On July 2, 1964 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion or national origin. The Act also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964

 

Within the month, several race riots occurred throughout the United States.  Of particular significance were the riots occurring in Rochester New York between July 24th and 26th 1964.

On Friday, July 24, 1964 at 10:00 PM,  Police arrest a 19-year old male for public intoxication at a block party.  About 200 people were gathered on Nassau Street near Joseph Avenue in the Seventh Ward in Rochester, New York.  There were rumors spreading that lead to the crowd becoming violent.  These rumors were that a child had been attacked by a police dog and a pregnant woman had been slapped by a police officer.

Police hold man spread-eagled over car hood Photo: University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections; and the Democrat & Chronicle

Police hold man spread-eagled over car hood
Photo: University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections;
and the Democrat & Chronicle

By 11:30 PM, about 400 people riot on Joseph Avenue; all available police officers are called to the scene. Bricks are thrown at police cars.

On July 25, 1964 at 12:30 AM, Police Chief William Lombard urges crowd to disperse. Rioters throw stones, spit on Lombard and overturn his car.   By 2:00 am, Police Chief William Lombard instructs officers on use of riot weapons.

Officer stands next to overturned car Photo: University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections; and the Democrat & Chronicle

Officer stands next to overturned car
Photo: University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections;
and the Democrat & Chronicle

 

By 3:30 AM, the crowd swells to more than 2,000; looting spreads down Joseph and Clinton Avenues; city police, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies are called in.  At 4:24 AM, a state of emergency is declared.

The crowd swells

The crowd swells

Police use fire hoses to break up riot Photo: City of Rochester, New York

Police use fire hoses to break up riot
Photo: City of Rochester, New York

A cash register on the ground in front of a looted grocery store on Bronson Avenue on July 25, 1964. (Photo: Staff photo / July, 1964)

A cash register on the ground in front of a looted grocery store on Bronson Avenue on July 25, 1964. (Photo: Staff photo / July, 1964)

State police on the streets of Rochester. (Photo: Staff photo / July, 1964)

State police on the streets of Rochester. (Photo: Staff photo / July, 1964)

 

When the sun came up, City Manager Porter Homer orders 8:00 PM curfew in the city of Rochester; closes the downtown and all liquor stores in Rochester and adjoining towns.  African American leaders go to the Public Safety Building, and volunteer to help quell disturbances planned in the Third Ward.

Main Street in the heart of Rochester is deserted at 9:10 p.m. just 40 minutes after curfew started in the embattled city. The curfew was one of several measures to keep peace in the community, scene of riots over the weekend. (AP photo, 7/28/1964

Main Street in the heart of Rochester is deserted at 9:10 p.m. just 40 minutes after curfew started in the embattled city. The curfew was one of several measures to keep peace in the community, scene of riots over the weekend. (AP photo, 7/28/1964

When night falls on July 25, 1964, violence breaks out in the Third Ward; angry mobs swarm the streets; rioters toss Molotov cocktails, rocks and bottles from rooftops and store windows.  At 10:00 PM, a white man is attacked and killed on Clarissa and Atkinson Streets.

On Sunday, July 26, 1964, at 3:00 PM, a helicopter surveying riot damage crashes into a Clarissa Street home, killing three.  At this link, Roberta Abbott Buckle talks about her perspective of the 1964 riots that started with racial resentment. Her father, Robert Abbott, director of Monroe County Civil Defense, was in a helicopter that crashed during the chaos. Video by Carlos Ortiz  http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/07/19/roberta-abbott-buckle-rochester-riots/12855941/

The National Guard called in to help “weary local and state police” control riot, marking the first time the National Guard is called out in a northern city.  By evening, the Rochester riots end. Nearly 1,000 people are arrested; the majority, between 20 and 40 years old, employed, with no prior record. Fifteen percent are white.

Rochester sidewalks get cleaned up following a night of window smashing, looting and general disorder in Rochester, New York, July 26, 1964. It was the second night in a row that the city was the scene of rioting. (AP Photo/Dozier Mobley)

Rochester sidewalks get cleaned up following a night of window smashing, looting and general disorder in Rochester, New York, July 26, 1964. It was the second night in a row that the city was the scene of rioting. (AP Photo/Dozier Mobley)

Race riots were nothing new in the United States and African Americans were not always the parties involved.  At the following link, you can find links to the riots throughout United States History.  They are grouped into periods:

Nativist Period 1700s-1860

Civil War Period 1861-1865

Post-Civil War and Reconstruction Period: 1865 – 1889

Jim Crow Period: 1890 – 1914

War and Inter-War Period: 1914 – 1945

Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Period: 1955 – 1977

Later

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4 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    Senseless and their anger leads them to become an out of control mob which then defeats the main issues they are fighting for. The times were horrible and to be mistreated due to the colour of one’s skin is no excuse but using what bis wrong to make another wrong and loot, destroy and kill is also wrong and never helps the cause

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    • I had heard about the race riots but I was very young when they occurred. I do remember vividly the riots after The police that beat Rodney King were acquitted. It was crazy and I am glad I didn’t live in California.

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  2. I live in Rochester and people have not forgotten those race riots. The discussions aren’t as public as they should be, and some of those neighborhoods are still a mess, but things are somewhat better than they were. Not as they should be, though. There’s still a lot of work to do.

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    • Very sad. Any unrest that leads to violence is hard to swallow. It’s hard to know what the solution could be. I suppose communication and education can be a big part of the solution.

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