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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 Four-Restoring Order

Extract

CHAPTER FOUR

Restoring Order

On August 11th, 1965, two years prior to the events in Newark and Detroit, a major civil disturbance broke out in the Watts section of Los Angeles, a predominantly poor African American community on the south side of that city. After six days of unrest in Los Angeles, thirty-four people were reported killed, over one thousand had been injured, and that city had sustained over thirty-five million dollars in property damage. Set amidst a backdrop of sporadic outbreaks of urban unrest in places like Rochester, NY (1964) and Harlem (1964), the events in Watts which captured national attention, with images of fires, “looting” and destruction being transmitted on nationally televised news reports and weekly news magazines like Time and Life.

For high-ranking law enforcement official in New Jersey and Michigan, such dramatic images raised concerns about the possibility of similar events occurring closer to home. Given that certain neighborhoods in Newark and Detroit shared many of the same social problems as neighborhoods that had experienced unrest in Los Angeles, (e.g. high levels of poverty, joblessness and racial segregation), state and local officials in New Jersey and Michigan began to assess the potential for violence in their own locales. If such violence were to take place, they concluded, it was best to be prepared.

Acting on such concerns, on August 27, 1965, high ranking officials from the New Jersey State Police and Department of Defense convened a meeting with...

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