Example Of Rochester Riots In 1964 Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: America, Race, United States, City, African American, Crime, Police, New York

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/12

“People were stunned as to how could this happen in Rochesterand affluent eastern city that had a reputation of being very benevolent and generous” stated the mayor of Rochester in 1964. The image of abject poverty, subpar education, lack of economic opportunities, and squalid conditions in the inner cities has recurred time and again throughout U.S. history. Such inequities have spawned waves of violence fueled by racial antagonism when liberalism had reached its apex in American society. The seminal Civil Rights Act had been ratified only a few weeks before. Thus, in July 1964, a three-day race riot took place in two African-American communities in Rochester, New York. What incited such a treacherous wave of violence was the attempt by the Rochester Police to arrest a nineteen year old African American male who was intoxicated in public during a block party (Mangione). Resentment and frustration spawned by structural and institutional racism, lack of job opportunities, overcrowding , and brutal police tactics such as unleashing police K-9 Corps dogs, incited racial violence and subsequently tore the Rochester community asunder because of police profiling and police brutality in the city. Archives, news reports, and oral histories given by participants and witnesses that elucidate both the causes and consequences of the historic race riots. The Rochester riots ultimately showcased how race and the entitlement that race may or not carry continues to be a divisive and destructive issue in the present day.
During the 1950s, droves of African Americans migrated from the Bible Belt in the Deep South to the North in the hopes of securing a job in order to improve their lives. Rochester, New York was known for its progressive social justice history and a hubbub of the manufacturing industry. As a result, immigrants and subaltern citizens alike flocked to Rochester, resulting in a three hundred percent increase in its population. Journalists often referred to the city as “Smugtown USA” for the exponential spike in population numbers that took place in just one decade. Unfortunately, politicians in Rochester eschewed the presence of the majority of the migrants, so their housing and education needs were not met. Severe housing shortages further restricted and alienated the African-American working class into the most impoverished and oldest urban neighborhoods, which included the Corn Hill and Joseph Avenue districts. Landlords living in these areas subdivided tenement buildings illegally in order to lodge more people and yield greater profits, which resulted in poor living conditions and severe overcrowding. Moreover, Rochester police reinforced de facto segregation of African Americans and other subaltern community members. Such spatial containment by local institutions underscores how a system of apartheid was firmly entrenched in the oppressive south. As a result, Franklin Florence, a minister and community leader, opined how the latent rage of the African-American migrants escalated into full blown violence that required the National Guard to come to the city in order to quell the racial tensions. Governor Nelson Rockefeller restored peace by calling on the state National Guard to restore order, which was the first time a northern city required armed force to intervene and quell simmering racial tensions. This uprising catalyzed a litany of riots in large and small cities in the North. Such acts of civil disobedience, chaos, and disruption cultivated certain sentiments that are pertinent to modern-day society.
Initially, city officials blamed “outside agitators” for jumpstarting the riots despite the fact that all o f the rioters that were arrested and incarcerated lived locally. Constance Mitchell, the Third Ward Supervisor, asserted that she personally knew the young rioters, “and it was the good kids in my ward who first threw the bricks through the windows. Then the adults stepped in. This community just went insane” (Democrat and Chronicle). A year after the riots, various studies debunked the image of the rioters as lawless and anarchic. Indeed, African-American denizens living in Rochester felt disenchanted due to the fact that even after migrating to the north, the majority of African Americans lived in subsidized housing while also only working in low-skilled and low-pay occupations. More astonishing was the fact that New York was the last state to implement an adequate public housing program. Despite the fact that Eastman Kodak, the only industry in Rochester that paid both its blue-collar and white-collar workers relative high wages. However, in the same vein as other many American corporations, Kodak made an exerted effort to preserve stringent racial divisions in its labor force by only allowing migrants jobs that were menial and low paying. Some scholars have argued that the riots stemmed from endemic poverty rather than racism, although many point to the fact that poor whites who attended the same public schools as their African-American counterparts and who also could only secure low-wage and unskilled labor did not riot or cause any major disruptions, As such, histories concluded that race was the motivating factor for such hostilities and bitter violence.
After the riots died down, the proliferation of reformist organizations were created in order for African-American workers to effectively channel their anger. Saul Alinski, a community organizer and political figure, aligned himself with African-American church and political leaders in order to initiate FIGHT, which stood for “Freedom, Independence, God, Honor, Today,” This organization put forth modest reforms that included increased access to better-paying white-collar jobs and improve public housing at the local and state levels. Alinski famously deployed so-called “pressure tactics” as well as publicity stunts such as the disruption of shareholder meetings vis.a.vis sit-ins as a way to democratize American corporations.
For three days and two nights in the summer of 1964, thousands of African Americans residing in Rochester, New York rioted in the low-income inner-city neighborhoods despite the oppressive heat. Rioters looted local small businesses, damaged property by smashing in windows, and confronted and clashed with the police. Such anger and destructive was the result of the racial tensions that had been simmering under the surface for a protracted period of time. In the aftermath of the riots—which witnessed over seven hundred and fifty racially-motivated riots—claimed the lives of two hundred people while injuring over 13,000. The destruction caused by the riots ironically tore African-American neighborhoods in the inner city in complete ruins. Ultimately, the historical significance of the Rochester riots can only be understood and couched in racial terms. Indeed, the riots marks a period in history when racism was directly confronted and the problems such antagonism spawned. Paradoxically, social and racial inequalities in Rochester is arguably more pronounced in the present day than it had been in 1964

Works Cited

Hosmer, Howard C. A Panoramic History of Rochester and Monroe County. New York: Windsor Publishers, 1979. Print.
Kelley, R. To make our world anew: A history of African Americans. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004. Print
Mangione, Jerre. Mount Alegro: A Memoir of Italian American Life. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1989. Print.
"Rochester Race Riot Papers." Rochester Race Riot Papers. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

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Example Of Rochester Riots In 1964 Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-rochester-riots-in-1964-essay/. Published Feb 12, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2024.

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