We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.



With $800 and a good ear, Motown founder Berry Gordy groomed a small record company into an international hit factory. The label sprang out of Detroit when the civil rights struggle was in full swing, and one humid July afternoon in 1967, when a riot broke out in the city as Martha and the Vandellas performed “Dancing in the Street” at the Fox Theater, people were described as “dancing in the flames” among the arson and looting. Asked if she was a militant, band leader Martha Reeves exclaimed, “My Lord, it was a party song!” Sure, Motown produced hit recordings by the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight and the Pips—but it also released The Great March to Freedom, a spoken-word recording by Martin Luther King Jr. Suzanne E. Smith examines the socio-political context of Hitsville, U.S.A., when she discusses and signs copies of Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit at 7:30 p.m. at the Library of Congress’ Madison Building, in the Montpelier Room, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-5221. (AM)