The Riots 1965-68


The Riots 1965-68

  • 1965 riots in Watts, LA - provoked by the police brutally attackig a black youth arrested on a drink driving charge - started 5 days after Voting Rights Act - showing the Act didn't make much de facto difference
  • 34 people killed in the riots - damage to property $40 million
  • Further riots - "long hot summers" 1966-7
  • 1967 - 83 killed - property damage $664 million
  • 1967 riots in Newark - population over 50% black but police were 89% white - 26 died
  • 1967 riots in Detroit - 43 died
  • Violence erupted in 100+ cities after MLK's assassination April 1968
  • Increasing impatience 
  • Main issues: police brutality, bad housing and unemployment
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Black Power

  • Stokeley Carmichael 1966 - first civil rights campaigner to use the slogan
  • The Nation of Islam and SNCC potentially followed "black power" ideas before this
  • "March Against Fear" - continuing after murder of James Meredith 1966 - Mississippi - refused entry in a local black school by Greenwood city council - arrested for trespass when they went there anyway
  • Emphasised lack of power blacks had - because they couldn't vote
  • "Black Power" slogan - associated with clenched fist salute
  • Instant hit with radicals in SNCC
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"Black Power" Main Ideas

  • Rejection of non-violence - under Stokeley Carmichael, SNCC removed "non-violent" from its title - 1966
  • Regarding MLK as an "Uncle Tom" and "tool of the white man"
  • Exclusion of whites from the CRM, from SNCC 1966 and CORE 1968
  • Black supremacy and segregation
  • Radical social and economic change (better housing, abolition of Capitalism etc)
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"Black Power" Achievements

  • Black Muslims - rehabilitating black youths from drug addiction, crime, prostitution etc (under Elijah Mohammed and Malcom X)
  • Impact on working class - NOI, SNCC and the Black Panthers - North
  • 1966 - SNCC Free DC movement - Marion Barry - gained right for the black citizens of Washington DC to elect their own school boards - helped set up a "Model Police Precinct" - partly elected by black community - $3 million worth government funding to improve local policing
  • SNCC campaign - blacks taking control of a school in Harlem
  • SNCC raised $1.5 million working with local black churches and federal government - to establish the Child Development Group of Mississippi - set up 85 Head Start centres - improving the lives of thousands of children 1965-7
  • Black Panthers - set up 49 clinics across the USA - the Illinois People's Free Medical Care Centre treated 2,000 in its first 2 months alone. Campaign to raise awareness of sickle cell anaemia - predominantly affected blacks
  • Malcom X - claimed he was doing MLK a favour - showing whites what the alternative was if they did not make concessions to gthe non-violent CRM - white politicians like Robert Kennedy understood this
  • SNCC achieved success in lunch counter sit-ins & Freedom Rides - minimal MLK help
  • Influenced MLK to talk about "black" people not 'nergroes
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"Black Power" Limitations

  • Malcom X envied MLK as he couldn't get involved in civil rights campaigns
  • BP divided the CRM - less effective in trying to build on the 1964-5 civil rights legislation
  • Some groups e.g. SNCC were broken from this stress
  • Combination of riots and BP made even previously white liberals feel threatened - white blacklash made it much harder after 1965 to achieve any further gains for blacks
  • Foolish to talk of black supremecy and seperation - predominantly white society where many blacks were economically dependant on whites - white politicians etc
  • BP leaders knew what they were against (white America and "Uncle Toms" like MLK) but could never specify exactly what they were for - kneejerk reaction lackig clarity or coherence
  • The Black Panthers associated BP with violence e.g. shoot-outs between Panthers and police in 1967 and 1968 and the conviction of Newton for the manslaughter of a policeman
  • Huge loss of white support - 90% of Americans were white so it was essential to have the liberals support which they lost
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"Black Power" Achievements 2

  • Gave African Americans new pride in their history and made them less dependant on white favour
  • Affected black music - Miles Davis' albums used African instruments etc
  • TV affected - powerful black roles e.g. Lieutenant Uhuru in Star Trek, Cat Woman in Batman and Bill Cosby in I Spy
  • Black athletes (Tommie Smith and John Carlos) gave BP salute whilst recieving medals in the 1968 Olympic Games
  • Inspired black radical students on university campuses: especially in 1968
  • Inspired other ethnic minorities e.g. Hispanics and native Americans
  • The fact that the KKK adopted the slogan "***********" after showed its impact 
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