Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seven Days in June

I don't know what words I may have read on the Internet or what other trigger jarred my memory, but I suddenly thought about passages from my great-aunt Hazel's diary in which she described a race riot in Detroit, Michigan, where they lived at the time. I remembered that it had happened in the summertime, and I was curious about exactly when that was.

A quick Google search led me to a Wikipedia article entitled "Detroit Race Riot (1943)". According to that article, the riot began on June 20, 1943--exactly 69 years ago from yesterday. Good timing, don't you think?

Armed with that date, I was able to pull out the correct diary and reread what Hazel  had written so long ago.

Before you see the diary pages I've scanned to share with you, you should know that Hazel paid no attention to the preprinted dates in the diary, nor to the number of lines allotted for each day. I like that about her -- that little sign of independence.

Here's what she wrote:

Sun - June 20 - Fathers' Day - Grand day. L [Hazel's husband, Loren] worked in yard. Washed windows - cut grass. Stayed home all day --

Mon - June 21 - Read lesson early. [Hazel was a Christian Scientist and read a CS lesson daily]. Fine day. Frances in to borrow wash board - her machine broke. Gosh! A Race Riot. - Too bad - Loren told me not to go far from home today. 180,000 negroes in Detroit. The riot is terrible. The governor of the state declared marital [sic]. . .

. . . law to go into effect at 10 tonight. All liquor places - movies - etc - closed at 9 - & all people had to be home at 10 - curfew.

Tues - June 22 - According to radio the riot is well under control. Pres. Roosevelt ordered it to stop - Hospitals & jails are full of folks. All started from a fist fight on Belle Isle Bridge between a negro and a white man.

Wed - June 23. City still under marital [sic] law - 10 o'clock curfew. 27 are dead & over . . .

. . . a thousand injured. Jails & hospitals crowded. Cooler. Belle Isle closed to public. Soldiers are 'camping' on Grand Circus Park - Standing guard on library lawn - etc -- Fran down for me to phone Officer Stephens about Frank Stark 'disappearing' -- Our colored postman back today for first time this week. This eve - L. & I ate a bite in the Inn at the corner -- Bought tomatoe [sic] - Scarlet sage & dusty miller plants. L. bought me 2 doz. beautiful roses. (cut flowers)

Thurs - June 24. Did small washing - Scrubbed kitchen - Set out flowers. Swell day -

Fri - June 25. 96° today - Too hot. Stayed in all day. More talk at the office of our going back to Washington in Sept. I'd give anything if we could know what to plan on. By the time we get a home fixed up - we have to move -- great life if you don't weaken. Curfew now from mid-nite to 6.

Sat - June 26. Watered yard early. Frances invited me to go shopping with her but I don't feel like going - It's so hot. Death total from riot now 31. L. to Pete's tonite for chicken & other groceries.

A week's worth of posts, then life apparently returned to normal for those who were there but not directly involved. I wonder if there's any chance that our blogs will be available 69 years from now to give our descendants a glimpse into the events of our daily lives.

Probably not.

Hazel Elliott and Boots - Nineteen Forty-Something


  1. I think in her first post, she said "Fine day." not "in the day" which makes the riot even more ironic... makes me wonder if she posted to her diary throughout the day?

  2. Good catch, Holly! I'm gonna edit to correct that right now. Her entries were usually brief, and my impression is that she jotted a few notes down at the end of each day.


Your comments might be the very best thing about blogging. I love it when you care enough to share your thoughts here, so go ahead and say what's on your mind.