Muriel McBeth, January 31st, 2017
WW: Hello. Today is January 31, 2017. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society's Detroit '67 Oral History Project, and I am in Monroe, Michigan. I am sitting down with—
MM: Muriel McBeth. And my story is going to be a short one, but I thought I'd like to share it with you. We were a family of eight children— they were my children— and were coming home from the lake. Everything seemed—the lake was about sixty miles from our home in Detroit. And everything seemed a little too quiet, and we weren't quite sure, and the information that we could get on the car radio was almost nothing, but it was an extremely hot summer and that Sunday was an extremely hot day.
So when we got home, we noticed there was hardly any traffic. It was sort of an eerie quiet all through our neighborhood, which seemed a little strange. And we knew something was wrong, but we really couldn't figure out what it was. But this is my true story.
My daughter, who was about twenty-one at the time, was engaged to an East Indian gentleman named Hari, and he was a doctor at Henry Ford Hospital. They were engaged, and they were coming from Chicago. And as they approached the freeway there were police there that stopped them, and they asked them what their business was in Detroit. So of course Hari could explain that he was a doctor, and had been called from Henry Ford Hospital, to please get back because they needed his help, and my daughter was his fiancée, and she just said, “I live in Michigan so I'm going to go home after I drop Hari off.”
So they went down the expressway and when they pulled up to Grand Boulevard, where the hospital is, there was a whole group of— would it me militia? Or National Guard perhaps? National Guard? And they had guns, and they said to Hari, What are you doing here? And he said, "Well, I was called to the hospital to work because they're having so many emergencies." And he could prove this, of course, so they gave him an escort into the hospital, and then they said to my daughter, And what are you doing here? She said, “Well, I'm going to take his car home to my house— we're out at the Six Mile, Grand River area." And he said, quote, unquote, "Get the hell out of here." And so he said they'd watch her until she turned around and came back on the expressway, so they could see the car, and then she came home.
And she was just almost overwhelmed with what she had seen. So many National Guard and guns and police, and she said as they approached Detroit, they could see fires off of the expressway, and smell smoke. So whether that was gun smoke, or smoke from people burning things, I don't really know.
One minute! What else would you like to know? I'll skip to about three weeks after the riot. And my two young sons were seven and nine. And I wanted them to see what a riot would do to a city, but I also lived down, when I was a child, lived down close to where there was a lot of confusion and rioting. So we went down to Joy Road and Dexter area, and by that time, everything had been pretty well cleaned up. Now I could see all the empty buildings, but they were not familiar with the neighborhood, so they didn't realize what was missing.
And then one more small thing about later on. A year after the riots, another daughter of mine got a job down at Henry Ford, and that year there was some concern that there might be some more rioting, so she had to get a special pass for the bus, to say that it was legitimate, for her to ride on the bus. And so they were concerned for a long time that that might happen.
I think that's just about the end of my story. Wait a minute, I'll take a look.
WW: Did '67 change the way you looked at Detroit?
MM: Yes. In a way it really did. It made us feel much more vulnerable to what could conceivably happen at any time. But it also made our family realize how disadvantaged the colored people were, and how they truly were discriminated against. And when we looked at the whole situation, we probably thought rioting, with the hot weather, was the only thing they knew how to do— or chose to do.
WW: Thank you so much.
MM: Okay, thank you for having me. Bye bye!
,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed August 12, 2020, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/527.