front page collage

Detroit Under Fire is a multimedia digital exhibit that documents patterns and incidents of police brutality and misconduct, as well as 188 fatal shootings and other killings by law enforcement, in the city of Detroit during the era of the modern civil rights movement, from 1957-1973. The exhibit further chronicles the anti-police brutality struggle waged by civil rights and black power groups, and by many ordinary people, who demanded racial and social justice and sought accountability for systemic police violence.

The main goal of Detroit Under Fire is to uncover the deliberately hidden history of police violence, building on the work of activists at the time that these events happened, and to make this history available to impacted communities, students, and broader public audiences. The Detroit Under Fire research team has identified 75% of the officially acknowledged total of fatal shootings by police officers, and excavated more than 400 other brutality and misconduct complaints by Black citizens, from the depths of the archives. These stories are told--many for the first time publicly--in more than 100 exhibit pages that reproduce around 1,500 archival documents and allow audiences to examine these sources for themselves and dig deeper into this history.

Detroit Under Fire, published March 2021, is the pilot project of the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab, an affiliate of the Carceral State Project at the University of Michigan. Citation: Matthew D. Lassiter and the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab, Detroit Under Fire: Police Violence, Crime Politics, and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Civil Rights Era (University of Michigan Carceral State Project, 2021), <specific webpage url>.

Highlights of the exhibit include:

Detroit police homicides, 1957-73. Begin exploration here

Visit the Multimedia Reports page for document-based investigations designed for classroom use

Please visit the Overview section for a summary of the major research arguments and findings, interactive maps of all police homicides, an explanation of the deliberate silences in archives of state violence, supplemental research publications that synthesize key parts of this exhibit more succinctly, and more information about this public history project and the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab student research team. Then start exploring the five chronological sections through the top drop-down menu, on a laptop if possible (the 'previous/next' buttons at the bottom of each page make it hard to navigate the website's full scope). Readers are invited to submit additional materials and provide feedback or send other inquiries to Professor Matt Lassiter, the lead author and editor of the exhibit, at 


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