Artists reflect pain and consequences of Detroit riots

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a look at how artists captured Detroit’s turbulent history in the civil rights era.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of major civil unrest in the Motor City, and a unique series of exhibitions are chronicling that moment.

Jeffrey Brown went to Michigan to see them.

JEFFREY BROWN: A fiery red sky, people trapped in a burning city, charred remains from the 1967 Detroit riots, a painting by Yvonne Parks Catchings in an exhibition titled Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

Striking images of confrontation, and consequences, in works by national and local artists from the 1960s on.

Curator Patrina Chatman:

PATRINA CHATMAN, Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History: You see the emotions of the artists, describing history from their perspective. I see the politics. I see the social concerns that people had in it. I see their pain.

I see and I feel their pain, and I think other people will feel it as well.

JEFFREY BROWN: July, 1967, five days of violence, fear and destruction in a major American city that would leave 43 dead, some 7,200 arrested, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.

Fifty years later, some of the city’s leading cultural institutions are asking questions: Was it a riot? A rebellion? Even a revolution?

And using art to look back and ahead. At the Detroit Historical Museum, which, for the record, has been a funder of the NewsHour and which spearheaded the citywide effort, old TVs play news footage.

A replica of a National Guard tank has been turned into an audiovisual experience, with oral histories told by Detroiters.

The Detroit Institute of Art weighs in with an exhibition titled Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement with works by individuals, including leading figures such as Romare Bearden and Sam Gilliam, and so-called collectives formed in the 1960s and after by artists seeking a greater voice in society.


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