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*History: Race Riots

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General Resources

Nat Turner’s Rebellion 1831

Nathanial “Nat” Turner (1800-1831) was an enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in August 1831. With six others he killed the Travis family and enlisted about 75 other enslaved people in an insurrection that resulted in the murder of 51 white people. Afterwards Turner hid nearby for six weeks until his capture and hanging along with 16 of his followers. 

cover confessionsThe Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
Historical fiction: The Confessions of Nat Turner is narrated by Nat himself as he lingers in jail through the cold autumnal days before his execution. The compelling story ranges over the whole of Nat's Life, reaching its inevitable and shattering climax that bloody day in August.

Atlanta Massacre 1906

The Atlanta Massacre of 1906 was an attack by armed mobs of white Americans against African Americans in Atlanta, Georgia. It began the evening of September 22 and lasted through September 24, 1906.

East St. Louis, Illinois 1917

The East St. Louis riots or East St. Louis massacres in Illinois were a series of outbreaks of labor and race-related violence that caused the deaths of an estimated 40–250 African Americans in late May and early July 1917. Another 6,000 blacks were left homeless and the rioting and vandalism cost approximately $400,000 ($7,982,000 in 2020) in property damage. In the July 1917 episode in particular there white-led violence throughout the city. The riots are considered the worst case of labor-related violence in 20th-century American history. African Americans had begun what is called the Great Migration from the rural Southern states seeking better work and education in the North away from a climate of lynching. Racial tensions that already existed in East St. Louis began to increase in February, 1917 when 470 African American workers were hired to replace white workers who had gone on strike against the Aluminum Ore Company. There are several differing accounts of the tipping point of the violence that began the violence. One cites a report heard that an African American man had robbed a white man. Another account is of a car driven by whites firing into an African American crowd followed by a different car with white police and reporters in it being shot at by African Americans.

Tulsa Massacre 1921

The Tulsa (Oklahoma) race massacre of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921. It is also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre. Mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses. There are contradicting estimates of fatalities and injuries. Tulsa's 'Black Wall Street' in early 1900s featured luxury shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a library, pool halls and nightclubs. The massacre began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, an African American who shined shoes was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator. A final report by a  2001 Oklahoma Commission suggests that Rowland had a simple accident, such as tripping and steadying himself against the girl, or perhaps they had a quarrel.

cover tulsaThe Tulsa Race Riot by Ph.D Harris, Duchess and A. R. Carser
In 1921, a race riot erupted in Tulsa, Oklahoma. White residents burned down black-owned businesses and homes. They killed approximately 300 African Americans. The Tulsa Race Riot explores the story and legacy of one of the worst race riots in US history. Easy-to-read text, vivid images, and helpful back matter give readers a clear look at this subject.

Rosewood Massacre 1923

The Rosewood Massacre was a racially motivated massacre of African American people and destruction of their town. It took place during the first week of January 1923 in rural Florida with a death toll of 27 to 150. The town of Rosewood was destroyed. Contemporary news reports characterized this as a race riot.

Detroit Race Riot 1943

The 1943 Detroit race riot happened in Detroit, Michigan from the evening of June 20 through the early morning of June 22. This was during a period of a large and fast population increase which caused social tensions. This was during World War II and Detroit's automotive industry had been converted to the war effort employing large groups of people.

Fort Pillow 1964

At the Fort Pillow Massacre in Tennessee on April 12, 1864 some 300 African-American Union soldiers were killed This was one of the most controversial events of the American Civil War. Most of the Union garrison surrendered, and should have been taken as prisoners of war. Instead the African-American Union soldiers were killed by the Confederates.

Columbia Ave., North Philadelphia Race Riots 1964

On August 28, 1964, an African America couple, Rush and Odessa Bradford, were having a domestic dispute while driving through the intersection of 22nd Street and Colombia Avenue in North Philadelphia, Odessa Bradford came to an abrupt stop in the intersection, interrupting normal traffic flow. The Bradfords were approached by African American police officer Robert Wells and white police officer John Hoff. Odessa Bradford and Officer Wells  argued after she allegedly refused to follow his commands. Officier Wells then dragged Bradford out of her car and arrested her. Bystanders who believed the police had used excessive force against a woman immediately attacked the officers. A false rumor quickly spread that a pregnant black woman had been beaten and killed by the police. Before the officers could leave the scene, hundreds of people arrived and began throwing bricks, bottles, and other projectiles at the them. The rioting that began that Friday continued throughout the weekend. White owned businesses were vandalized and looted. By the end of the rioting on Sunday two people had been killed and 350 were wounded. Over 1,000 people were arrested and many others were beaten by police. Damage to the establishments on Columbia Avenue totaled approximately $4 million.

