Detroit was no stranger to civil rights struggles; two months before he marched on Washington, MLK Jr. premiered his "I Have a Dream" speech in the city.
Despite an economic boom in the city, Detroit's black population was left in the dust, losing neighborhoods and job opportunities.
The Detroit police department was 95% white, and known for their racism and brutality.
On July 23rd, 1967, Detroit police raided a speakeasy on 12th Street.
This sparked one of the largest riots in American history.
Governor Romney called in the state National Guard, and President Johnson called in multiple Airborne divisions to put a stop to the riots.
At the end of it all, 23 civilians were killed, and almost 700 were wounded.
A riot of this caliber was not seen until the Rodney King riots in LA during the 1990's.
A letter to the editor of the Washington Post on July 28th, 1967, reads:
The slum Negro has no reason for hope. His people have been trapped in the poverty cycle for 200 years. The gap between Negro and white income has been increasing. The war on poverty is a token effort, both in terms of money and, more importantly, in terms of the concern and energy of Americans. This is the reason for riots. They appear to be the only way to awaken a complacent America, and they express the frustration that has built up for many years.
The author touches upon an unfortunate truth; that is, that riots are a necessary part of bringing about change. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, "a riot is the language of the unheard." Despite the fact that riots tend to be a net negative for a movement, they are able to force a problem under the nose of mainstream America. For some, there is no other way to get people to look at them, and acknowledge their struggle.