Detroit in 1965: A City on the Move

In 1965 Detroit produced a 20 minute film designed to sell itself to the Olympic Committee which would choose where to host the games in 1968. Watching it in retrospect it’s amazing how far the city has fallen in 50 years.

In the introduction to the film, Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh says his city is experiencing its “finest hour.” That turned out to be true. Just two years later Detroit became the scene of the nation’s worst rioting since the Civil War. Over the next five days, 43 people would be killed and nearly 1200 injured. Police made 7,000 arrests made and the chaos finally stopped after President Lyndon Johnson sent in 8,000 members of the National Guard. Yet in 1965, Mayor Cavanaugh seems pleased (see part 2 below) with Detroit’s “progress in good ethnic relations.”

This film, with music performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, contains many lines that seem striking today in light of Detroit’s degeneration into bankruptcy. Mayor Cavanaugh intones “Detroit today stands at the threshold of a bright new future, one rich with the promise of fulfillment.” Later in part 1 of the film the Mayor mentions the Detroit Institute of Art. The DIA still stands but the city is now being forced to consider selling it’s $2.5 billion collection to pay its debts.

Part two opens with the city’s investment in medical research. Mayor Cavanaugh promises “a magnificent new medical center” which will be built over slums that have been “condemned and cleared.” Today Detroit has an estimated 79,000 vacant properties. The city is set to receive $100 million in federal funds just to tear down abandoned buildings.

The Olympic Games in 1968 went to Mexico City instead of Detroit by just one vote. Some “>still believe the future of Detroit could have been different (even that the riots would not have happened) if the city had won instead of coming in a close 2nd place.


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