Chapter 46- redefining racial equality

From Watts to Newark: Riots in the Streets

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From Watts to Newark: Riots in the Streets

By the 1960s, almost 70 percent of African Americans lived in large cities. Urban blacks were often concentrated in ethnic ghettos [ghetto: a part of a city where people belonging to a single ethnic group live] . A ghetto is a part of a city where people belonging to a single ethnic group live. Sometimes people live in an ethnic ghetto because they want to be among people who share their culture. But often people live in such neighborhoods because social and economic conditions prevent them from moving elsewhere. This was true for African Americans. Because of job discrimination, many could not afford to live anywhere else. Even those with good jobs found it almost impossible to buy houses in white neighborhoods.

In August 1965, a race riot exploded in Watts, an African American ghetto in Los Angeles. The immediate cause of the riot was a charge of police brutality. The more long-term cause was African Americans’ festering frustrations about poverty, prejudice, and police mistreatment. The Watts riot[Watts riot: a 1965 race riot in Watts, a black ghetto in Los Angeles, caused by frustrations about poverty, prejudice, and police mistreatment] lasted for six long days. During that time, 34 people died, almost 900 were injured, and nearly 4,000 were arrested. Rioters burned and looted whole neighborhoods, causing $45 million of property damage. The rioting did not end until 14,000 members of the National Guard were sent to Watts to restore order.

Over the next few years, riots erupted in other cities as well. In 1967 alone, more than 100 cities experienced violent protests. In Detroit, Michigan, 43 people died and more than 1,000 were wounded in an urban upheaval. Eventually the army quelled the riots by sending in tanks and soldiers with machine guns. Riots in Newark, New Jersey, lasted six days and resulted in many deaths and injuries

Beginning with rioting in Harlem and Rochester, New York, in 1964, racial unrest spread out of the North to cities across the nation. This map show major riots in 1967. Other disturbances also occurred that year. The murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 triggered the worst violence of the decade. After that, racial unrest subsided.

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