Allan Ranusch


Allan Ranusch


Allan Ranusch was 11 years old and lived in the lower east side of Detroit in 1967. He remembers when looters broke into the neighborhood convenience store, snipers, and the damage to his neighborhood.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


At the time of the 1967 riot, I was 11 years old and living with my mother, grandmother aunt and uncle in a two family income on the lower east side of Detroit between Vernor and Charlevoix. Our neighborhood was predominantly black and ours was one of the last white families who had chosen to remain. When we heard news of the riot, we hoped that it would bypass us. We discovered otherwise when the convenience store at the end of our block was broken into and a steady stream of people looted it. I sat on our front porch with my family and a few neighbors watching people lugging arm loads of stolen goods past our house. I remember thinking "These people are on foot. These are our neighbors." I experienced no direct racial animosity during the riot. In fact one black man even deposited a case of beer on our front lawn, apparently deciding that we were too uptight to grab anything for ourselves and not wanting us to miss out on our share. (We never took the beer and it disappeared later.) I had a fairly strong moral compass and felt indignant that so many people could just blithely take what did not belong to them.
After the store had been emptied out flames started coming from the building. It seemed so absurd to me that people were burning down our own commercial district. The fire department arrived to put out the flames and suddenly shots rang out from snipers. All of us who had been on the porch scrambled for the front door. There was one older lady who lived across the alley from us we tried to convince to stay with us until the gunfire ceased but she decided to take her chances and sprinted across our backyard and alley to the safety of her home.
As the shooting continued and it grew dark, we left the lights off in the house. Some of us sat in chairs and others sat on the floor worried about the possibility of a stray bullet.
We felt relief when the National Guard arrived although it felt surreal to see armed guardsmen patrolling up and down our street and tanks rumbling down Charlevoix. The local unit bivouacked at St. Rose Church, which was our parish and where I attended school. I remember many people, both white and black, offering the young guardsmen food and coffee.
When the riot was over, we were able to view the damage. The local convenience store, bakery and laundromat were all burned to the ground, just an ugly mess of rubble. The ruins remained for a long time before they were finally cleared. Some of the owners of other local businesses had written "soul brother" with white paint on the walls of their business indicating that it was a black owned business and should not be burned and looted, unlike the white owned businesses.
We were poor and did not own a car at the time, so life became harder, with the need to walk further and pay higher prices for bread, milk and other necessities. The neighborhood deteriorated afterward as well, as one house after another was ruined, then gutted, and finally torched. Two thirds of the houses on our block were eventually destroyed this way in what had once been a solid working class neighborhood.

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Submitter's Name

Allan Ranusch

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“Allan Ranusch,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed February 24, 2024,

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