Watts, Los Angeles 1965

The Watts riots, also referred to as the Watts Rebellion, took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California from August 11 to 16,1965.  Marquette Frye, an African-American on parole for robbery, was pulled over for alleged drunk driving. A roadside argument broke out. This escalated into a fight with police. It was thought that the police had hurt a pregnant woman. (A similiar report was heard in the Columbia Ave., Philadelphia Riots in 1964) Six days of civil unrest followed.  The California National Guard was called in to help suppress the disturbance. At the end there were 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage.

Newark, New Jersey 1967

The Newark, New Jersey riots took place between July 12 and July 17 in 1967 during what was termed “The Long Hot Summer of 1967”. There was over the four days of rioting, looting, and property destruction. Twenty-six people died and hundreds were injured. The incident that began the Newark riots happened during the early evening of July 12, 1967. An African American taxi driver was beaten and arrested by two white police officers for a minor traffic infraction in Newark’s Central Ward area. Originally the protesters gathered at the police station thought that the man being held had died from the beating.

Newark Board of Education March 26, 2020

Detroit Race Riot 1967

The 1967 Detroit Riot, also called the 12th Street Riot, is considered the bloodiest incident in the infamous The Long Hot Summer of 1967. It began in the early morning hours of Sunday July 23, 1967, in Detroit Michigan with confrontations between black residents and the Detroit Police Department. The event that began it was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar in the city's Near West Side. This was one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days.

Riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968

Riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968 swept the United States. This was the greatest wave of social unrest the United States had experienced since the Civil War. Some of the biggest riots took place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and Kansas City. This resulted in 43 deaths, thousands of arrests and millions of dollars of property damage.

(in Washington D.C.) Channel 4 News

Asbury Park, New Jersey 1970

The 1970 Asbury Park race riots were a major civil disturbance. It occurred in Asbury Park, New Jersey between July 4 and July 10, 1970. There had been a lack of jobs, recreational opportunities, and decent living conditions for the 30% African American population. There was seven days of rioting, looting, and destruction. One hundred and eighty people were injured. The shopping district of the west side neighborhood of Asbury Park was completely destroyed. 


This conversation will feature two of our professors, Drs. Jeffrey Carroll (Political Science) and David Contosta (History). They will share their personal perspectives regarding the foundation of our country through the current times and an examination of power in protests, looking back to the Civil Rights Movement and Black Liberation Movements, and our current situation.

Miami (Liberty City) Riots, 1980

In December 1979, a number of white Miami-Dade (Florida) police officers were in a high-speed chase of African America motorist Arthur McDuffie. Police reports said that the chase ended when McDuffie crashed his motorcycle resulting in his death. However, coroner reports said that the cause of death was not consistent with a motorcycle crash. Later, a responding officer following the chase testified that there was no crash and said that the officers had beaten McDuffie to death with their flashlights. Despite the coroner report and the testimony from witnesses, an all-white jury concluded the trial on May 17, 1980 with the acquittal of all officers involved in the case. Residents of mostly African American Liberty City, home to half of the city’s black and Afro-West Indian residents, took to the streets in protests. Things soon turned violent as some began throwing objects at passing white motorists. By nightfall the violence escalated into a full blown riot. Motorists fleeing their vehicles were attacked. The riot moved into neighboring white business districts and outside the headquarters of the Dade County Department of Public Safety. Leaders from the Miami-Dade County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and national leaders such as Jesse Jackson were unsuccessful in halting the violence. The Florida National Guard was then called in. By May 20th order was restored. Ten blacks and eight whites had died. More than 800 people had been arrested and the property damage was in excess of $80 million dollars.

