Judith Zielke


Judith Zielke


Judith Zielke, whose father was Detroit Fireman, was 10 years old in July 1967. She remembers hearing bullets outside her house and how anxious her mother was.


Detroit Historical Society


Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


My father was on the Detroit Fire Department in 1967. I was born and raised in Detroit on the East side near Chandler Park on 4666 Gray and Forest. I was turning 13 that summer, the middle child of a family with 6 children. We were driving home from a family reunion when we heard the story break on the radio. My parents looked very concerned, but we 6 kids just bounced around in the station wagon oblivious to what this all meant. My Dad was called in to mandatory active duty and was told to tell his family he wasn't sure when he could come home. Our fear built quickly as we started to see armored tanks and military jeeps roll down our block to where they were stationed at Chandler Park. Next came the sound of gunfire and all the neighbors and kids had to stay in the house for fear of stay bullets. We could actually hear the bullets whistling between houses in our tightly packed neighborhood of houses with no driveway between homes, just a narrow walkway. We would sneak out sometimes and look for bullet holes in neighbor cars, but my Mom would bring us back inside quickly. I remember her telling us to crouch down under the dining room table, or up against a wall shielded by a piece of furniture as the shooting increased. One day after my Dad called my Mom to say things were getting worse, she gathered us together and we ran down the block to a neighbor's home, to seek shelter in their basement and so my Mom wouldn't be alone with us. We kids sat quietly in our friend's basement with their parents and 7 kids, never complaining of being bored on a summer vacation day in a basement, because we could sense the seriousness of the event on all the adult's faces.
When it finally came to an end, and we all went back to our 'normal' lives, I don't recall us discussing what was the cause of the "Riot in Detroit". I think our parents shielded us by not talking about such a frightening and impacting event that shaped history. Parents of that generation did not typically talk about many things like this. I often wonder if we would have had more discussions about racial injustice and civil unrest it could have helped shaped the next generation to be more accepting and less judging. Instead, we moved. Being a Fireman, we had to still live in Detroit, but we moved further from downtown, over near Denby high. I stayed in my school on Warren and Coplin, in fact my Mother taught there, so we drove in together everyday. Strange though, that we couldn't live there anymore. I've stayed an East sider all my life. My husband was one of the first Detroit EMS paramedics, and I went to Nursing School at Harper Hospital and lived in the dorms at the DMC. I love Detroit. I want history to teach us how to move forward in peace.

Original Format


Submitter's Name

Judith Zielke

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“Judith Zielke,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed May 18, 2021, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/363.

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