Watts Rebellion

Watts Rebellion

The Watts Rebellion, also known as the Watts Riots, was a large series of riots that broke out August 11, 1965, in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles. The Watts Rebellion lasted for six days, resulting in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries and 4,000 arrests, involving 34,000 people and ending in the destruction of 1,000 buildings, totaling $40 million in damages.

Watts, California

It was a low-key traffic stop around 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening that ignited what would become known as the Watts Rebellion.

Stepbrothers Marquette and Ronald Frye were pulled over by a white California Highway Patrol officer while driving their mother’s car near the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Marquette failed a sobriety test and panicked as he was arrested. As Marquette’s anger rose at the thought of going to jail, a scuffle broke out between him and one of the police officers. Ronald joined in, partly to protest the arrest but also to protect his brother.

A crowd began to gather, and back-up police arrived under the assumption that the crowd was hostile, which resulted in a fight between someone in the crowd and an officer. Another newly-arrived officer jabbed Ronald in the stomach with his riot baton and then moved to intervene in the fight between Marquette and that officer.

Marquette was knocked down by the riot baton, handcuffed and taken to the police car. The Frye brothers’ mother, Rena, showed-up on the scene and—believing police were abusing Marquette—rushed to pull the officers off of him, resulting in another fight.

Rena was arrested and forced into the car, followed by Ronald, who was handcuffed after attempting to intervene peacefully in his stepmother’s arrest.

As the crowd got angrier about the scene they had witnessed, more highway patrol officers arrived and used batons and shotguns to keep the crowd back from the police car. Hundreds more people flocked to the scene to investigate the sirens there.

As two motorcycle police attempted to leave, one was spat on. Those police stopped to pursue the woman who they believed did it, the crowd converged around them, sending several other officers into the crowd to assist them. More police cars were called to the scene.

The two police found Joyce Ann Gaines and to arrest her for spitting at them. She resisted and was dragged out of the crowd which, believing she was pregnant, became even angrier.

By 7:45 p.m., the riot was in full force, with rocks, bottles and more being thrown at the buses and cars that had been stalled in traffic because of the escalating incident.

Watts Explodes

The night after the arrest, crowds attacked motorists with rocks and bricks, and pulled white drivers out of their cars and beat them.

The following morning, there was a community meeting helmed by Watts leaders, including representatives from churches, local government and the NAACP, with police in attendance, designed to bring calm to the situation. Rena also attended, imploring the crowds to calm down. She, Marquette and Ronald had all been released on bail that morning.

The meeting became a barrage of complaints about the police and government treatment of Black citizens in recent history. Immediately following the statement by Rena, a teenager grabbed the microphone and proclaimed that rioters planned to move into the white sections of Los Angeles.

William Parker

Local leaders requested the police dispatch more Black police, but this was turned down by the Los Angeles Police Department Chief William H. Parker, who was prepared to call the National Guard. Word of this decision and subsequent news reports about the teenager’s tirade are credited with causing the riots to escalate.

Overnight, violence had engulfed the streets as mobs clashed with police, set buildings and cars on fire and looted area stores. Crowds attacked firefighters and obstructed them from putting out fires.

By the end the third day, rioting covered a 50 square-mile section of Los Angeles and 14,000 National Guard troops were dispatched to the city, erecting barricades. Further clashes included sniper fire at police and Guardsmen, police raids on vehicles and apartments, and Molotov cocktails. Watts resembled a war zone, and the violence continued three more days.

Police Commissioner Parker fanned flames by deriding rioters as “monkeys in a zoo” and implying Muslims were infiltrating and agitating. In the early morning of the final day of the riots, as violence began to subside, police surrounded a mosque, resulting in gunfire and the arrest of people inside.

Police ransacked the building next door and tear-gassed the sewers to prevent anyone from escaping. Two fires broke out and destroyed the mosque. Charges were dropped against arrestees and the Muslim community accused police of using the riots as an excuse to destroy their place of worship.

After the Watts Rebellions

Most of the 34 dead were Black citizens. Two policemen and one firefighter were among the casualties, and 26 deaths, mostly the result of Los Angeles Police Department or National Guard actions, were deemed justifiable homicides.

A commission was set-up to study the causes of the riot, after which several community-improvement suggestions were made that would improve schools, employment, housing, healthcare and relations with the police department.

There was little follow-up, but a new era of DIY local activism blossomed in Watts, including reformed street gang members who joined with the Black Panther Party to rebuild and monitor police excesses.

