Walter and Wallace Crawford, October 20th, 2016


Walter and Wallace Crawford, October 20th, 2016


In this interview, Walter and Wallace Crawford discuss growing up in Detroit and their experiences during the 1967 disturbance.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Oral History


Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Walter Crawford
Wallace Crawford

Brief Biography

Walter and Wallace Crawford are twin brothers born in Detroit in 1948. They attended St. Vincent's High School where they excelled in sports. Both men later joined the Wayne County Sheriff Department.

Interviewer's Name

William Winkel

Interview Place

Detroit, MI



Interview Length



Julie Vandenboom

Transcription Date



WW: Hello, today is October 20, 2016. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society's Detroit 67 Oral History Project. I'm in Detroit, Michigan. I am sitting down with Mr. Wallace and Mr. Walter Crawford. Thank you both for sitting down with me today.

W: You're welcome.

WW: Walter, if you could start - could you start by telling me where and when you two were born?

Walter: Sure. Good morning, my name is Walter Crawford and myself and Wallace, we are twin brothers and we was born in Detroit, Michigan, May 5, 1948. And we was born on the street called Greeley, I guess - yeah, and that's on -

Wallace: North end -

Walter: North end of Detroit, and we sent to the school called St. George. It was Catholic school, up until about, I guess up until maybe the seventh, eighth grade, and we lived there. There was several of us in the family, brothers, and of course, and my father, my mother and we had an oldest brother called Donald Crawford, then it was myself and my twin brother was next, then my other brothers. And I said we went to St. George Catholic school. We went to a Catholic school all our life, and it was like typical Catholic school with nuns, and you know, it was a pretty good learning experience. And then we moved on a street called 6057 Hecla.

Wallace: Prior to us moving from the north end, what happened, they put the Chrysler Freeway went right though that section, and it was like, I guess, urban renewal, and they divided up the city. There was a high concentration of African Americans that stayed in the area, so most of us had to move to different areas. It diversified, I think, the political structure that we had there.

Walter: And so when we left there, we had to move, so we moved on a street called 6057 Hecla, and that was near Marquette, near Twelfth Street about three blocks south of Twelfth and the Boulevard.

WW: Before we talk about your new neighborhood, your old neighborhood, what was it like? Was it integrated? Or was it primarily a black neighborhood?

Walter: It was a primarily black neighborhood.

Wallace: It was a primarily black area. It was very cohesive. If a person done anything wrong the parents would get you, and the neighbors would get you - although, myself and my brother, we went to Catholic school because my parents, they had to sacrifice. My mother, she did day work to help pay for our tuition. Our father, he worked at the cleaners. You know, we had our own home, but across the alley the other students, they went to public school, but we was all friends, you know, we were real tight, you know, it was a very cohesive neighborhood. We all loved each other.

WW: And when you went to the new neighborhood was there the same feeling of cohesiveness?

Walter: Yes, I would say - I would say so. You know, we went to St. Agnes Grade School. We finished our twelfth grade there at St. Agnes. That's located on Twelfth Street and LaSalle Park. Which one is that?

Wallace: LaSalle Gardens.

Walter: Oh, LaSalle Gardens. And like I said, Catholic schools. We became altar boys there. And at the time you had to learn Latin for the Catholic mass, and we had Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns, and Sister Lorraine, she was dear to my heart because she taught us the Latin and she was great. She was great. And - go ahead -

Wallace: The neighborhood that we stayed on, the street we stayed on was Hecla, and that was a dead end street, and it was very cohesive. Everyone got along with everyone. And the other blocks, we got along. Everybody - we was all together. It was very nice living there with the neighbors and everything.

WW: And you moved there in the mid -  you said after eighth grade, you said?

Walter: Mm hm. Probably moved there probably was like in the fifth or sixth grade.

Wallace: About sixth grade.

Walter: About sixth grade.

Wallace: We moved there. And they only went up - St. Agnes, it was - after high school, they had a high school for all girls, but for co-ed it was only to the eighth grade, so from there - you want to go on?

Walter: Well, from there, then we went to St. Vincent De Paul High School, which is located on Marantette, near Tiger Stadium in what's that, southwest Detroit area?

Wallace: Yep, it was near - it was on Fourteenth Street near Michigan Avenue and that was very nice. To us, when we moved from our area - I mean, when we went there, it was like going to a college from my area, to go there.

