Image Police arresting an African American during the Sojourner Truth housing riot, 1942

TLF ID M009010

This is a black-and-white photograph showing an African American being arrested by two policemen in Detroit, Michigan. One mounted policeman looks on and another stands guard. The photograph was taken in February 1942, almost certainly on 28 February, by Arthur Siegel. Part of the photograph's caption reads: 'Riot at the Sojourner Truth homes, a new U.S. federal housing project, caused by white neighbors' attempt to prevent Negro tenants from moving in'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This image and its caption are valuable sources for year 10 history studies of the background to the US civil rights movement. They are also useful for years 11 or 12 modern history studies of the same topic. The image and caption depict and provide background to the first major incident of racial violence in the USA during the war.
  • The events leading to this photograph provide clear evidence of the deep-seated racism underpinning housing segregation in the USA at the time. As wartime production increased dramatically in Detroit and large numbers of African Americans moved to the city to work in the factories, the federal government realised that a new segregated African American neighbourhood would be needed to house the workers. Riots broke out on 28 February when white protesters attempted to stop the first African American families moving into the housing project.
  • The scene in the photograph reinforces the evidence of racism. Two hundred police were on duty but much fighting between African Americans and their white neighbours still occurred, with rocks being thrown and gunfire heard. Forty people were injured. By the end of the day, the entry of African American families had been stopped and 220 people had been arrested. Significantly, 217 African Americans were arrested and only 3 white Americans. African Americans in Detroit and elsewhere were convinced that police were complicit in causing the riot.
  • Arthur Siegel was a Detroit photographer who worked for the Farm Security Administration and its successor, the Office of War Information. He was on the scene in 1942 and took 24 photographs as events unfolded.
Learning area
  • English
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.