What Caused the Riots

The riot was not an isolated event, with multiple urban riots across the country taking place in 1964 and 1965 prior to the Watts explosion.

In 1964, there was a three-day riot in Rochester, NY, leaving four dead; in the New York City neighborhoods of Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, a six-day riot involving as many as 4,000 people following the shooting of a young Black man; in Philadelphia, a three-day riot following the arrest of a Black couple who had gotten into a scuffle with police; and a three-day riot in Chicago when a Black woman attempting to shoplift alcohol was attacked by the store owner and crowds later gathered to protest.

Some blamed the Watts riots on outsider agitators, but most understood it as the result of continuing dissatisfaction about living conditions and opportunities, and long-standing tension between police and residents.

In 1961, the arrest of a Black male in Griffith Park for riding a merry-go-round without a ticket resulted in crowds throwing rocks and bottles at police. In 1962, the police raided a Nation of Islam mosque and killed an unarmed man, resulting in massive protests.

Over the two years leading up to the riot, 65 Black residents were shot by police, 27 of them in the back and 25 of them unarmed. During that same period, there were 250 demonstrations against the living conditions there.


Nationwide, the violence would not end. On August 12, the day after tensions erupted in Watts, Chicago’s troubled Garfield Park neighborhood erupted into three days of violence following the death of Dessie May Williams in a fire truck ladder accident.

The following year saw fire bombings, riots, and killing in the same city. And the Detroit Riots began two years later, resulting in 43 deaths. The 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King beating trial of four police officers led to the deaths of 63 people and were a grim reminder that many issues of racism remained unresolved.


Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. The Eisenhower Foundation.
Watts Riots: Traffic stop was the spark that ignited days of destruction in L.A. Los Angeles Times.
Watts: Remember what they built, not what they burned. Los Angeles Times.

A Lost Lyrical Commemoration of the Watts Rebellion

The episode of civil disorder known either as the "Watts Riots" or the "Watts Rebellion" is generally considered to have ended on this date in 1965, though the grievances driving the unrest arguably remain unaddressed.--ed.

Fifty-five years ago, Chicago folk artist and political activist Mike Muench wrote and sang, but never recorded, this song:

When It&rsquos Summer in Los Angeles

When you can&rsquot get a job, when people stare you in the face

When scores of sneering faces insult the color of your race

When the forces of the nation are all brought down upon you

When it&rsquos summer in Los Angeles what are you going to do?

The papers say that vandals are tearing up the street

It just can&rsquot be rebellion so they blame it on the heat

The police sent in more cops and Watts town sent more men

Then they called in the national guard, it&rsquos 1913 again.*

Now I&rsquod rather see a sit-in with its picketers and signs

But everyone is tired of all the jailings and the fines

When peaceful protests&rsquo pleadings fall on numberless deaf ears

But you find that they are listening when this kind of trouble nears.

Well-fed faces say in chorus that we must respect the law

But when law and order bind you what conclusion can you draw?

When the forces of this nation are all brought down upon you

When it&rsquos summer in Los Angeles what are you going to do?

[Words and music by Michael Muench 1965, no copyright.]

Pete Seeger&rsquos refrain in his 1955 song &ldquoWhere Have All the Flowers Gone?&rdquo posed the still unanswered question: &ldquoOh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?&rdquo

* &ldquoBy the Associated Press: LOS ANGELES, Dec. 25.&mdashRafael Adames, a Mexican, was killed and fifty men were injured in a riot at the Plaza when the officers started to break up a meeting of nearly 1000 unemployed and hungry men, many of them Industrial Workers of the World and Mexicans. Nearly fifty of the rioters were arrested.&rdquo

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@kentuckycat - You are absolutely correct. Whenever there is a riot that is racially motivated it is a black eye on the cities history and is basically impossible to shake. People associate racism with the problems that caused people to revolt and this is reflective on the way things are in the city. Because of this people studying the city's history assume that it must have been a really racist, bad situation at the time and that their city may not have been a very happy place to live.

I used to live in St. Louis and they still talk about the race riot that occurred there in 1917 and I have also lived in Chicago and besides gangsters like Al Capone the worst things that are talked about in schools involved the race riot Red Summer, which may be the worst in American history.

Instances like these never reflect well on a city's history and it is unfortunate, but must be studied in order to get an idea of the past so we can learn from it and move on. matthewc23 October 8, 2011

I like how whenever there is a riot of some sort there is a catalyst that is always involved that does not necessarily have much significance to the problems at hand.

With the Watts rebellion it seemed like it was a simple traffic stop with racial motives involved. Because there were a lot of people that did not like what they saw and they had all this pent up racial tension they just naturally reacted and revolted against what they saw as the symbol of their oppressors, the police officers.

