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Summer of Rage

An Oral History of the 1967 Newark and Detroit Riots

Max Arthur Herman

Drawing on oral history interviews and archival materials, Summer of Rage examines the causes and consequences of urban unrest that occurred in Newark and Detroit during the summer of 1967. It seeks to give voice to those who experienced these events firsthand and places personal narratives in a broader theoretical framework involving issues of collective memory, trauma, race relations, and urban development. Further, the volume explores the multiple truths present in these contentious events and thereby sheds light on the past, present, and future of these cities.
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The Newark and Detroit “riots” of 1967 were arguably the two most severe manifestations in a wave of urban unrest that swept through American cities between 1964 and 1969. With the exception of the Watts Riot of 1965, the events that took place in Newark and Detroit during the summer of 1967 caused more deaths and destruction of property than any other civil disturbances of that period and rank among the worst cases of civil disorder in all of American history. Unlike the events in Harlem (1964) or Watts (1965), which affected only one portion of their respective cities, the episodes of urban unrest in Newark and Detroit were not confined to a single area. Rather, their effects were felt strongly throughout these two cities, and reverberated throughout the entire nation. As a result, the events that took place in Newark and Detroit in July 1967 have had long-term consequences that extend beyond the immediate impact of the civil disorders themselves.

For Newark and Detroit, as well as several cities that experienced urban unrest during the 1960s, the aforementioned events were pivotal moments in their unmaking—accelerating urban decay and stigmatizing these cities for decades to come. These former industrial powerhouses, once considered “arsenals of democracy” which had held an important place in the pantheon of American cities, were now redefined in the national imagination as the locus of murder and mayhem, emblematic of all that is wrong with urban America. As cities inhabited primarily by...

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