Stephan French


Stephan French


Stephan French remembers growing up in Northwest Detroit in 1967. He recalls regular visits to the Twelfth Street district before the unrest and the changing of the neighborhood afterward.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






I was eight years old when the '67 riot occurred. My family was living on Sturtevant and LaSalle, about six blocks from Central High School and about less than a mile from the blind pig incident on 12th Street that incited the riot. We went to church (Bible Community Church) on 12th Street. I remember the National Guard being stationed at Central High School. A tank actually on patrol rumbled down my block with the turret going around as I sat on my front porch. It was one of the scariest things in my life. 

My dad was a WWII veteran and he spent a lot of time on our front porch with his rifle guarding our house. My older brother was a copy boy for the Detroit Free Press and we would have to pile into the car to take him to work during the riot at the Free Press building downtown. Sometimes he just spent the night downtown instead of coming home. Shortly after the riot, the Free Press ran a story about it with a picture on the front page with a black boy and a white boy facing each other with a penny in between. My brother was the black kid in the picture. As we drove down Linwood to take him to work, there is a school on Linwood that had a statue of Jesus on the front corner of the lawn. During the riots, the statue, which was white, was painted over in black paint. It was re-painted over in white and then re-painted in black paint and it was never changed again after that. What I remembered most was how hot it was and the never-ending gunfire at night and through the daytime.

One of my older uncles was on the police force at that time and he would come over to the house to check on us all the time. Also he was one of the first black motorcycle cops on the Detroit police force. My older brother joined the force after serving in the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War after coming home and served on the Detroit police force for over 25 years. The house I was raised [in] on Sturtevant still stands today although the neighborhood never recovered from the riot; it looks like a war zone. There was a small store named Andy’s Market on LaSalle around the block from my house which they were looting. I went with my next-door neighbor to check out the scene and it was scary to see people act that way. We got the heck out of there and ran back home. With the curfew, you could not go anywhere. My parents would not even let me go down the street to play with my friends because it was so dangerous. 12th Street was a thriving street before the riots. We use to go to church on 12th Street; we even used to go to this Chinese restaurant for dinner on 12th street and they were the nicest people who owned the restaurant, but after the riots they never came back and Linwood has never been the same.

I went to college in North Carolina and after graduation returned to Detroit and now I’m in my thirty-second year of government service (looking forward to retirement). Hopefully someday Detroit will come back; I love my city. I just wanted to share my experience of the 1967 riots. 

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Detroit Police Department, Detroit Free Press, Central High School, Sturtevant Street, LaSalle Street




“Stephan French,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,

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