Painting Depicts Desperation of Detroit Riots

The Detroit Riots, 40 years ago this month, left 43 people dead, and more than 2,000 houses, stores and buildings burned to the ground. The night the riots began, July 23, a young black store clerk began painting a picture inspired by what he described as the most gut-wrenching desperation.

Rafael Beden called his image of a black family huddled together for safety "Praying for Daylight."

He painted by candlelight over five nights as police and National Guardsmen marched up and down his neighborhood in "Black Bottom," enforcing a strict curfew. Nineteen years old and the sole provider for his mother and eight siblings, Beden used his fingers and a makeshift brush on the only surface he could afford: a burlap bag.

When the riots ended, Beden sold his painting to a sympathetic Jewish lawyer. It hung for years in a living room of the expensive Lafayette Towers, literally built on the ashes of houses destroyed during the riots. Today, "Praying for Daylight" hangs in the criminal justice courtroom of Judge Bruce Morrow in downtown Detroit.