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In 1967 three black men were killed and nine other people brutally beaten by as John Hersey describes it in The Algiers Motel Incident an aggregate of Detroit police Michigan State Troopers National Guardsmen and private guards who had been directed to the scene Responding to a telephoned report of sniping the police group invaded the Algiers Motel and interrogated ten black men and two white women none of whom were armed for an hour By the time the interrogators left three men had been shot to death and the others including the women beaten


10 thoughts on “The Algiers Motel incident

  1. says:

    This book is based on events that happened during the Detroit riot of July 1967 I was 20 years old a college student in Ann Arbor My parents lived at Woodward Avenue and Fourteen Mile Road in the white suburb of Royal Oak Would the riot reach beyond the Detroit city limit of Eight Mile Road? People thought it might and they paid attention fearfully This book was rushed to print in January 1968 Author John Hersey initially was thinking about race riots in general then examining the Detroit riot in particular then ultimately the Algiers Motel incident specifically As I explored Detroit’s riot in those first weeks the incident at the Algiers Motel kept insisting upon attention and eventually I determined to focus on it The episode contained all the mythic themes of racial strife in the United States the arm of the law taking the law into its own hands; interracial sex; the subtle poison of racist thinking by “decent” men who deny that they are racists; the societal limbo into which ever since slavery so many young black men have been driven in our country; ambiguous justice in the courts; and the devastation in both black and white human lives that follows in the wake of violence as surely as ruinous and indiscriminate flood after torrents I know John Hersey best as the author of the book Hiroshima the nonfiction story of the atomic bombing by the United States of that city in Japan in 1945 I take his reporting as accurate and to the point He writes early in this book that Perhaps the whole point of this book is that every white person on the country is in some degree guilty of the crimes committed at the Algiers This book was published 45 years ago in 1968 That event is part of my life In selecting this book I looked forward to being sensitized and to getting the pointSlightly than halfway through the book author John Hersey speculates why the three young men were shot and killed at the Algiers Motel as it turned out the boys were not executed a snipers at all They were executed for being thought to be pimps for being considered punks for making out with white girls for being in some vague way killers of a white cop named Jerry Olshove for running riot – for being after all and all black young men and part of the black rage of the time The content of the book is predominantly vignettes of events and snippets of interviews statements and court hearings that might be likened to a series of short clips in a documentary film The myth of the 1967 Detroit riot was that it was the Great Sniper Battle involving 140 blocks in the heart of the city Journalists writing for the Detroit Free Press concluded that “Both the number of snipers active in the riot area and the danger that snipers presented were vastly overstated Only one sniper is among the riot victims and only three of the victims may possibly have been killed by snipers two of them doubtful In all some 31 persons were arrested and charged with sniping” – out of 7231 arrested altogether The incident at the Algiers Motel began with a broadcast on police radio that the “Army was under heavy fire” a description that was untrue But really the incident was spawned by the racism and injustice that was omnipresent In Detroit Michigan in the summer of 1967 My experience growing up in a white suburb both insulated me from the injustice of racism while also sensitizing me to the ineuity explicit in the racial divide I came into my adulthood knowing that as a white male I benefited from racism and sexism that gave me unearned powerI think that The Algiers Motel Incident is an important documentation of injustice that made it a significant wake up call when it was published forty five years ago within a year of the incident To me it seems historic examining issues that seem to need little argumentation these years later to be accepted as true and valid But maybe that is obvious and accurate for me than for the portion of society that may still hold firmly to its racism and sexism I hope there are people who think that the 21st century has things to learn from this book At least someone at the Johns Hopkins University Press thought enough of it to reissue it in 1997 almost thirty years after it was first published I am wondering what college courses have this book as reuired or optional reading In short I am pleased that this book was reissued and is potentially still in use for educational purposes What could an author hope? Although I suppose in the publishing world a reissue 16 years ago is ancient history about a book that some might say is about even ancient historyI am giving The Algiers Motel Incident four stars although it turned out that I had already learned the lessons and felt the guilt that was promised by the author Maybe my four stars will encourage a couple of people to pick up and read the reissued trade paperback edition


  2. says:

    Very much worth revisiting if you've read it before very much worth discovering if you haven't A tense and meticulously told true crime story with real journalistic care about a profile act of racial violence with than a little police complicity in Detroit in and around the 1967 riots Hersey was an interesting and versatile writer His portfolio is diverse both lyrical and pragmatic but in this work he opened important doors for the hard edged reporting style of prose into the new complex sociological terrain of the Civil Rightsthere's a riot goin' on era This book can be enjoyed as a stand alone novelor as part of the muckraking social advocacy stream in American literature which dates back in it strength to the 1870sI think Hersey is a writer famous in his day who deserves reappraisal He did a lot of different things well Not easily categorized in the totality of his work which may be why he's not appreciated as much as he should be


