Current Project

Murder in the Motor City:
The 1967 Detroit Riot and American Injustice

The story of the Algiers Motel murders and subsequent trials, the main narrative thread of Murder in the Motor City, captures, in its tragic horror, the often hidden infrastructure of northern racism and white supremacy. From rabid residential segregation and job discrimination to racialized and sexual violence to economic and educational disparities and the everyday injustices and biased sentencing in the judicial system, racial inequality and segregation in Detroit was every bit as virulent as it was in the South. Maybe even worse.
Murder in the Motor City shows, though the autopsy of a single case, how police violence and distrust in the justice system have roots that stretch across the nation and are at last a half-century deep; how injustice infects our most cherished policies and institutions; and how good people on both sides of the color line, can fight to change it.

Today, as protestors around the country demand an end to police violence and cities like Chicago, Ferguson and Baltimore simmer and seethe with racial tension, understanding the causes and consequences of the Algiers Motel murders and the history of the 1967 Detroit uprising holds the promise for reconciliation and future change. Failure to heed this history can only lead to what James Baldwin called “the fire next time.”

Related Blog Posts
Letters for Betty Jean Owens

Letters for Betty Jean Owens

Last night I spoke with Betty Jean Owens’s grandson, Amonte Martin. He and I talked over the past decade–first when my Journal of American History article came out and since my book was released in 2010. We chatted about history, family and especially the health and well-being of his grandmother, Betty Jean Owens, who was Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)

Landmark 1959 rape case in Tallahassee, Florida was central to the Civil Rights Movement

Landmark 1959 rape case in Tallahassee, Florida was central to the Civil Rights Movement

In May 1959, four white men kidnapped and raped an African American college student in Tallahassee Florida.  When her classmates at Florida A & M University found out about what happened, they mobilized and demanded justice. Their public protests helped force the local prosecutor to charge the assailants with rape and bring them to trial. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)

Recy Taylor honored by Congressional Black Caucus

Recy Taylor honored by Congressional Black Caucus

After listening to Oprah Winfrey’s passionate and inspiring speech about Recy Taylor, #TimesUp and the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes in January, the Congressional Black Caucus decided to honor Recy Taylor for her courageous testimony about her brutal rape in 1944.  (Read about Taylor and her history here) Mrs. Recy Taylor passed away on Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)

Marginalized Women, like Shawana Hall, are Still the Most Vulnerable to Sexual Violence and Rape

Marginalized Women, like Shawana Hall, are Still the Most Vulnerable to Sexual Violence and Rape

Kidada Williams and I partnered to write this story about Shawana Hall for Bridge Magazine, which was published on December 14, 2017. Here it is: Shawana Hall was celebrating her 31st birthday on a cold, rainy night in April 2008, when she met a middle-aged man who asked her to accompany him to a party Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)

Get in Touch

Follow