I should say this, too. Both St. Vincent, it was integrated and St. Agnes was integrated, but St. Vincent was very integrated. You had nationalities from India, Maltese, Irish, Hispanics, Puerto Ricans, blacks, it was -

Walter: Polish.

Wallace: Polish. Every nationality that you could think of. And it was very nice. We loved that school. We did very well. We excelled in our grades, excelled in sports. We ran track and played basketball. Our best friend throughout the four years there at St. Vincent's was our Puerto Rican friends, and well, all of them, you know. It was beautiful. It was beautiful. We excelled, all-city, all-Catholic, and all-state in track in the half-mile, the 440. We were - it was beautiful.

WW: Growing up, seeing how you're moving around the city - did you feel comfortable moving around the city?

Walter: I would say we did because, I mean, we adjust and everything. At the time, when you're young -

Wallace: And then too, when we realized we missed our friends and then you make new friends. I missed my friends from St. Agnes when we went to St. Vincent's. And we made new friends, you know - but it was beautiful.

Walter: It was a good learning experience.

Wallace: Now when we was on Greeley Street, we didn't have playgrounds or anything, so we played in the alleys. But we all - it was a mutual thing. And then when we moved to Hecla Street we didn't have playgrounds so we played in the alley. We put basketball hoops up on the telephone pole. Played there. Sometimes there'd be glass in the alley, and we'd bounce the ball, sometimes you'd get glass in your hand. But to us, you know, it was like playing at Cobo Hall. I mean the friendship, the exercise and everything that we had.

Walter: Although, you know, it was on Hecla, there was a school there called Thurkle? Not Thurkle. Goldberg.

Wallace: Goldberg School.

Walter: And I guess it was like a grade school but they had large area that was gravel, but we played baseball up there, and we played football, tackle football up there and we had our rivalries. We stayed on one side of Twelfth, and on the other side of Twelfth was the other guys who would challenge them in football, and we beat them.

Wallace: It was good.

WW: You're teenagers in the early, middle Sixties. Did either of you get caught up in the Civil Rights movement or any of the activism that was going on at the time?

Wallace: Well, I think at the time, not so much because I think we was aware what was going on, but, I mean, concern in high school was to get a track scholarship because you see, none of our parents ever been to college. And we knew the only way that we could have access to going to college was through sports, so that's the reason we excelled in track. That was our main concern, you know, and hitting our books and doing the best that we could do for our school.

You know, we was aware what was going on, but it didn't affect us, not to the point of being angry or anything like that because we were in an integrated situation, and all our friends – like often times - at that time, they had, like a Michigan Central Depot Station that was located there. And often times we would have basketball games, like on Tuesdays at 6:00, so you know, we would get out of school, we were so far from our home – or rather, our home was located so far from the school, so we just stayed up there. We just go up there and just slept, or else we'd go over to our friend's, who was Hispanic. We would stay over there until about 5:00, 5:30, or 6:00 and then go back up to school, catch the bus, and play basketball, and then we'd come home.

We should say also, often times we would walk to school from the Boulevard and Twelfth Street to Fourteenth Street, walk there and walk back, because we didn't have bus fare. We had a friend that stayed on Twelfth and Seward, a little further down, and he would come by our house, we'd walk, enjoy ourselves.

Walter: Yeah, our friend's name was John Huey, and we remember him - when we were staying on Greeley Street, there was a large family, like 16 of them and their mother was like our second mother. Mrs. Huey. Mrs. Ruby Huey. She was a doll. And so, we was tight with their family and everything. So John was like almost one of our brothers. He was a big guy and maybe about a year or so older. He was good people.

WW: Going into the summer of '67. You've just graduated from high school the year before?

Walter: Mm hm.

WW: Did you anticipate any violence or anything that would happen in Detroit given what was going on around the country?

Walter: Well, no, but you know, I knew there was tension in the area because, as far as political and economic because it was a thing, in my opinion, that you go downtown and stuff, you don't see that many black folks at all. I don't know to me, it felt like I was unwelcome downtown.

Wallace: You would go down there, say, if you had business in the city accounting building, and folks would look at you like, "What you doing here?" Give you that look or that that impression like you don't belong there.

Walter: Like you're a person from another planet.

Wallace: Yeah. And then also, I recall back then, the police force, the Detroit police force, were about 93 percent white and often times they would treat you - I mean, we weren't doing anything - they would treat you as if you was -

WW: Criminal?

