Text Analysis – Detroit 1943

The racial language that appears among the most frequent words are white, colored, negro, and negroes. The most distinctive word out of all the documents is the word colored. This is the language I expected based on the lectures due to the time period.

Table of Five Most Frequent Words and Five Distinctive Words Excluding Racial Language

Frequent Words Governor’s Committee Final Report Distinctive Words Detroit Free Press Distinctive Words Detroit Tribune Distinctive Words
Police June Military Beaten
June 1943 Fear Monday
Rioting Boys Auxillary Avenue
Riot Forest Apparently Martial
Belle Lyons Used Jobs

The most frequent words that aren’t racial language are what I expected since this event occurred in June and there was rioting that started from the events that happened on Belle Isle. There are no OCR errors among the results.

The word I chose from the list of frequent words was riot and the word I chose from the selection of distinctive words is forest. The word riot is so frequent because the report often references the event as a riot or mentions the politics of riot commissions. The word does have the same meaning everywhere it is used. The word forest from the list of distinctive words from each of the three documents is so frequent because it refers to a place and a street name. The word does not have the same meaning everywhere it is used. The word forest refers to the Forest Club, one of the largest recreational centers in the Negro section of Detroit, which is also known as Paradise Valley. It also refers to a street name, Forest Avenue.

The word colored is used more often in the white newspaper (74 times) than the black newspaper (28 times). The word riot is used most often in the white newspapers and the Governor’s Committee report then the Detroit Tribune, the black newspaper. The word forest is used entirely within the Governor’s Committee report. This comparison suggests the perspective of each source is biased in nature due to the number of times a word has been used in a report or article describing the events happening. Specifically, the word colored is used twice as many times in the white newspaper than the black one.

The Governor’s Committee Report tends to use racial language more often, practically twice as much as the black newspapers. It was interesting to find that the white newspaper, The Detroit Free Press did not use the word colored at all, only the report used it. The Detroit Free Press rarely used the frequent and distinctive words, whereas, in the report and black newspaper, you were more likely to find racial language and/or the words rioting and forest.

The text analysis does fit with what I identified as the key feature of the riot and the label applied to it in the first assignment. I described the event as a race riot and that’s the terminology used in the Governor’s Committee Report and the newspapers. I believe knowing the details of the language used in the accounts of the riot does change what I think is the key feature and label because there are details that classify as a disorder rather than a race riot. I choose to label this riot as a disorder over race riot since the violence lasted over two days and there was the use of federal forces as well as local ones. I still believe there are parts of the event that can be classified as a race riot since there was a public outbreak of violence between two racial groups.

Analyze a Riot – Detroit 1943

TRIGGER Accusations of cheating over a game of dice between black and white youths
CROWD SIZE unknown
DURATION 72 hours/3 days
NUMBER & IDENTITY OF THOSE KILLED & INJURED 34 confirmed deaths (16 black shot by police), 760 injured

Detriot Police Department, United States National Guard and Army

AMOUNT & KIND OF PROPERTY DAMAGE $2 million in damages & looting
ASYMMETRY Number of white civilians killed/injured compared to the number of blacks killed/injured

9 white civilians to 25 black civilians

GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD Belle Isle & causeway connected to the mainland, Woodward Avenue, neighborhood of Paradise Valley

The dimension that most defined the events of Detroit in 1943 was the scuffle between the black and white youths playing dice on Belle Isle. This kickstarted the events that followed, more and more youths from various races joined then tussles developed in other areas of the island. The events of what had happened a few days earlier at the amusement park must have come into play as well if the white teenagers and black teenagers and young adults knew one another. The feeling of frustration or annoyance at the fact that you’re being accused of something as well as those lingering emotions from being forcibly ejected from a place that is supposed to provide joy. That could undoubtedly cause something to happen, especially if it’s been festering for a few days and the feeling hasn’t passed.

The label that best describes the Detroit racial disorder based on the labels discussed in the lecture and readings would be race riot. A race riot is a public outbreak of violence between two racial groups in a community with little or no attempt at concealment, illegally assaulting at least one other group or illegally attacking or invading property. This case was interracial, there were multiple collectives of whites against blacks and collectives of blacks against whites. According to the Report of the National Advisory Commission of Civil Disorders (1968), this would be classified as a major disorder. The violence lasted longer than two days, there were reports of sniping, and federal forces were in use in addition to local ones.

Site for HIST 390