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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 Three-Troublemakers




It is difficult to make sense of the events that took place in Newark and Detroit in the summer of 1967 without placing them in the larger context of political developments that occurred during the 1960s in America and in the world at large. The 1960s was a turbulent decade, marked by the escalation of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the continued persecution of suspected communists within the United States, the intensification of military conflict in Vietnam, the flourishing of the Civil Rights Movement in the American South, and the radicalization of America’s youth. In light of the political and cultural upheavals occurring throughout American society, spurred by an unprecedented number of young people entering their late teens and early twenties, conditions were ripe for “rebellion” in America.

This was particularly true in America’s inner cities, where conditions were oppressive and where cadres of young activists sought to organize poor people to have an impact on the political decisions affecting their lives. Some, like Phil Hutchings, felt that urban unrest was inevitable. If so they would do their best to influence the outcome

       At some level . . . these mass eruptions, they were in many ways like a force of nature and that’s how we looked at it watching Watts. It was like “This thing is gonna happen sooner or later. . . . We didn’t know when. We didn’t know how, but we knew it was gonna...

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