Between 1965 and 1968, hundreds of American cities, big and small - Detroit, Newark, Harlem, Tampa, Watts, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Rochester, Cambridge, Danville, Chicago... - erupted into racial violence, the legacy of systematic racial inequality, poverty and urban decay. The violence climaxed during the summer of 1967 and in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination in the spring of 1968. Later that year, the Kerner Commission report stated that the civil disorders were the result of racism and poverty and warned that "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal."
For a time during the late-1960s and early-1970s, there were some who attempted to address the deep problems of urban America and a few modest gains were even achieved, but as Kevin Boyle, author of "Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age," writes in his essay (below), "In the late 1970s and '80s, the national commitment to the urban poor unraveled, destroyed by a furious white backlash and a resurgent conservatism that vilified big government and sanctified the free market. With that shift in American politics, hope gave way to neglect. It has been 30 years since the federal government really invested in America's inner cities. The only time anyone talks about segregation is when the Supreme Court prohibits another school district from employing the mildest of racial remedies. The welfare state has been eviscerated, not expanded. Even progressives prefer to focus more on the needs of the middle class than on the burdens of the poor. And on the streets of Detroit and in other urban cores, life grows inexorably grimmer."
Today, the "urban crisis" remains one of the most persistent problems confronting the United States. Unfortunately, for most white Americans, the urban crisis is little understood and often distorted. Mainly it is avoided or ignored. I'd like to suggest that in order to understand the ongoing chasm of caste and class in America, and ultimately fix it, we need to first delve into the roots of the problem. Recently, there have been a flurry of "40 years later" reports in the media about the riots of 1967 and their contemporary meanings. If you want to take a look, here are some examples:
Detroit riot of 1967, the largest of the era:
Kevin Boyle on 1967 Detroit riot, the largest of the era
Detroit News Special Series: "Panic in Detroit: Forty Years Later"
Detroit Free Press: "Lessons from the '67 Riot"
NPR: "Remembering the Riots: Detroit 40 Years Later"
NPR: "40 Years Later, Detroit Slowly Sees Renewal"
NPR: "Mayhem in the City: The Detroit Riots"
NPR: A Voice from the Detroit Riots: Loretta Holmes
NPR: Eyewitnesses to Detroit's Chaos
NPR: Blog of the Nation - A Long, Hot Summer in Detroit
NPR: Painting Depicts Desperation of Detroit Riots
Newark riot of 1967:
NYTimes: "With 40-Year Prism, Newark Surveys Deadly Riot"
NPR: Examining the Newark Riots 40 Years Later
Current TV: Newark Riots Forty Years Later
NPR: 40 Years On, Newark Re-Examines Painful Riot Past
NPR: Newark Still Affected by Decades-Old Riots
YouTube video on Watts Riot
Series of stories by NPR on 1965 Watts Riot
Hough (Cleveland): This One Was Planned (TIME Magazine)
Hough (Cleveland): The Jungle & the City (TIME Magazine)
NPR on 1967 Cambridge, MD, racial violence
NPR on 1967 Plainfield, NJ, racial violence
Chronology of 1967 Milwaukee Race Riot
Kerner Commission, or National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders:
excerpts from the 1968 Kerner Commission report
Kerner Commission, 30 Years Later
The Impact of 1960s racial violence:
Study: Economic Impact of 1960s Riots
Study: Economic Impact of 1960s Riots on Small Businesses
Study: Labor Market Effects of 1960s Riots
Other Relevant Stuff:
NPR: 'Root Shock': Urban Renewal and Black Neighborhoods