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Background of Emergency Powers of Governor

Governor Harry Kelly


The 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act, in the news recently, has a thought-provoking legislative history. According to several sources, the bill, S.351, was introduced by Senators Charles N. Youngblood [D] Detroit and Harry F. Hittle [R], East Lansing, as a result of suggestions by the Michigan State Police. Twenty-two months earlier, in June, 1943, civil unrest over lack of housing for black residents and the Great Migration of southern black and white workers to Detroit World War II defense plants, led to a two-day riot in which at least 34 were killed and several hundred injured. The City of Detroit, with a population of two million, was the fourth-largest city in the United States.

S.351 became law, with no amendment and little opposition, in less than two months. The Library of Michigan Digital portal has the legislative history documents generated in the process under its session law number: 1945 PA 302

News Stories

For contemporary news stories on the 1943 Detroit Riot, and the conditions leading the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act, search our historical digital collections of the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News available through the Library of Michigan's Online Resources for Library Cardholders page. Examples of articles include:

April 6, 1945 The Detroit News p. 20 "Bill Aimed at Red Tap on 'State of Emergency'"

April 7, 1945 Detroit Free Press p. 2 "Senators Offer Anti-Riot Bill"

May 26, 1945 The Detroit News p. 13 "Riot Control Laws Signed: Emergency Powers Given to Governor"

Reports and other Sources

For in-depth reports on the causes and consequences of the 1943 Detroit Riots, see The Encyclopedia of Detroit, by the Detroit Historical Society: or check the library's ANSWERCAT catalog for these sources:

Baime, A.J., The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War. Call number HD9710 .U54 B35 2014.*

Capeci, Dominic J., Layered Violence: The Detroit Rioters of 1943. Call number F574 .D4 N4326 1991.

Lee, Alfred McClung, Race Riot, Detroit 1943. Call number F574 .D4 L4 1968.

Report on Governor’s Committee on Causes of Detroit Race Riot [Dowling Report]. Detroit News, Aug 11,1943. Call number  Flat File F574 .D4 R33 1943.

Sitkoff, Harvard, “The Detroit Race Riot of 1943”, in Michigan History, v.53, no.3 (1969).

Stone, Joel, ed., Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Call number HV6483 .D48 D48 2017.

Van Dusen, Gerald C., Detroit’s Birwood Wall: Hatred & Healing in the West Eight Mile Community. F574 .D49 N486 2019.*

White, Walter, and Thurgood Marshall, What Caused the Detroit Riot?: An Analysis [NAACP]. Call number F574 .D4 .W55 1943.

*Past Michigan Notable Books Award Winners