31 Jan Janet Lemmon, January 31st, 2017
Janet Lemmon oral history interview, Detroit 1967 Oral History Project, Detroit Historical Museum.
Detroit Historical Society
Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI
Sister Janet Lemmon was at Marygrove College in Detroit during the events of July 1967.
WW: Today is January 31, 2017. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67 Oral History Project, and I am in Monroe, Michigan. And I’m sitting down with –
JL: Sister Janet Lemmon, IHM.
WW: Thank you so much for sitting down with me. Would you like to share your story?
JL: Well, that summer I was at Marygrove studying for my master’s degree, and we heard about the riots on TV. We could – and after a few days, you could hear some gunshots. But we had to go to class. The people that went to Wayne State, that lived outside of that area, their classes were canceled.
So anyway, we went to class, and we would turn on the TV to see what was going on around us. After a few days they called in the National Guard because the riot was spreading, and we were out walking around the campus in the evening, and a jeep came through with four soldiers in it. And they – three of them had guns. One was the driver. So we asked them why they were on our campus. We have a beautiful woods there at Marygrove. And they said, “Well, we’re checking the woods to see if there’s any snipers.” I thought oh-oh.
So, then at the end of the week, I think it was on Saturday – Friday or Saturday, I can’t remember which one – I don’t think we had class on Friday, I’m not sure, but – some of us went to a center where they were giving out clothes for the people that were homeless. They were – their houses were burnt or something.
And so I went and helped – sorted – I sorted clothes. Some of the other sisters, after class, were asked to go to the courts and help write up the files, because there were so many arrests. So that’s all I remember about it.
WW: What was the mood at Marygrove? Was it tense?
JL: Yeah, it was really tense. And it was hard to focus, you know, on what your classes, because we knew what was going on around us. So we didn’t know if we would get involved, you know. But I think our campus was pretty well protected.
WW: Did this change the way you looked at the city?
JL: Yes. Yeah. It didn’t feel safe anymore, you know. We wondering if we were going to be okay. So that’s all I remember about the riots.
WW: Thank you so much.