Joann Castle


Joann Castle


Joann Castle describes her experiences moving her family into an old home on Boston Boulevard the summer of July 1967 and her continued work with social justice.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written story


Boston-Edison, Catholic Cathedral


BIO: My name is Joann Castle. I was born in 1937 and raised in Detroit. My mother was a housewife, my father, a clerk at Chrysler Corporation. In July of 1967, I had just moved my family into an old home on Boston Boulevard which we purchased as a base for our continued civil rights and community work in association with the Catholic Cathedral which was just a block away.
I was simply a white suburban catholic housewife and a mother of five young children until our parish priest, Father William Cunningham, traveled to Selma to join the marches after Bloody Sunday. Father returned to Detroit and gave a powerful sermon about Christian obligation to others that changed our lives. By late May of 1967, I had moved my family into the city of Detroit to expose my children to the real world and teach them about social responsibility.
Two months later, “…on Sunday, July 21, 1967, my children were playing in the yard. Suddenly their voices changed, they were squealing. As I approached the back door, I could see them excitedly chasing small bits of charred paper that were falling from the air. To the west was billowing smoke, the sky completely black. This was no ordinary fire. Then the sirens started and we realized that the nearby neighborhood was burning. The smell of smoke was becoming heavy. I called the children inside and sent them upstairs to play. I saw my husband slip outside and turn the car around in the driveway so that it was facing the street for a quick get-away should we need to leave. “*
*I have written a book about my family in Detroit during this period. One chapter describes our family’s experiences during the rebellion. Remaining chapters are about my involvement in the aftermath.
The book traces my coming to consciousness about social justice and my journey into activism in the city of Detroit following the civil disturbance. As I embarked on an effort to teach my children about character and values, events in Detroit led me from radical Catholic action against racism to on-the-ground organizational work against police brutality, and then towards ideas of a revolution led by the black working class. I was a young idealist torn by two passions, love of my children and concern for the world they live in.

Original Format

Written letter

Submitter's Name

Joann Castle

Submission Date





“Joann Castle,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed April 13, 2021,

Output Formats