"A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard" - MLK
July 11, 2017 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Beginning today, the ACLU of New Jersey is tweeting a realtime re-enactment of the Newark Rebellion of July 12-17, 1967. @Newark1967 will chronicle six days of violence and terror that followed the beating of a black cab driver by two policemen, piled upon years of disenfranchisement, white flight and divestment. Initially, civil rights leaders called for peaceful protest, but community anger had reached a boiling point. In the violence, destruction, and chaos that ensued, the police occupied the city, the National Guard was called in, and in the end 24 civilians (including several women and children as young as 10), along with a firefighter and a police officer, were killed; more than 500 were injured, and more than a thousand arrested. It was just one in the United States' long history of uprisings related to racism.

A similar riot in Detroit, for similar reasons, followed within a week. Kenneth Stahl, who chronicled those events in his book The Great Rebellion, discussed the significance of the Newark riots as a precursor, noting in particular "a crushing sense of nobodiness" as a cause.

In New Jersey as elsehwere, people often accept the narrative that it was the violence of such uprisings in the 60s and 70s that destroyed cities' economies and caused their abandonment by white and moneyed people. Historian Tom Sugroe debunked that myth effectively in his book The Origins of the Urban Crisis, which focused on Detroit specifically but argued that white flight, lack of federal and bank investment, crumbling infrastructure, racism, and de-industrialization had all contributed to the decline of the cities long before they endured unrest - that, in fact, urban riots should be seen as a final, desperate reaction to the American abandonment of its cities, rather than a cause of it.

Many people left the city, creating near-total economic devastation. But many stayed. In the past 10 years, development has increased, and a number of corporate headquarters and university programs have located here. As residents remember the tragic events of 1976 fifty years later, many feel the city is entering an upswing, rising in recognition as an arts hub and cultural destination, though problems of racism, concentrated poverty, and lack of access to education and employment persist. On the other hand, gentrification's threat to cohesive community life has become a new source of concern. As one survivor of the era says, "cities are like people - they are born, they grow, they get sick, they weaken and fall apart, and then hopefully they come back to life again." Let's hope so.

More links:

Recording of police radio from during riots

Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Riots

WNYC covering the Newark Riots at 50 with interviews and reflections.

The Newark Public Library's exhibit and event series Voices from the Rebellion.

Rutgers University research guide on the Newark "Riots"
posted by Miko (4 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
I finally got a hold of a copy of Daniel Yergin's The Prize, and have been reading that instead of MetaFilter during Breakfasts and Lunches.

The flight, diversion of investment, racism, etc. wouldn't have been possible at the scale they took place at without cheap and in some cases criminally low-priced oil.

Just wanted to chime in with that. Great post. Thank you
posted by JoeXIII007 at 10:44 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Outstanding post, Miko.
posted by sldownard at 12:40 PM on July 11, 2017

And not to leave out: Phillip Roth left his papers to the city (library), a place often noted in his fiction and his home as a child. Back in the day, one would hesitate to drive into that City. It was known for its carjackings. Now, it is being gentrified, along with many areas in North Jersey and Ct. as places to live in and commute to NY for jobs.
posted by Postroad at 4:38 PM on July 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

one would hesitate to drive into that City.

Well, unless one lived or worked there. It was never totally abandoned. People have been living in Newark all along.
posted by Miko at 6:36 PM on July 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

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