Los Angeles 1992

The 1992 Los Angeles riots were a series of riots and civil disturbances that occurred in Los Angeles County, California in April and May 1992. Unrest began in South Central Los Angeles on April 29. This was after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) of the charge of usage of excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King, which had been videotaped and widely viewed on TV. The attack on Reginald Denny occurred during these riots, when Denny, a white construction truck driver, was beaten nearly to death by a group of black men. This attack was captured on video by a news helicopter and it was broadcast live on television. Four residents of South Central Los Angeles, Bobby Green Jr., Lei Yuille, Titus Murphy, and Terri Barnett had been watching this transpire on television and they came to Denny's aid. All four people who helped rescue him were African Americans. Green, also a truck driver, took over at the wheel and drove Denny to a hospital. Those who helped Denny received recognition by the City of Los Angeles and others.

The Trayvon Martin Case 2012 - Peaceful Protests

On the evening of February 26, 2012, African American teenager Trayvon Martin, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, was on his way back from a trip to the store, Martin was spotted by George Zimmerman, a partly white and partly Latino neighborhood watch captain who called 911 to report a “suspicious person” . Although instructed by the 911 operator to stay in his car, Zimmerman, who was armed with a handgun, approached Martin. After a brief confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot the unarmed teenager. Zimmerman claimed self-defense. Public outcry began to grow, and less than a month later, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee stepped down amid criticism over his handling of the case. In March, about one month after the shooting, President Barack Obama commented on the matter. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.” On April 11, 2012, George Zimmerman turned himself in after being charged with second-degree murder. Zimmerman was found not guilty on July 13, 2013. Amid memories of the Rodney King trial aftermath, public service announcements discouraging violence ran on radio and television stations around the country in the lead-up to the Zimmerman verdict. Afterwards there were a number of mostly peaceful demonstrations in several cities across the country. The “hoodie” sweatshirt became a key symbol of the protests. The tragic death of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin became the first catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement.

Ferguson 2014

In Missouri in 2014 two incidents triggered peaceful protests and riots there and elsewhere. In Ferguson, Missouri there were violent protests. They began on August 9, 2014, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager by a white police officer. Then the shooting death of African American Antonio Martin, eighteen years old, occurred on December 23, 2014, in Berkeley, Missouri. near St. Louis. Martin was shot by a white Berkeley police officer when Martin pulled a gun on him. These shootings sparked protests in the St. Louis area and other cities in the U.S.

Baltimore 2015

Baltimore was roiled by weeks of tense protests after the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Gray was arrested for allegedly possessing a switchblade, but Mosby said Gray's knife wasn't a switchblade and was therefore legal. According to a timeline provided by Mosby, Gray fled at the sight of police presence in an area of town known for drug dealing. Police pursued Gray, eventually catching up and restraining him on the ground. Officers then arrested Gray after they noticed a knife on him. Gray's death and the protests it inspired once again placed a national spotlight on issues of race, justice, police brutality, and the deep distrust between minority communities and their local governments. The protests came about almost immediately following Gray's death, as demonstrators marched to demand answers for what happened to the 25-year-old and to protest police brutality, of which Baltimore has a troubling history.

cover five daysFive Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore, Erica L. Green
A kaleidoscopic account of five days in the life of a city on the edge, told through seven characters on the frontlines of the uprising that overtook Baltimore and riveted the world. When Freddie Gray was arrested for possessing an "illegal knife" in April 2015, he was, by eyewitness accounts that video evidence later confirmed, treated "roughly" as police loaded him into a vehicle. By the end of his trip in the police van, Gray was in a coma he would never recover from. In the wake of a long history of police abuse in Baltimore, this killing felt like a final straw--it lead to a week of protests and then five days described alternately as a riot or an uprising that set the entire city on edge, and caught the nation's attention.

Minneapolis, Minnesota 2020

Worldwide protests Riots, Looting in the United States

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was arrested for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit bill in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd died after white police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd was already handcuffed and lying face down on the street. Two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening . Floyd had repeatedly said “I can’t breathe”. Floyd's death has been compared to that of Eric Garner, a African American man who was arrested for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes in New York City in 2014 and who also repeated "I can't breathe" ,while in a fatal chokehold. Floyd's death triggered demonstrations and protests in more than 75 US cities and worldwide. There were peaceful protests and demonstrations. But in many cities there riots, fires and looting, This included the cities of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Saint Paul. This was at the same time as the CO-VID -19 Pandemic which made circumstances additionally dangerous. The wearing of masks and social distancing rules in place were set aside by many people.

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