  3. says:

    I had this book for a long time It was acuired free and I grabbed it because I recognized the author's name having read Hiroshima in middle school I never knew of the incident it covers nor did I ever bother to read the back cover synopsis Given the profile in recent years of cases involving the deaths of Trayvon Martin Michael Brown and Eric Garner to name but a few it is frightening how this book reads like it could have been written today and not some 40 years ago Hersey writes very soon after the deaths of three unarmed black men in 1967 at the Algiers Motel in Detroit during the riots He immerses the reader in the confusion rage corruption and injustice of the moment with stark retellings direct witness uotes narratives from official reports and a birdseye view of the judicial process It reads a little like a Werner Herzog documentary with a touch indignationjudgment on the part of the author This is the kind of story history attempts to erase but the heart never forgets


  4. says:

    The movie Detroit brought me to this book On the one hand as a detailed document of a specific time and place and for the raw expression of pain and anger particularly of Auburey Pollard's mother this book is invaluable On the other hand it's just a jumbled repetitive messSurprisingly the best extended moments come from the interviews and history of the policemen accused of these horrible racist crimes We have an engaging account of the officers' lives then a description of the incident where they were involved but nothing linking them Did the author even ask any of them about their actions during this incident? Were they asked but refused to comment? There's an incredible disconnect hereThe cops' stories are presented simply and directly but the victims' stories are given a lofty prose full of ridiculous sentences My favorite is probably Friendship was the highest prize of life to Lee and Carl above all others was the giver of the prize These people don't need a false illumination of dignity although maybe John Hersey thought they might've needed it at the time it was writtenI'm really torn about this book it's certainly compulsively readable and important but it's kind of irritating too


  5. says:

    At times riveting and moving but I missed the narrative flow Hersey displayed in Hiroshima


  6. says:

    Thoughtful provocative A little disjointed in terms of structure


  7. says:

    Written in 1968 it is disturbing that so many of the themes in Hersey's book still ring true Hersey focuses on the killings that took place at the Algiers Motel during the Detroit riots Three of the 47 deaths during the riots took place on one night in which it seems no one either knows or will tell the truth about what happened I opted to read this book before watching the movie Detroit as I wanted some background before seeing a movie that may sensationalize the events that took place at the Algiers Motel I really don't know if I can say that I have a better understanding of the events as Hersey's book is sometimes disjointed with the fragmented style he chose to use in this book It also bothered me that Hersey opted to uote the victims' family members and individuals present verbatim It seemed as if he was trying to portray them as uneducated Perhaps he uoted everyone verbatim and all the police officers and other individuals involved spoke perfect English It was really a sticking point for me though Overall I enjoyed this book and it has made me think how little has changed since these riots in the 1960s between police and members of the African American community We continue to see riots albeit not to this magnitude when one race suffers brutality at the hands of those who are meant to protect them This book also gave me insight to those who are effected by the brutality a glimpse into the anger and distrust some have toward the police Some of us were blessed to grow up knowing the police were our friends and looking up to them; in Hersey's book you see a different side where individuals are targeted simply because of their family members and learn at a young age that the police are out to get you


  8. says:

    Man nothing like reading a bit of history I wish the author had spent time on his interviews and research; the book was very uneven and left many un answered uestions It was written only a year or so after the events transpiredThe central story is set during the civil unrest race riots in Detroit during the summer of 1967 and concerns the massacre of four young black men staying at the annex of the Algiers Motel and the gross injustice that followed 38 A Mother SpeaksThis broke up our whole house They got Tanner doing time He's in the House of Correction right now For driving without a license And I swear I know they can give the police some time because they did a murder Tanner's doing time Robert's doing time Robert couldn't even come home for the funeral He didn't kill nobody but still this policeman walk the streets See Robert robbed a paperboy He's still doing time for that They gave him three years Three years And they ain't gave that police not a day; that's what I can't understand Mrs Pollard mother of Tanner Robert and the murdered Auburey Pollard


  9. says:

    As Roderick Davis' sister I can say that this book is an accurate account based on the author interviewing all involved perpetrators police investigators survivors and their effected families and many hours of Mr Hersey's investigative footwork and review of documents in order to create a comprehensive account knowledgeable and objective than the evidence police compiled in preparation for the trial of the officers The format reflects giving due representation to all his informantsThe movie some reviewers refer to is inaccurate The informants used as their consultants were not even all there until the end of the murdering and assaults The murdered victim's families were not consulted Mr Hersey of course could not include every detail that existed but what you have is the documentation of the realities and historical truth Current realities of events between too many government levels from the president to local law representatives and multiple minority communities does indeed make Mr Hersey's journalistic account almost prophetic


  10. says:

    poorly writtentrue story Detroit riots