In any riot a catalyst must happen in order for it to gain steam and it can be something complex and significant or it can be something as simple as a single routine act that is seen as unfair by those who are frustrated with the situations they are forced to live in. kentuckycat October 7, 2011

@stl156 - I have to agree with you about the Watts rebellion and its relation to the Civil Rights movement. I have studied various other race riots, such as Red Summer in Chicago in 1919 and the East St. Louis race riot in 1917 and riots like these happen in very racially charged areas and the Watts riot is no different, except that it occurred during the Civil Rights movement.

I see the Watts riot as being similar to the race riots in 1968 in Detroit in that people were sick of all the racism and the way the police were treating blacks in the area and eventually revolted because of something they did not like.

Instances like these are usually black eyes on the cities history and are very hard to shake away. stl156 October 6, 2011

The Watts rebellion is similar to any other race riot that has occurred in this country. Throughout the 20th century there were several riots that were similar to the Watts rebellion and was simply a case of built up racially charged tension that eventually spilled over into a full scale riot.

Although the Watts rebellion can be connected to the Civil Rights movement it is no different than various other riots that occurred throughout the 20th century. All had similar circumstances and the much needed catalyst that caused all the frustrations to come out in a very violent outburst.

History of Watts

The area now known as Watts began its modern history after the arrival of Spanish-Mexican settlers, as part of the Rancho La Tajuata, which received its land grant in 1820. As on all ranchos, the principle vocation was livestock grazing and beef production.

With the influx of white Americans into Southern California in the 1870′s, La Tajuata land was sold off and subdivided for smaller farms and homes. In those days each Tajuata farm had an artesian well. The arrival of the railroad spurred the development of the area and in 1907 Watts was incorporated as a separate city named after the first railroad station built in the town, Watts Station. The city voted to annex itself to Los Angeles in 1926.

A vision of Los Angeles 100 years ago

Along with more Caucasian Americans, Mexican and Mexican American railroad workers (“traqueros”) settled in the community. Blacks came in later and many of the men were Pullman car porters and other railroad workers. Schoolroom photos from 1909 and 1911 show only two or three black faces among the 30 or so children pictured. By 1914, a black realtor, Charles C. Leake, was doing business in the area.

Watts did not become predominantly black until the 1940′s, as the second Great Migration brought tens of thousands of migrants from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas who left segregated states in search of better opportunities in California. During World War II, the city />built several large housing projects (including Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs and Imperial Courts) for the thousands of new workers in war industries. By the early 1960′s, these projects had become nearly 100 percent black, as whites moved on to new suburbs outside the central city. As industrial jobs disappeared from the area, the projects housed more poor families than they had initially.

Longstanding resentment by Los Angeles’ working-class black community over discriminatory treatment by police and inadequate public services, (especially schools and hospitals), exploded on August 11, 1965 into what were commonly known as the Watts Riots. The event that precipitated the disturbances, the arrest of a black youth by the California Highway Patrol on drunk-driving charges, actually occurred outside of Watts. Mobs did the most property damage in Watts during the turmoil.

Watts suffered further in the 1970′s as gangs gained strength and raised the level of violence in the neighborhood. Between 1989 and 2005, police reported more than 500 homicides in Watts, most of them gang-related and tied to wars over control of the illegal but lucrative drug market in the area. Four of Watts’ influential gangs (Watts Circle City Piru Bloods, Grape Street Watts Crips, Bounty Hunter Watts Bloods and PJ Watts Crips) formed a Peace Treaty agreement in 1992 following just over four years of peace talks which were initiated in July 1988 with support of the local community. The spokespersons for groups taking part in the peace talks were Twilight and Twelve.

Twilight and Twelve photos from the 1988 Peace Talks press conference were printed on the front pages of regional and local newspapers and their interviews with TV news crews were on every news channel. In the months and years to follow Twilight would appear on National TV talk shows and speak at several college and university campuses. Both Twilight and Twelve received death threats due to misinterpretation of newspaper articles by their peers, many of whom would join the peace movement in the months and years to come.

The Watts Rebellion began on August 11, 1965, when a white California highway patrol officer pulled over black Watts resident Marquette Frye and his brother on suspicion of drunk driving. The Los Angeles Police Department was called for backup as a crowd gathered to watch. Because the incident was close to the Fryes’ home, the boys’ mother arrived on the scene — a struggle ensued, which led to the arrest of all three Frye family members by LAPD officers.