Wallace: Criminal, yeah. And also at that time they had what they called the Big Four, which was usually it was four plainclothes officers that would drive around and they would intimidate people, you know.

Walter: For no reason at all.

Wallace: For no reason at all.

Walter: And then a lot of the time, the Big Four, they would have one black cop, he would drive while the other three would be white. You could be in the alley playing basketball. They'll call you to their vehicle, and do things, or whatever.

Because I remember one time, during the summer we played baseball at Northwestern field, and the guys, we had a baseball team - so anyway, we had played out there and was coming back, and the Big Four called one of our buddies in the alley, and he went in there. They rolled up the window, and hit him in the face for nothing. I will never forget that, you know. For nothing. I mean - he was a baseball - we just came from Northwestern, we just got through playing baseball up there. That was the type of atmosphere they created.

Wallace: And then, economically speaking, also, there wasn't any jobs in our immediate neighborhood. So me and my brother, we used to have to catch three buses to work at this car wash. It was located at Schoolcraft and Ashbury. We did that for about, heck, six or seven years?

Walter: Yeah.

Wallace: Because we would work there on our Saturdays and Sundays. We did that so we would have money to help pay for our tuition, to pay for our school sweaters. We was running track and playing basketball. Matter of fact, that morning when the riot broke out, we was at - Sunday morning - we was at the car wash and the owner said, "Everyone go home because it's an outbreak. A riot." So we caught the bus and got off the bus there and we witnessed some stuff that was going on there, you know.

But what I'm trying to say, often times, there was no jobs in the immediate neighborhood, and we had to go out to work, to try to get - earn, you know, some money.

Walter: My brother, he calls it – he used the term "riot." I call it a rebellion because it was just - you could kind of feel things festering. You could feel it, the tension. But I never would have thought it would occur like it did. You know, it broke out like it did. Like my brother mentioned, that morning we caught the Twelfth Street bus. We went right past where, I guess, everything jumped off there around Twelfth and Clermont. At the time when we left, everything looked normal and stuff.

And we caught the other two buses to the car wash and stuff. Like he said, the owner of the car wash was named Chuck Shipley, and he mentioned we're closing everything down that day because of what was going on throughout the city. So on the way back we caught the Schoolcraft bus to Grand River and Twelfth Street, because like I say, we lived further down. We waited for the Twelfth Street bus, maybe about an hour or so, maybe an hour and a half. Never did come. A guy was walking past, we said, what's going on with the Twelfth Street bus? He said "Man, you didn't hear nothing about it?" I said, what? "They're burning down Twelfth Street!"

We look and we see all that smoke, you know, so we got concerned. But we ran track, so we sprinted down Twelfth home. Make sure everything was fine there and everything.

Wallace: But before we went there, we stopped on Twelfth and the Boulevard because there were people that were congregating in the area, so we looked to see what was happening. What it was, it was John Conyers and, I think,  Arthur Johnson, and they were standing on top of a car, and they were trying to tell people to go home and to cool it. We were watching. All of a sudden people start cursing them out, telling them to get out of there, get out of there. And they jumped in the car and they drove down on the Boulevard and fishtailed down the Boulevard but they were throwing bricks and bottles and everything they could at them. So they got out of there real fast.

And when we seen that, we knew it was time to get home. So as we was going down Twelfth Street, to head back towards Hecla, where we stayed, at Twelfth and Marquette, we heard a car going down the alley, before we get past the alley. Now, my brother, he recalled -

Walter: I remember that -

Wallace: You know, it was a car that, okay, like this is the alley, this is the sidewalk. Heard a car like rrrrrrmmm - and you know, a car, boom! Past and went past the street and through the other alley, you know -

Walter: And what I recall is that - I remember it vividly - is that it was - the first car was being chased by another car. The first car was all black males was in that car, zooming it, boom, down the alley. And there was a police car, about three or four Detroit police officers chasing that car down the alley. Then it seemed like about five or ten minutes later, we heard coming down the opposite way, it was the police car. They were zooming, and behind them was the car full of blacks, with guns and rifles, chasing them. Yeah, because I remember seeing the faces of those white officers; they were scared. Yep, I remember that. Vividly.

WW: And so what happened once you got home?

Walter: Stayed in the house. Didn't go out.


