The Detroit Riot of 1943: Black Renters Forced Away From Signed Leases by 1,200 Angry Whites

Written by Jae Jones

The Detroit rebellion occurred February 2, 1943. The tragedy occurred when renters tried to enter their homes in a new developed housing project in the Motor City. Blacks during this time believed that change for them had come. World War II was over, and many believed thing were looking up for them, especially the racism they had to endure of the years. Many Blacks who lived in the South had migrated north thinking that things would be better for them; however they ran into bigotry every bit as vial as it had been down south. On Sept. 29, 1942 a housing project planned for the newcomers began. The project was named Sojourner Truth in memory of the female Negro leader and poet of Civil War days.

Although the homes were built and ready to move in there was opposition from the white community. They wanted the neighborhood for themselves, and wanted the blacks to be moved to a different location. Washington informed the Housing Commission on Jan. 20, 1942 of the plans to find a more suitable location for Blacks. On Feb. 27, with a cross burning in a field near the homes, 150 angry whites picketed the project vowing to keep out any Black homeowners. By dawn the following day, the crowd had grown to 1,200, and most of them were armed. The first Black tenants, rent paid and leases signed, arrived at 9 a.m. but left the area fearing trouble. It wasn’t long in coming.

The fight broke out when two Blacks tried to run their car through the picket line. The argument and clashing continued most of the day until 16 police attempted to break up the fighting. The police threw tear gas in the air and shotgun shells. Officials announced an indefinite postponement of the move. Detroit newspapers, union leaders, and many other whites campaigned for the government to allow the Black workers to move into the homes. Black families ended up having nowhere to go and were either housed with other friends and family, or in Brewster Homes and other locations around Detroit.




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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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