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Terri Coleman

Professor Kays

English 102

May 4, 2017

What were the Newark Riots and how was the city of Newark affected?

In 1966, in an interview with Mike Wallace, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted

saying, I think that weve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard (King Jr).

According to Time magazines, When rioting is the answer, America was founded on riots.

People have always fought for what they believed was right through revolts and rebellion

(Hamby). Americans have an extensive history of using violence to challenge oppression. Then

comes to question whether that use of violence is considered a riot or a rebellion.

Then the next question is, are the two terms -riot and rebellion- synonymous?

Dictionary.com defines a rebellion as an opened, organized, and armed resistance to ones

government or ruler. The same website defines a riot as a violent public disorder caused by a

group of persons, protesting against another group or government policy. As you can see the two

naturally have negative-positive attributes. Essentially, perception is everything when it comes to

the connotation of the two words and depending on who you ask the responses will differ. Some

may believe the terms are synonymous such as the two being completely positive or synonymous

in ways where they are completely negative.

Riots and rebellions throughout history have occurred for a plethora of reasons including

political disagreements, civil injustices, laws, and police brutality. Because people tend to rebel
against such brewing topics these rebellions usually draw attention to oppression. If you are not

someone who understands the language of riots and the messages that are being conveyed

through riots, chances are you are one who believes riots are just violent public disorders.

In a place like Newark, New Jersey in 1967, the city ruptured into arson, looting, rioting

and the list extends due to police brutality and social issues. The fall in economics is also a

reoccurring pattern when it comes to the aftermath of riots. The Newark Riots/Rebellion is just

one example of a riot that shaped a city and were caused by police brutality and civil injustices.

With the different situations and civil unrest residence of the city ended up retaliating in the

language of the unheardRiots.

The Newark Riots

Riots sparked by the beating of a black cab driver by white police officers left 26

people killed, more than 700 injured, and millions of dollars of damage to looted, vandalized,

and burned properties. (Mazzola) This was the headline that was the frontpage of the

newspapers all over the city of Newark due to the brutal beating of a local cab driver.

Newark was one of the few cities across the country where riots broke out in the late

1960s. Years of poverty and discrimination had created a powder keg of frustration in many

black communities (Solomon). For Newark, the spark came on the hot summer night of July 12,

1967.The Newark Riots began in the summer of 1967 when Newark police beat a black cab

driver by the name of John Smith. Smith allegedly sideswiped a double-parked police car, had

been beaten by white police and taken to the Fourth Precinct, across the street from a large

public-housing project-Hayes Homes. Residents of Hayes Homes saw Smith being dragged into

the precinct, and a rumor was ignited around the city that he had been killed while in police
custody. When residents of the city heard this story, they began to act disorderly by throwing

bricks, bottles, and other debris at the station. Police rushed out of their station wearing riot gear

and this was just the beginning.

6 hot summer days of July 12-July 17 became destructive days that the city, my city

never came back from. After the initial incident -chaos outside of the 4th precinct-, residence

began to protest and rally outside of city hall on Broad St. Bricks were being thrown, cars

broken into, shotguns being issued to police, few hours later police were getting orders to take

necessary precautions, and hours after that the national guard and state troopers were being

called to the helpless city of Newark. The city of Newark was under the impression that

bringing in the National Guard would deescalate the chaos and confusion. Bringing the

National Guard in brought more issues and escalated deaths.

Unverified alarms over black snipers had police, state troopers and the National Guard

troops firing into the upper stories of tenements at any real or imagined activity on rooftops. This

derange gunfire accounted for many of the riots most tragic fatalities. A woman named Rebecca

Brown was killed, rumor had it that the National Guard shot into her second-floor apartment

window. investigations found that out of 13,000 rounds of ammunition fired, only 100 of them

came from rioters rather than law enforcement, and not one of those cases was proved to be the

alleged snipers. In another case Eloise Spellman was another innocent civilian killed after

being mistaken for a sniper after leaning out of 10th floor apartment window. These events

were proceeded by looting, arson, and violence to an all-time high. Six days of rioting killed

26 people and destroyed a large portion of the city (McLaughlin).

Horace Brown Sr., a black store owner remembered placing a sign in front of his shop

that read: "Owned by Blacks, thinking that this would exempt him from being targeted by
both rioters and the National Guard. Brown said, he was horrified to see National Guardsmen

shoot into his store.


After the riots, what was once known as a middle-class city became one of the

most impoverished cities in the United States, issues have been most transparent in

unemployment, poverty, and population. As of February 2017, the unemployment rate in Newark

is at 7.6% compared to the national average at 4.6% (Borgino). Some explanation of that

unemployment rate is due to the Newark Riots. After the riots occurred, factories and

manufacturers began to leave the city, to monopolize and make more money. When the factories

left so did the middle-class jobs and when the middle-class jobs left crime and poverty rose. In

addition to the middle-class jobs leaving, blacks from the South migrated North in search for

work, when they reached Newark the jobs were no longer there which also added to the

unemployment rate. Poverty rates in Newark are also outstandingly greater than they were in the

1960s and 1970s. In 1970, Newarks poverty rate was at 18.4% compared to today the poverty

rate is at 25% and growing with the national average at 12.4%.

Population was widely affected as well, in 1950 Newarks population was 450, 000 and

now about 280, 579. The Newark Riots played a major part in the major population decrease in

relations to white flight. White flight is the move of white city-dwellers to the suburbs to escape

the influx of minorities. White city-dwellers began to migrate to the suburbs with the help of

crooked realtors. Realtors were practicing bank redlining which is the practice of denying

services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based
on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas. Realtors were selling homes to whites cheap

and reasonable prices and then raising those same homes for blacks.

Results of the Newark rebellion has led to both struggle and progress in the city. The

rebellion has forced businesses, jobs, and other developments out of the city. But on the other

hand, Newark has been becoming a go to city in the state of New Jersey. Newark now has a

performing arts center, Prudential Center, Prudential headquarters, state of the art parks, Newark

museum, and the list extends. Current Newark Mayor Ras Baraka stated Newark is still in its

infancy after all of these year, we still are wearing the scars of the rebellion.

1. Hamby, Sherry, Lawrence Grandpre, and John Bryant. ""When Rioting is the

Answer"." Time.com. N.p., 9 July 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

2. Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, Jessica. "49 years later, has the U.S.

learned anything from the Newark riots?" NJ.com. N.p., 12 July 2016. Web. 26 Apr.

3. The Week that Changed the World. Prod. Kevin McLaughlin. Perf. Sharpe James,

Cory Booker, Max Herman, Lawrence Hamm. Youtube.com. N.p., 20 June 2013.

Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

4. Solomon, Nancy. "40 Years On, Newark Re-Examines Painful Riot Past." NPR.

NPR, 14 July 2007. Web. 03 May 2017.

5. N.d. Revolution '67. YouTube, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 03 May 2017.