Wallace: You know, because, I mean, it was too much that was going on. And then, also too, when we was on Twelfth and the Boulevard, when you look down Twelfth Street, all you see was fire and smoke, and you heard this pop-pop-pop-pop-pow. We didn't know if it was gunshots or if the liquor store was burning and the alcohol bottles exploding. We didn't know what that was. So we knew it was time to get out of there.

Walter: Yeah, I think - that was his account. My account was, I remember we was thinking about our friend John Huey who stayed further down on Twelfth and Seward, and I recall you know, maybe, I thought it was the same day, maybe the next day, we tried to go down Twelfth Street. We got as far as the Boulevard and Twelfth and it was just smoke and everything. We didn't go any further. You really couldn't go any further with all that smoke.

WW: At any point during the week was your house threatened by fire?

Wallace and Walter: No.

Wallace: Thank God for that.

WW: And during the rest of the week did you see any of your neighbors bring home looted goods or anything like that? Or was your neighborhood pretty quiet for the rest of that week?

Walter: It was kind of quiet. I had heard that some people went up there on Twelfth Street and got a safe from wherever and came down - my brother mentioned that we stayed on a dead-end street and further down was the railroad tracks. And what I heard was that they had got a safe and they buried it somewhere. But what I also heard was that the next day some of the guys looked for that safe, and the safe was gone. So maybe somebody dug up the safe and took it. You know, maybe part of the people who looted. I don't know.

Wallace: But what happened, though, I recall, I think maybe two or three days later, after they got reinforcements and everything, we had like a little playground that we had a tree there, and we playing basketball. A caravan, I think about three cars, came by driving down the street with their guns and shotguns and everything out the window. And one of the guys - not staying on our street, but a couple streets over, you know - was dumb - I guess he had stole some liquor and he brought it up there to the playground where we was at. Didn't nobody want none of that junk. Told him to take it home but the police drove up and they seen it. So they came up and they busted the bottles. Had guns, looking at us, but we wasn't paying any attention to them. We was too busy playing baseketball. None of that foolishness.

WW: You were allowed to continue playing basketball?

Wallace: Mm-hm.

Walter: Mm-hm. Yeah.

Wallace: We was about maybe a block away from our home, so we just kept playing basketball. Wasn't nobody doing that. And then also, you know, since we were running track, every day we ran track. Winter, summer. Every day we ran. So we still ran track, but we made sure, of course, we had our sweatshirts that said St. Vincent's Track, so folks wouldn't think that we was into anything. And what was that you seen that time we was running?

Walter: When we was running, see, we used to - like this was our home, and this was like the dead end, and the track's there. So we used to - traditionally, we used to train up there where the track was at. Anyway, we were running track around there, so we had a route that we came and hit Twelfth Street and came back down. Well when we hit Twelfth Street, I notice this lady. She was coming out of a house - little old lady, you know, a black lady - and she had some cookies, and I think some milk, you know. She's crossing the street. I was wondering what was going on. And so we're running and went past, and what was going on was that, underneath like a -

Wallace: Viaduct?

Walter: Near the viaduct but it was - I guess when you - porch, or whatever, you know - it was a machine gun nest, I guess National Guard, maybe the 82nd Airborne. And the guy was down there in a machine gun nest. We run right past there, and I looked and the lady - I guess that was her way of - she probably seen us running for years because we trained up there and stuff – that was her way of letting him know that we was not a threat. That was the way I took it. And this guy was - I seen that machine gun - and that was when the 82nd Airborne came in, and you know - pshhhhh, you know. I think that lady saved us. That was her way of letting him know, these guys, they're not a threat, that sort of thing.

WW: Did you have any other experiences with the Detroit Police, the National Guard, or the federal troops?

Walter:  You want to? Go ahead, I can fill in some things.

Wallace: We finally, maybe the third day, we went up on Twelfth Street to our friend's house, that stayed on Twelfth and Seward, becuase, like I said, they're from a big family like us, we've been knowing them for years.

Walter: The Hueys.

Wallace: The Hueys. So the mother, she asked that, could we go with John, to the Buy Low Supermarket to purchase food items, to take home to take home with him. So we went with him there, and I think we had about three carts full of food.

Walter: Okay, yeah. That place was located on the Boulevard, near Linwood.

Wallace: Around the Boulevard. So we went, purchased the food, and we're walking down the street to head back home, and the police stopped us and was harassing us, "Where'd you get this? Where's your receipt at?" and all this - the third degree, you know, with all that harassment.

