As the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Rochester race riot approaches, there will be many news stories and events reflecting on what happened. Here’s a summary from the Monroe County library website:
Rochester, New York, is a city known for its tolerance and forward thinking concerning the civil rights of all individuals. In the 1800s, leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony championed the rights of African Americans and women from the environs of our town, setting the stage for the twentieth century. Yet despite efforts for social justice, persistent discrimination in areas like employment and housing institutionalized inequality in the city and throughout the nation. Racial tension between African Americans and whites mounted in many urban areas, sometimes culminating in full-scale riots like those that gripped Rochester in July 1964.
Rochester’s race riots began the night of July 24, 1964, at a street dance held on Nassau Street between Joseph Avenue and Joiner Street. City policemen with dogs arrested a young man, eliciting protest from onlookers. The situation escalated and by 3 o’clock the following morning the city had declared a state of emergency. While most of the violence, looting, and vandalism affected the city’s northeast neighborhood in the 7th Ward, sporadic rioting also broke out in the 3rd Ward southwest of downtown and spread to the 5th Ward around Central Park. State police and, later, the National Guard joined city and county efforts to quell the unrest. On July 26, law enforcement brought the rioting under control. By August 3, the Guard and state police had withdrawn and city police returned to normal operations.
In addition to the debris and property damage left in the wake of the riots, hundreds of people were arrested. Five people were killed; four of the deaths resulted from a helicopter crash near Clarissa Street. From this upheaval grew community organizations such as the Urban League of Rochester and FIGHT (Freedom, Independence, God, Honor, Today), which advocated for change in hiring practices, urban renewal, and additional measures for equality and set the agenda for other northeast cities as well.
Fifty years later, inequality persists. Our schools and neighborhoods are segregated by race and income. Some city ZIP codes have enormously high poverty and unemployment rates. Young black men have a higher chance of dropping out of school, becoming victims of homicides and going to prison. Suburban flight, the drug war and a lagging economy have exacerbated the problems of the very neighborhoods were the riot took place.
Could such a riot happen again?
Despite the entrenched problems in poor neighborhoods, there has been a lot of progress in diversifying the police force and City Hall over the past half-century. There are strong neighborhood groups with a voice at City Hall, even in poor sections of the city. There are many agencies working hard to lift people out of poverty, provide more opportunities, keep an open dialogue and hold governments accountable. People of color now make up a majority of city residents.
Yet, a recent survey found more than half of non-white residents and residents of northeast Rochester, where the 1964 riot started, do not trust police. Also, the bleak statistics of life in challenged neighborhoods suggests many residents are as disenfranchised as residents were fifty years ago. Could that translate into a riot, or as Minister Franklin Florence calls it, a “rebellion?”
I don’t know.
Links of the Day:
– Whatever Congel and Golisano were planning in regards to the Bills, they’re not anymore. At least not together.
– Check out where Cuomo spends most of his time. (He went to Syracuse more than Rochester…)
– Buffalo will start ticketing Lyft drivers. (Rochester is taking a wait and see attitude.)
– Horrific violence fueled by drug trade threatens children of Honduras.
– There are states where you technically can’t hold public office if you’re an atheist.
– B.B. King struggled at the Syracuse Jazz Fest, but no one cared.
Tweet of the Day:
— David M Grome (@DavidMGrome) July 12, 2014