Beverly Spears


Beverly Spears


Beverly Spears recalls her childhood memories from July 1967.


Detroit Historical Society


Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






I was 14 years old at the time of the Detroit riot. I remember wakening up to my mother and father chastising my older and younger brother coming home with a wagon full ice creams, different types of snacks and chips. My mother told them you both know better. Why did you go up to the corner?  This is stealing throw it away. She suddenly  turn around to my other brothers and sister and  told us not to go to the corner and stay home. I had no ideal what was going on. I ran to the backyard and look down the alley. People were running back and forth down the alley with food, packages of groceries, liqour and bags of anything they could pick up. I didn't  notice any sadness in their  faces but happiness. It was amazing to see. I only wonder what's going on.

  Still in confusion I went to my best friend  who was two years older to see what had happen. She told me it is a riot. The color people are mad and they are taking it out on the white people in the neighborhood. They are breaking into the stores and taking everything.  I ask what had happen but she didn't  know. I still didn't  understand so I  went back to my mother who was on the phone talking to her sister about my brothers and complaining about how crazy the world had become over night. So due to my curiosity I left home and walk to the corner.

I could  not believe  what I saw. The Wileys drug store was gone, the bar where   I often look into when I  went pass every day was gone, the beauty  parlor where I  would often see white women getting  their hair done was gone and the grocery store that I had went to all my life no longer stood there. Everything was burning down. The awful smell of burning buildings, papers and the smell of liqour all mix together was to much for me. Why would they do this why would they destroy our neighborhood? What was the reason? I cry that  day and many days afterwards.  I even wonder today what would Detroit be like today if the  riot had not occurred.

I remember when the national guards came, but they didn't come until later. When they did come they were often seen driving their jeeps and trucks down the streets. They stood at the doors of empty and burn down building to protect what I didn't  know. Everything was gone. 

Our neighborhood was mix with whites  and blacks. During the riot the whites stay in their  houses and know one bother them except one night the neighbors came to our door knocking hard. We ran downstairs to see what was happening. The man at the corner who own the ice cream business was trap inside and some men were trying to make him come out. They wanted my father to go and try to calm the men down. My father was a minister, he was a quiet man and never want to be boasterous or loud. He was friendly and love talking to everyone.  My mother would often tell him to leave people alone because my father would speak to everyone and hold a conversation. But this was something I  could tell he was nervous about.  My father finally went after pushing from the neighbors and walk to the corner. When he return he smile and said we were able to quiet things down. They didn't hurt the ice cream man.

Once everthing quiet down my neighborhood would never be the same. The whites move out and we move from the eastside to northwest side of Detroit to a majority jewish neighborhood the next year. Everyone was upset we were  leaving but my father didn't  want to stay on our street anymore. He said . it didn't feel the same and everything had change.



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Beverly Spears

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“Beverly Spears,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed March 3, 2021,

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