Walter: And what I recall was that they had a motorcade. We was going down the street - and we had our receipts, and everything. So we're pushing that. It was a motorcade. It was like I guess the National Guard and Detroit, and they had weapons and stuff. They didn't point at us but they were looking. The third motorcade, it was - I never seen them before, but they was, found out, they was Wayne County Deputies. And they was black. And them dudes - I mean, first thing they did, they pointed their guns. "We know you're stealing stuff," you know.

And I looked at them. I never seen them before, because - well, until later on in my life, I became a deputy and stuff. But they was the ones who pointed the weapons at us, for no reason at all. And that was the time I was thinking, man, I hope these dudes don't shoot us! We're not looters. We got the receipts, and everything. They was the ones.

Wallace: The ironic the thing, like my brother was saying, my brother put in 25 years with Wayne County Sheriff Department.

Walter: 27.

Wallace: 27, I'm sorry. I put in 31 years to Wayne County Sheriff Department. And that was ironic. And then we have a brother that's a prosecuting attorney. You know, we're all in law enforcement. That was the ironic thing about that. But at the time, it was tension. At the time - I recall too, also, I was over at John's house, you know, my buddy's house and a guy came and he said - it was about the third day - "I'm going back up there on Twelfth Street." Said man, why you want to go up there? You got all these police and guns and stuff. And the guy, you know, he was kind of like - he wasn't part of the family, but a friend - pull his shirt up, he had his gun, you know, up in his waistband. "I don't care nothing about that." He went to going, you know.

Walter: But I recall Friday after when you jumped off - I think that Monday or Tuesday we was - finally went to check on John. So was going down Twelfth Street and on Twelfth and the Boulevard, there was a Cunningham Drug Store there. And at the time we went past there, it was being looted. You could tell people broke in the windows and stuff. Well we looked, and was some guys were coming out of there. Now they was white. That was, what's going on here? But they looked like zombies, I mean, real pale and stuff? And they look, and they're coming out, and then we finally realized what was going down was that they broke in - that Cunningham - Cunningham sells drugs. You know, they were drug users. Uh-huh. They came out. Nobody bothered them or whatever.

So we proceeded down Twelfth Street. Like I said, we went to St. Agnes Grade School. So we're going down Twelfth Street, and you know, we knew, of course, the nuns and the priests and stuff - and it was still bothered over there - smoky and everything - and the priest came out there. Father - was it Father - Father Markham?

Wallace: Markham.

Walter: Yeah. Father Markham came out and he said, "Can I help anybody?" And it was, you know, all the black guys around and stuff, and they looked - matter of fact, it was me, my brother Wallace, and John who had got - so they looked and they were surrounding Father Markham. And we told him Father, you better just go on inside in the rectory because them dudes, I mean, they was getting ready to do something. And Father Markham, he said, "You know, I got my collar," we said no, we told him no, you can go inside.

So we stayed up there. We ain't going to let these dudes hurt Father Markham and stuff but they was going to hurt him.

Wallace: The other thing too, it wasn't a race riot. It was like a rebellion. Because you had blacks and whites that was looting and that was doing things. It wasn't like black people was trying to hurt white people, white people trying to hurt black people. It was looting.

But I'm recalling another thing, too, before I forget. I remember that Monday, you know, I think you was with me. We went up on - what was it - Ferry Park and Fourteenth Street. We was just walking up there and it's a stop light up there. So a guy had drove up there, white guy, he had a drop-top. He was sitting on one side and a lady was sitting on the other side. So this black guy came walking and he had a cigar box. He opened up the cigar box and he had darts, you know, like you throw at a dart board? And he was passing them out. He showed that in front of me. Man, what I'm going to do with that? So he was passing them out, and when the guy stopped at the light, I mean, one guy ran up to the guy and threw it, and hit the man in the arm with the dart. Then another guy went on the other side and threw it and hit the lady in the arm with the dart. And I looked at that man and said it's time for us to go. So we went the other way. Because, I mean, that wasn't even necessary. That was some type of evil spirit that was in that guy's heart or whatever was going on. But I recall that, seeing that, you know. Yep. So we split. Got away from there.

WW: Are there any other stories you'd like to share from that week?

Walter: Those were the ones that I remember most vividly. Do you remember any?

Wallace: That's about all. You know, other than, we still ran track every day. We was in training. We was getting ready to go to college, you know.

WW: What was the mood in the city afterwards? Was it relief that it was over? Was it anger that it happened?

