28593.preview

Black Bottom and Detroit’s 1943 Riot

Image: Detroit News Staff, “Race Riots, Violence, Detroit, 1943,” Image, 1943, Urban Affairs, Wayne State University Walter P. Reuther Library, Detroit, Michigan.

Click here to see all narratives about Black Bottom

Click here to see resources for further reading on Black Bottom

In the aftermath of a riot that started on June 20, 1943 due to racial tension between whites and blacks, residents of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley tried to repair their lives and their businesses. Hastings Street was disabled for more than a month, and residents looked at the many broken windows and boarded up buildings of their prized entertainment and business district in dismay. Several cars were overturned, damaged, and broken into; the community had been violated. Community members tried to expand their community into new areas as a means of escaping the ruin, but they were met with white mob violence and Polish youths informing them that Black Bottom was where they should stay. The Detroit Police Department favored the white mobs, and unfairly targeted blacks as the police turned their backs to the crimes committed by whites. Escape was futile.

The riots in Detroit from June 20, 1943 to June 22, 1943 serve as another example of the racial tension in Detroit during the early-to-mid twentieth century. The siting of Black Bottom, a community created by segregationist housing policies to separate whites from blacks, was itself a cause of these riots. The riot itself showcased first-hand to Black Bottom’s residents that their presence in the city was unwanted. Further, the riots demonstrated the idea of the time that if blacks were to remain in Detroit, they could do so only by remaining in Black Bottom. This restriction would create desperate circumstances just a few years later, as the Black population continued to rise even as the city’s urban renewal program reduced the number of housing units available to Black residents. This riot showed that whites were willing to violate the only community Blacks were allowed to have, which reemerged in the future siting of I-375 through the middle of Black Bottom.

  • 1943 Destruction in Black Bottom, 1943, in Detroit: The Black Bottom Community, ed. Jeremy Williams (South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2009), 114.
  • Public Broadcasting Service, “Detroit Race Riots 1943″, Public Broadcasting Service,http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/eleanor-riots/ (accessed March 14, 2014).

Click here to see all narratives about Black Bottom

Click here to see resources for further reading on Black Bottom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>