Rose Ange Leddy, March 7th, 2017
WW: Hello, today is February 7th, 2017. My name is William Winkel, this interview is for Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67 Oral History Project, I’m in Monroe, Michigan and I am sitting down with—
RAL: Sister Rose Ange Leddy
WW: Would you like to share your story?
RAL: I would love to. That summer I was going to classes at the University of Detroit, and living at the convent in Marian in Birmingham. And I’ve got a couple of stories. One was I was in Canada, when the riots broke out and I had to come back across the bridge and through town you could see where the fires were going on, it had just begun. And then, they were collecting clothing for people, and food, and we had a station wagon. So we gathered up a lot of clothes, and we had the station wagon packed, literally to the ceiling. So I can only, when I was driving, I could only see a little slit out the rearview mirror. And we went to the near Eastside, I can’t remember the name of the church, it was not a catholic church, where they were collecting these clothes. And we went to one place where we were supposed to drop it, and they said, no, we had to go to this other one. So we got back in the car and we headed to this other one which was a short distance away, and went down the alley to pull into where we needed to drop the clothes. And all of the sudden as we stopped we were surrounded by police with their guns drawn, pointing in the car. Of course I wasn’t very nice, I sort of laughed, which is a nervous reaction, but it’s also like they knew as soon as they saw us that we were sisters, because we were still wearing habits at that point. But they were under so much pressure and tension to stop the looting, so they of course let us unload the car, and that is basically that piece of the story. I also remember the National Guard on the corners, even after we started back to classes in the city. And my dad had a business in the city, on the northwest side, I don’t believe it got—it didn’t get looted, I know that, and I don’t remember even if the windows were broken, but he may have had to board up those windows too.
WW: Did you know about the uprising before you crossed over the bridge, or as you were crossing the bridge?
RAL: Yes, yes, no I already knew about it because it was already on the news.
RAL: I’m not sure; did it start on Friday night?
WW: Sunday, Sunday morning, early Sunday morning
RAL: Sunday morning, Okay. So we already heard about it on the news, because that would have been Sunday afternoon when I was coming back across.
WW: Did it change the way you looked at the city?
RAL: Did it change—? I don’t think it changed so much how I looked at the city. It changed it forever though. I have next generation family members who wouldn’t think of going into the city. I taught there in the seventies, in the city, and I always considered it my city, so if I want to drive across town, I drive across town, and if I want to go someplace I go there. But it did dramatically change things. I think that the dramatic change was combined not only because of the riots and the white flight, but it was also at the same time as the drug business started. And as some of the Scholastic Magazine, which was a teachers’ paper and kids’, talked about how they were marketing drugs just like you market jeans. Except under the table in a sense, and I think that mad— I think really the drug business made a bigger change overall in the city than even the white flight. But the white flight was due to the riots.
WW: Do you remember— going back to your story of dropping off supplies to the church. Do you remember the look on the police officers’ face or how they reacted when they saw and realized who you were?
RAL: I remember thinking they just looked exhausted and tense.
WW: Did you run into any issues as you were leaving the city, to go back to Birmingham?
RAL: No, didn’t have any problem getting, getting in or getting out.
WW: Okay, fine thank you so much.
RAL: You’re so welcome, thanks for asking.