Wallace: I think it was a lot of anger that it happened, because John - another thing, I almost forgot to mention - when that fire was - when they were burning up stuff, John, he helped the fire department put out the fire and they gave him a citation. You know, trying to help put out the fire and stuff. I think it was anger that was going on, you know, people were angry. Then people was angry because they lost their homes.

Walter: Yeah. And then I remember that, when we finally got to John's house, Mrs. Huey was saying that her daughter Millicent - it was at night and she was taking out the trash and there were some, I guess, 82nd Airborne they almost shot her, for no reason at all. She was just taking out the trash, and Mrs. Huey said she came out there and stopped them, cussed them out, you know. "That's my daughter," you know. Yep. Up there on Twelfth and Seward.

Wallace: Let me see. Oh yeah, then I did a survey, too, I think about a week later. I used that random system that you use, when you conduct surveys, to make it valid. Right there on Twelfth and Seward. And the questions I asked was three. Does the person refer to themselves as being black, Negro, or African American? And most of them said black. I conducted the survey right up there. And that was about it.

Really, I think a lot of people were remorseful, you know, because of the property damage that was done. People were just angry. It was different things: the heat, the police force being oppressive, you know.

Walter: The political aspect, you know. They felt you couldn't go downtown, you was unwanted. That was the thing that strike me. As a child, I remembered that.

Wallace: Oh yeah. And then at certain times too, I recall, if you drive down - I would drive downtown, like on a Friday, just down Woodward Avenue because of the lights and stuff just to be in an area where it was joyful and happy. And certain times you'd go down there and you'd get stopped by the police. Come to find out, they were saying they had certain days they called, I guess, black days and white days when they had entertainment, maybe at the Fox, for a predominantly white population, and if you go down there you're not wanted. And then other days, they would have entertainment for the black population where you can go through that area. They had that type of schism that was going on.

WW: Did your experience with law enforcement growing up and what you experienced during '67 drive you into the law enforcement careers?

Walter: No, not me. I never would have thought in a million years that I would become law enforcement and stuff. But I think it was, for me, it was economic and then after I got into it and stuff, for me kind of enjoyable, that sort of thing. Because I had worked - we mentioned the sheriff department, but the latter part of my career, I worked at the airport - Detroit Metro Airport - Airport police for a number of years.

So the way I look at it, by working at the sheriff department, working at the jails, you meet all types of personalities there, so when I went to the airport, it was easy to deal with those folks. They were a different type of crime there, it was like a city, and you had instead of like the regular inmates, regular people on the streets committing crime, you had people with briefcases, suitcases. But it was a good way of breaking in, dealing with personalities and dealing with people. So that was a good learning experience.

Wallace: Well, I enjoyed it and what I think really helped me, like when Coleman Young - when the political situation changed and you had more blacks that was on the police force, I remember a couple of times I got stopped by the police - maybe not license - not license, but I mean insurance or something - and they'd give you a break. "Brother, you go ahead and take care of that." And they wouldn't want to come down hard on you or talk to you any kind of way.

Now when I worked with the sheriff department, I worked with a lot of inmates. I was in charge of the laundry. Matter of fact, I opened up the Dickerson detention facility and what I noticed, I didn't allow any cussing. I didn't allow them to play no music, because I know they play their music, they'll be thinking they're out on the streets. And you had different nationalities, you know, that worked with you. Some people might like country western, some people might like jazz, and this and that. You don't - you eliminate all that.

But what I noticed, if you talk to them like the way you like to be talked to – like I used to tell them, you do what you're supposed to do, I don't have anything to say to you but thank you. But if you mess up, I'm coming down on you. When you lay it out like that, I didn't have any problem. That was 31 years.

WW: Just a couple final questions. Do you think the events of '67 still hangs over the metro area?

Walter: Personally, I think so. The reason I say that is because what I'm seeing now, we mentioned about downtown '67,I see it right now in downtown Detroit right now. The way people came in and they just - the Gilbert and the Illitches and other folks took over downtown. Own it. I hope it doesn't re-occur again. They do say history tends to repeat itself and I hope it doesn't.

