Jean Wynn


Jean Wynn


Jean Wynn was 21 years old and worked for the Detroit News in July of 1967. She was given a special pass to get to work after the curfew and remembers seeing the destruction from the YWCA where she rented a room.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


I was 21 years old in the summer of 1967, living on my own for the first time. I had rented a sleeping room at the YWCA on Witherell St. downtown, with shared bathrooms down the hall. As I recall the building was about 6 stories, housing women of all ages. I was working two part- time jobs. I worked several days a week at Textile Trim, a soft trim plant on 12th St., north of Warren Ave., and evening shift on the ad board at the Detroit News, two nights per week from 5 to 9 pm.

On Sunday evening, July 23, I went with a date to the Grand Circus Theater to see “The Sand Pebbles” with Steve McQueen. It was a long movie, which would have entailed a change of reels at that time. At about the half way point of the film, 8 or 9 pm, the theater lights came on and the manager came on stage. He said rioting had broken out on the west side of Detroit, and we would need to leave. He said every patron would be given a voucher to return at another time.

I went to work at Textile Trim on Monday as usual, but by Tuesday President Johnson had declared marshall law in Detroit, and I saw national guard tanks going north on 12th St. At that point you were required to have a pass to be out after 6 pm, and I was issued a pass from the Detroit News so I could go to work that week. Both Thursday July 26 and Friday July 27 I was stopped at a checkpoint downtown, walking from the YWCA to the newspaper, and required to show the pass.

The second night of the turmoil, Monday the 24th, myself and some other women watched from upper story windows of the YWCA building, which looked over toward Woodward Avenue. We could see groups of people, mostly men, throwing bricks and rocks though store windows, then taking out merchandise. The third night, several of us walked up to the roof of the building, which I believe was 6 floors, and we observed fires in every direction, as far as the eye could see. It was a frightening and surreal sight that I won’t forget.

On Friday a friend and I walked around downtown, which was quite deserted. We went in the coffee shop of the Howard Johnson’s Hotel on Washington Blvd., and no one was behind the counter, though several out-of-town guests were sitting there as if in a daze. My friend had restaurant experience and she started the coffee machine and served them coffee.

The Detroit Tigers won the World Series the following year, 1968, and there was dancing in the streets and a lot of happiness. Detroit has come a long way in 50 years.

Original Format


Submitter's Name

Jean Wynn

Submission Date





“Jean Wynn,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed March 4, 2021,

Output Formats