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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 Two-Predictable Insurrections



Predictable Insurrections

There is a popular expression that a picture tells a thousand words. This is certainly true for the photograph displayed on the cover of Life Magazine for its July 28th, 1967 issue. The photo depicts Joey Bass, a 12 year-old African American boy, lying face down on a Newark street in a pool of blood. This photograph, taken by Life photographer Bud Lee, was captured moments after Bass was hit by a ricochet bullet fired by a Newark police officer who was pursuing a suspected looter. It speaks volumes about the hazards of being a young black male in the wrong place at the wrong time as the city exploded during the summer of 1967. Yet, it is the caption above the photo that is perhaps even more striking. In large block print letters, the headline proclaims “Newark: The Predictable Insurrection”.

For nearly four decades, since the summer of 1967, people have vigorous debated whether the “insurrections” that took place in Newark and Detroit were predictable and, therefore by extension, preventable. In hindsight, given the fact that several episodes of unrest that had already occurred in Harlem (1964), Philadelphia (1964), Watts (1965), Cleveland (1966) and other cities, all with sizable black populations and similar socio-economic profiles, some argue that an educated observer could have easily ascertained that Newark and Detroit would be next in line for civil disorder. In fact, having witnessed rioting in nearby Jersey City in 1964, several...

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