But I see, and I'm hearing that people feel unwanted - blacks and stuff - and you know, you've got some people that make you feel unwanted - try to - because I know my personal experience one time, I go to Eastern Market and I went down there, that was maybe about two or three months ago and there were some guys on a bicycle. I don't know who they were, maybe executives or whatever. But anyway, they was rude, and ignorant, and I had to tell them about theyselves and it was like they thought they owned the street. You walk into Eastern Market, they got their bicycles, bumping into you and stuff. And one of the guys told the other guy, "You know you just bumped tino this individual?" Dude, the guy didn't care. They had - the bikes probably was two or three thousand dollars or maybe more. They was rude and ignorant and I see - I hate to say it but I think it's going to recur again. I really do, because people don't just learn to treat people with respect and dignity. That's my feelings. I hope it doesn't but I feel it certainly will.

Wallace: Well, I hope it doesn't also, but as you can see, even out here, what they done to this railway, to me, it seemed like it's more like an apartheid situation. One section, going to have it fenced off, just for a certain economic - and it's racial, but it's economic also. You're welcome if you're there, if you dress a certain way, and if you're there for business. If not, you're not welcome there. But the difference is now, whereas before, you had organizations, you had churches, church leaders who would protest that and would allow you to have meetings.

Now what they're doing, they co-opt a lot of these ministers, take, co-opt, a lot of these, with the Duggan administration. A lot of these folks that was in charge of different community organizations, he put them jobs with this administration, just to be quiet, and has co-opted right now. That's the reason why a lot of people are not protesting like they used to be in Detroit, because a lot of them are co-opted right now. That's exactly what's going on.

Walter: Give them a sack of money.

Wallace: Yeah.

Walter: Be honest with you.

Wallace: Because look at - that doesn't make sense, you're tearing up the whole avenue just for a rail system -

Walter: That's going to go to the boulevard -

Wallace: To the boulevard, to downtown section, backwards and forwards, and I know they're saying they're going to extend it on down to Woodward and Eight Mile Road, but you know, I don't see that, you know what I'm saying? And I know this has been in the making for the longest, ever since the Seventies it's been in the making. The hook-up downtown with the New Center area. They can rename it whatever they want to rename it, but this is just for a certain few people. I don't see anything happening in neighborhoods, and it's -

Walter: Gentrification -

Wallace: Yeah, gentrification and it's not going to work. They're trying to make it work, but I don't think it's going to work. That's my opinion.

Walter: I think history's going to repeat itself, sooner or later. It might take one year, it might take five years, but it's going to come right back down, come right back around in a circle again, the way I'm thinking.

WW: What would you like to see happen?

Wallace: What I'd like to see is that they do things in the neighborhoods and that they change this educational system. Instead of the governor running it, you know, with these different - I forget the term -

WW: Emergency managers?

Wallace: Yeah. That was you know, that's so obvious. That was nothing but a takeover of black cities by the governor and to take whatever you could take from there, and then just leave the people penniless. There was a book that they use the same - I forget the name of the book, because I had read it - but it's the same thing that they do in third world countries. That's exactly what they're doing in these cities - especially these black cities. I forget the name of it right now. Naomi - someone - her name - but she wrote that. It's the same, they're using the same technique. And it's not going to work. You might have a system - apartheid system but it didn't work in South Africa, and it's not going to work here. And people are going to get fed up, and they're going to explode. Because people like Duggan, what they do - they pay off these ministers. The governor pays them off with grants and schools that they pay for -

Walter: Charter schools -

Wallace: Yeah, charter schools and things. But eventually when Duggan moves up to governor, all those people that he co-opted, especially the community people, they're going to be off the payroll, and they're going to have to answer to the people, and there's going to be a reckoning. That's the way I see it. You know, I'm not hoping that, but just seeing, I think that's the way it's going to go down.

WW: Are there any other thoughts that you'd like to share today?

Wallace: Other than, it was terrible with the riots, 43 people died, five hundred people injured, seven thousand people arrested, and a lot of those people that was arrested, they took them out to Belle Isle, and had them right out there, almost like an internment camp. Had those people out there. They couldn't take fingerprints. They took pictures of them and it was just terrible. And then the thing about it, the 82nd Airborne, and the 101st Airborne, they treated the people better than the National Guard. Because they was from Vietnam and they was more in touch with the people than the Michigan National Guard, and of course, more than these police officers. That was another thing.

WW: Thank you both so much for sitting down with me today. I greatly appreciate it.

Walter: Okay.

Wallace: You're welcome.


Original Format



46min 59sec


William Winkel


Walter Crawford
Wallace Crawford


Detroit, MI




“Walter and Wallace Crawford, October 20th, 2016,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed November 30, 2021,

Output Formats