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Black ghetto riots (1964–8)


The most destructive riots and the most prolonged period of unrest in the US since the American Civil War. The riots began in Harlem and another area of New York City in 1964. A year later a week-long riot in the Watts district of Los Angeles (where three-quarters of adult males were unemployed) began the first of four ‘long hot summers’. When Martin Luther king walked the streets preaching non-violence he was ignored. 34 people were killed and over a thousand injured: property worth $35 million was destroyed. There were 38 riots in 1966, particularly in Chicago, and in 1967 the high point was reached with 164 insurrections, the worst being at Newark, New Jersey and Detroit. In five days’ rioting at Newark 26 people were killed (all but two of them black) and 2,000 injured. The riots at Detroit left 43 dead, thousands homeless and damage of $500 million. The disturbances did not involve pitched battles between the races, as they had done in Chicago in 1919 and Detroit in 1943, but took place within ghetto boundaries where shops (many white-owned) were looted and burned and firemen obstructed. Most riots, which were not organized and had no programme, followed incidents between white police and black residents. The assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968 set off a new wave of riots all over the country, including Washington and Chicago. The riots, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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