Watts Riot 1965
1965 - Watts neighborhood, Los Angeles, CA

Key People:

Lee Minikus
Marquette Frye


On august 11th, Marquette Frye, a black man living in the Watts neighborhood, was pulled over by white police officer, Lee Minikus. Frye was given a field sobriety test, and according to Minikus, failed. Frye's brother was also in the car and soon enough their mother showed up as well to dispute the charges. Because of struggle, all three family members were arrested, and by that time, a crowd of a few hundred people had formed. As the family was taken away, the crowd became angry, and when the police had left, tension and anger sparked a riot that lasted in spurts for the next six days. Over this time period, fires were started, looting took place, mobs formed and protested, and many more people were arrested. The people involved in these riots were mainly african americans protesting the caucasian police brutality that went on. Eventually, there a curfew set on the city to lessen the looting and vandalism, as well as protect citizens from rioters. The National Guard was called in to end dispute and evaluate damages. After the curfew was lifted, there were 34 counted dead, 2,032 injured, and 3,952 arrested. There was an estimated over $40 million in property damage, not including the total cost of looted goods.
Destruction resulting from Watts Riots

These riots brought about the issue of police brutality by LAPD, as well as built up anger by blacks about unemployment, poor healthcare options, poverty, and limited housing options. The significance of this riot in particular is that this is the first major riot where the idea of non-violent protest was thrown out the window. This was the first race riot to fully involve act of violence, aggression, and vandalism, starting a trend for the next decade.

Other Race Riots of the 60's and 70's

Detriot 1967 - During the summer months, police raided an illegal black drinking facility and arrested the patron and brought him out to the street. A group of onlookers quickly formed, and as the police retreated for fear of their safety, mobs looted and burned white-owned stores and things got out of hand. The next day Lyndon Johnson and Michigan Governor sent in the National Guard to end the riots. There were 43 African Americans dead, 1,189 injured, and 7,231 arrested.

The Watts a Detriot Riots caused a ripple affect; throughout the country many other race riots came about in Newark NJ, New York City NY, Cleveland OH, Washington DC, Chicago IL, and Atlanta GA.

These riots all involved methods of protest such as vandalism, looting, mob mentalities, struggles with authorities, starting fires, and brutality. Mainly caused by unhappy african americans, these riots proved to the country that african americans were so unhappy with the government actions that even famous leaders (like Martin Luther King Jr) could not contain the population of those who once believed in non-violent protest. Together they had an impact on the country and showed that the government should take further steps to either contain the crowds or change their laws on Civil Rights.

external image 220px-Wattsriots-policearrest-loc.jpg
Police arrest a man during the riots

Kerner Report 1968

Key People:

President Lyndon Johnson
Illinois Governor Otto Kerner


Discusse and created in response to the many race riots of the 60's, the Kerner Report was issued seven months after an investigation of Civil Disorders by the National Advisory Commission. Urban influences were found as a factor in each riot; it was concluded that violence reflected unhappiness in african americans about poverty, unemployment, poor education, limited housing, lack of legitimate healthcare, police bias and brutality, and discrimination. The reports were put forth to solve or lessen these issues.

Martin Luther King Jr. called it a "physician's warning of approaching death, with a prescription for life."

The Kerner Report, however, was never fully put in place because of the Nixon administration. Nixon was elected an decided against completely putting the report into affect. What could have been a major step in Civil Rights ended in failure.

1. http://www.mitchglaser.com/journal/2005/08/watts-riots-40-years-later.html
2. www.slate.com/id/104699
3. http://www.pbs.org/hueypnewton/times/times_watts.html
4. http://www.africanaonline.com/reports_kerner.htm
5. http://www.africanaonline.com/reports_detroit.htm