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Reply #130: Detroit Race Riot of 1943 [View All]

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Brewman_Jax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-04-08 09:59 AM
Response to Reply #48
130. Detroit Race Riot of 1943
Excerpt from the article:
As the nation's most important production center during the Second World War, the city of Detroit was popularly known as the "arsenal of democracy." The city's overwhelmingly industrial landscape had been rapidly expanding since the manufacturing boom of the post-Civil War era. Yet its industrial prosperity masked underlying and deeply-rooted racial animosities. As the city's many production plants mobilized for the war effort, employers turned to a ready pool of African American labor from the South. Yet Detroit was in no way equipped to accommodate these new laborers. The shift in the city's demographics caused volatile racial tensions which would erupt into one of the bloodiest riots in the nation's history.

By the 1940s Detroit already had a long history of racial conflict. Race riots had occurred in 1863 and as recently as 1941. By the 1920s the city had become a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization committed to white supremacy. The industrial plants provided jobs but not housing. White communities militantly guarded the dividing lines imposed by segregation throughout Detroit's history. As a result, the city's 200,000 black residents were cramped into sixty square blocks on the East Side and forced to live under deplorable sanitary conditions. Ironically, the ghetto was called Paradise Valley.

These and numerous other indignities contributed to escalating racial tensions in June of 1943. In many cities the demands of wartime were manifesting themselves in outbursts of intolerance. Race riots had already erupted in Los Angeles, as well as Mobile, Alabama, and Beaumont, Texas. In 1943 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held an emergency war conference in Detroit and accused the nation of its hypocritical commitment to personal freedoms abroad and discrimination and segregation at home.

The Detroit riot began at a popular and integrated amusement park known as Belle Isle. On the muggy summer evening of June 20, 1943, the playground was ablaze with activity. Several incidents occurred that night including multiple fights between teenagers of both races. White teenagers were often aided by sailors who were stationed at the Naval Armory nearby. As people began leaving the island for home, major traffic jams and congestion at the ferry docks spurred more violence. On the bridge which led back to the mainland, a fight erupted between a total of two hundred African Americans and white sailors. Soon, a crowd of five thousand white residents gathered at the mainland entrance to the bridge ready to attack black vacationers wishing to cross. By midnight, a ragged and understaffed police force attempted to retain the situation, but the rioting had already spread too far into the city.





http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/peopleevents/pande...
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