February 28

February 28

February 28, 1942

Detroit Rebellion an Omen of Deadly Riots

An armed crowd of some 1,000 white neighbors was on hand when black tenants attempted to move into Detroit's new Sojourner Truth housing project on this date in 1942. The crowd tried to block access to the project, but a car, driven by an African-American, drove through the picket line. Fighting raged for several hours until police were able to restore order. It was several months later before the black tenants were finally able to move in.

No one died in the February rebellion, but many historians view it as a precursor of the race riots that erupted in Detroit during the summer of 1943. Jobs in defense factories drew many southerners -- black and white -- to Detroit during World War II. The newcomers found a city as segregated as the communities they had left behind.

Racial tensions mounted, and in 1943 violent rioting erupted. Before order was restored, 34 people, 25 of them black, had died. African-American leaders complained that police had targeted blacks while ignoring crimes committed by whites. (Sojourner Truth was a former slave who became a preacher and orator. She supported rights for women and African-Americans during and after the Civil War.)

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