In the political cartoon the Fiddler, by Herbert Block we see a man dressed as a Roman senator playing a fiddle, while the cities behind him are burning. These are the cities that where riots of the 60’s happened. In this paper, we will be discussing the causes that lead to the most prominent four race riots, and what President Lyndon B. Johnson did to stop these from happening again.
To give some perspective in 1967 7.8% of white families were living below the poverty line compared to 29.1% of black families, says Robert Dallek in his book Flawed Giant (411). This means that for every one white person living below the poverty line there were four black people approximately. We could only imagine what the it was like back then. In the south whites are still segregating. I the north things were changing but slowly.
. From 1964 to 1967 the summers in the United States cities were destructive and deadly. There were four major riots in this time: Harlem in 1964, Watts in 1965, an in 1967 we had two Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan; per Joseph Boskin, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Southern California in his book Urban Racial Violence of the Twentieth Century (94). Each disturbance was started by different trigger points. In Harlem, New York it was the shooting of a fifteen-year-old by an off duty white police officer per a Newsweek issue in 1964 (Boskin 100). This borough of New York is where many black people were pushed into living by the white upper class. In fact most of the contact with white people were the police, shopkeepers and bill collectors. The living conditions and the jobs situation were not all that promising.
In Watts a section of Los Angeles, California it was a “traffic arrest, where a white officer struck a protesting black bystander with his club.” As described in Alan Brinkley (707). Just like in Harlem the living and working situations were rough and the primary contact with white people were the police. In fact there were two reports done on the Watts situation. The first one was the Moynihan Report and the other the McCone report. These reports were different in that they took a more sympathetic look at what was going on, instead of just the statistics. They described the living situation and the employment opportunities, but did little to suggest what could be done (Baskin, 109).
The start of the Newark, New Jersey riot was far more complex. Like the previous two there was an underlying tension between the police and the black community. The more prominent issues though were lack of education and an high unemployment rate (Boskin, 118). The city was running out of money and the Mayor nominated an undereducated white man to head the Board of Education in the Newark. When the African American were pushing for an African American man with a master’s degree, and had worked for the budget office (Boskin, 119). In the end was a rumor about a black cab driver named John Smith (Boskin, 120) whom people saw being dragged into the police station that kicked things off. There was a civil rights leader and two militants that tried to quell the growing crowd by trying to turn them in to a peaceful protest. When rocks were thrown in to the crowd and hit many of the people and broke a few police car windows. This was just the beginning of a chaotic couple of days filled with miscommunication between the National guard, State and local police, looting and gun fire (Roskins, 124). Yet, this was nothing compared to what was to come in Detroit.
Detroit was one of the last places that had the riots, this might be because of the previous race riot back in 1943. It was also the worst of the riots. The disturbance in Detroit was started by an early morning raid on a speak easy a few weeks after the Newark riots. The Detroit riots was the worst of these disturbances causing “40 deaths, 2,250 injuries, 4,000 arrests, $250 million in property losses” in a week (Boskin, 127). President Johnson was reluctant to send in help at first, (Dallek, 413) He was afraid of the political repercussions and did not want the Republicans to try and take advantage of the situation. Eventually Johnson had no choice, but to send troops in, after the Governor of Michigan was not able to handle the situation (Boskin, 128). Johnson was now fighting what seemed to be two wars now. Looking at the images of what was going on in Detroit back then, on Bill Moyers Journal: Race and Politics in American Cities, it looked far more like a war zone than a Prospering city.
The first idea he had was the National Day of Prayer. Next Johnson started riot training for the National Guard for The last of the key ideas that Johnson put into action was a bi partisan report on what caused the riots and how can we stop them from happening again. This was known as the Kerner Commission report. According to former Senator from Oklahoma, Fred Harris, one of the last remaining members of the commission, Johnson thought that there was some kind of conspiracy because of the riots (Bill). During the investigation they found that in some areas in the north like Milwaukee, Wisconsin that the segregation was so pervasive that most black people did not see white people at all (Bill).
In this Essay we talked about the causes of the 4 Main riots of the 1960’s. We talked about the living and working conditions that were in place that caused these uprisings. We also discussed what President Johnson did to try to make sure these types of events do not happen again. At least not in his life time.
Bill Moyers Journal: Race and Politics in America’s Cities. Films Media Group, 2008,
fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=100853&xtid=39434. Accessed 19 Apr 2017.
Boskin, Joseph. Urban Racial Violence in the Twentieth Century. Beverly Hills [Calif.]: Glencoe
Block, Herbert L. “Fiddler.” Library of Congress: Prints and Photography Division, The
Washington Post, 2001, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00652231/. July 25, 1967.
Brinkley, Alan, John M. Giggie, and Andrew J. Hubert. The unfinished nation: a concise
history of the American people. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2016. Print.
Dallek, Robert. Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1998.