Two years ago, Julia Szuper, Executive Director for The Thome Rivertown Assisted Living Neighborhood in Detroit, learned about the Detroit Historical Society’s plans to conduct an oral history project, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots. She knew immediately this was something exciting the native Detroiters living at Rivertown could help with. Detroit Historical Society interviewers visited with several Rivertown residents to hear their personal stories of this difficult and pivotal time in the city’s history. Their stories are now part of the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67: Perspectives exhibit.
This week, the Detroit Historical Society offered a special screening at Rivertown for an eager group of residents, staff, and families.
“The Rivertown residents are living history,” says Julia. “They enjoy telling others of their experiences. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from older adults.”
The Rivertown residents interviewed for this project were young men and women at the time of the 1967 riots. Their memories include seeing military tanks in their neighborhoods, and burning and looting of local shops and neighborhoods along 12th and Clairmount, an area that was home for Rivertown resident, Girard Townsend who was just 17 that summer.
Interviewers Lily Wilson and Noah Levinson say the Rivertown residents “had such a range of experiences and were very open to sharing their memories.” Noah remembers distinctly his interview with one resident: “When she recalled seeing the tank on her street, I just saw her look straight up with this look of awe, remembering its immense size like it was right there in front of her. That was the moment I knew this was a special project, to be able to talk to people about these transformative memories.”
The Detroit 67: Perspectives exhibit is on display through 2019 at the Detroit Historical Museum. Individual stories, including those of Rivertown residents, are also available to hear on the Detroit Historical Society website at https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/.
To learn more about The Thome Rivertown Neighborhood, visit https://umrc.com/communities/the-thome-rivertown-neighborhood/.