Interview with John Conyers

In 1961 Mayor Cavanagh was elected primarily through the strength of the Black vote and primarily over issues of police brutality. Can you tell me about that election?


Well, to understand the, ah, the environment here in Detroit, it, it was really very anti-Black, even though, ah, more than, ah, a third of the, the citizenry, were Black citizens. We had, ah, ah, a local government that was totally unresponsive, and then, ah, when, ah, Miriani sanctioned the stop and frisk activity. Ah, in, in which, and of course, ah, ignited when, ah, doctors, and lawyers, and, ah, businessmen, the few that they were, were all stopped and pulled out, and of their cars, arrested, brutalized, ah, it really was like throwing a, a match into, ah, ah, ah, oily rags. It really, it really mobilized the Black community, and, ah, of course it, it politicized, ah, everybody to make sure that, ah, that this young new lawyer had never ran for office. I remember him calling me. I was, ah, I was a lawyer representing, ah, ah, working with a, a labor organization, the Trade Union Leadership Council. And they said, come on down here, we're interviewing, ah, Jerome Cavanagh, and, ah, he wants to run for mayor. And you know, we're s- sick of this crap. So I hopped on down there, and we met, and he was, ah, young, energetic, ah, lawyer, articulate, uh willing to take on the establishment, ah, joining with us about the racist tactics of the police. So, it was, ah, it was, ah, timely intrusion without, without which, ah, the, ah, the, the deteriorating race relations he could have never gotten elected. But that very definitely changed things in Detroit.