toll of this tragedy will be counted in the hearts of Americans; in hatred, in insecurity, in fear, in heated words which will not end the conflict, but prolong it.
    To those who are tempted by violence, I would say this: Think again. Who is really the loser when violence comes? Whose neighborhood is made a shambles? If you choose to tear down what other hands have built,
-You will not succeed;
-You will suffer most from your own crimes;
-You will learn that there are no victors in the aftermath of violence.
The apostles of violence, with their ugly drumbeat of hatred, must know that they are now heading for disaster. And every man who really wants progress or justice or equality must stand against them and their miserable virus of hate.
Let us resolve that this violence is going to stop and there will be no bonus to flow from it. We can stop it. We must stop it. We will stop it. add

t.
.                                         President  Johnson and the newly formed Kerner Commission.
Clic     Detroit - 12th Street - 1967

Is everyone prejudice to some degree?
Yes
No

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