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Summer of Rage

An Oral History of the 1967 Newark and Detroit Riots

Max Arthur Herman

Drawing on oral history interviews and archival materials, Summer of Rage examines the causes and consequences of urban unrest that occurred in Newark and Detroit during the summer of 1967. It seeks to give voice to those who experienced these events firsthand and places personal narratives in a broader theoretical framework involving issues of collective memory, trauma, race relations, and urban development. Further, the volume explores the multiple truths present in these contentious events and thereby sheds light on the past, present, and future of these cities.
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Chapter One-Hell Breaks Loose

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CHAPTER ONE

Hell Breaks Loose

Newark

It was around 9:30 pm on Wednesday evening, July 12th, 1967, when Robert Curvin received an urgent phone call at home informing him that “a person had been arrested and beaten by Newark police officers”.1 For Curvin, phone calls of this nature were not uncommon. Since becoming head of the local branch of CORE (the Congress on Racial Equality), a national civil rights organization, Curvin routinely received calls to investigate reports of alleged police misconduct involving white patrol officers and black civilians. The recent deaths of Lester Long, Bernard Rich, and Walter Mathis, three young black men who died in separate incidents while in police custody, had created a heightened sense of injustice and outrage among people in the black community. The deaths of these young men, along with numerous accounts by black youths who had been beaten by the police, led Bob Curvin and other civil rights leaders to insist on a citizen’s police review board. But despite their best efforts, appeals by these Newark civic rights leaders for civilian oversight of the police were stymied by police brass as well as the mayor’s office. In a memorandum, dated September 15, 1965, Mayor Hugh Addonizio stated:

       I do not believe that the establishment of a Review Board is the answer to the problem of ascertaining the truth or falseness of specific charges of police brutality; Nor do I believe that the establishment of...

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