Angered by the family’s arrests, Watts residents began to protest as the police cars drove away. The escalated tension from the growing crowd sparked rioting, which lasted five days and involved 10-30,000 people. Many of those involved in the uprising set fires and looted local stores. Others turned cars over and battled the police.

The rebellion ended by August 17, with 14,000 National Guard troops arriving to patrol the streets. All told, the Watts Rebellion resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injured, nearly 4,000 arrests, and more than $40 million in property damage.

California Governor Pat Brown named John McCone to head a commission to study and investigate the “riots.” The commission report concluded that the unrest was a result of the Watts community’s longstanding grievances and discontent with unemployment, poor housing, and inadequate schools.

Despite the findings of the governor’s commission, local, state and federal programs implemented following the rebellion failed to significantly improve the social and economic conditions of African Americans living in Watts and surrounding impoverished Los Angeles communities over the long term. In the ensuing decades many of the issues of poverty and discrimination still plague the community, which today has shifted demographically from predominantly African American to mostly Latino.

The Watts Rebellion is considered by many to have been one of the key turning points in the African American Civil Rights movement, and has served to shape scholarly and public understanding of race rebellions and the development of race relations in the United States.

Watts, California (1903- )

Watts, one of the most famous neighborhoods in Los Angeles, California, is located approximately seven miles southeast of downtown. Originally part of the Rancho La Tajauta Mexican land grant, Watts was incorporated in 1903 and began to grow as a community in 1907, when the Watts Station was built and transportation within Watts became easier. The town was attractive to working class families and differed from other suburban communities in that it welcomed white, black, and Latino families. By 1920, 14% of Watts’ population was African American which at that time was the highest in California.

In 1926, Los Angeles annexed Watts. The African American population continued to grow after annexation and by World War II the community was inhabited mostly by middle class blacks. World War II brought tens of thousands of black and white migrants from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas. The city built new public housing projects to accommodate the increased population, most of which were located in Watts. By the early 1960s, these projects had become largely dominated by African Americans, as whites moved to the surrounding suburbs which excluded black settlement. Watts increasingly became an island of black poverty surrounded by middle class white suburbs.

This economic and racial isolation generated resentment against insufficient hospitals and schools and frequent incidents of police brutality. The latter led to the Watts Riots on August 11, 1965 following an altercation between Marquette Frye, an African American motorist, and Lee Minikus, a white police officer who pulled him over for drunk driving. The Watts riots involved residents’ looting and vandalizing the area, attacks on the police, and arson. During the six day riot 34 people were killed and 1,032 injured. The riot caused an estimated $40 million in damage and 3,438 arrests.

After the riots, Watts suffered further as gangs grew more powerful and the level of violence rose. Between 1989 and 2005, the police reported more than 500 homicides in Watts, most of them gang-related and connected to the fight over control of the illegal drug market. Four gangs, the Watts Cirkle City Piru Bloods, Grape Street Watts Crips, Bounty Hunter Watts Bloods, and PJ Watts Crips, were responsible for most of that violence.

The gang violence and continuing poverty and isolation of Watts generated a shift in population. Those African Americans who had the resources left the area for other parts of Los Angeles and in some instances for a return to the U.S. South. As blacks abandoned the area, primarily Hispanic immigrants from Mexico and Central America replaced them. By the 2000 census, Watts was no longer a predominantly black section. Almost 61% of the residents were Latino and only 38% were African American. Watts was no longer black but it remained impoverished. Half of the families and individuals in Watts had incomes that placed them below the poverty line.

Neighborhood leaders have recently begun a strategy to overcome Watts’ reputation as a violent and impoverished location. They point with pride to the museums and art galleries that were opened in the area in the 1990s surrounding the Watts Towers, a multistory sculpture in the heart of the community.

Op-Ed: Fifty-five summers have gone by since the Watts rebellion. How far have we traveled?

In the summer of 1965, my birthday cake was stuck at a bakery across town. My mother couldn’t get to it because Watts was on fire, which sent surrounding cities, like ours in the South Bay, into lockdown.

No way could she have known when she placed the order for my fifth birthday that a white highway patrol officer would soon pull over a young Black man for reckless driving and, in the ensuing chaos, arrest him, his brother and his mother. It was a sequence of events that played poorly in a community already bristling at overcrowded housing, low-wage jobs and routine incidents of police brutality.

In those six days of rebellion — which some might call a fed-up-rising — residents clashed not only with police but also the National Guard. In the end, 34 people lay dead, more than 1,000 had been injured, and tens of millions of dollars in property was gutted.

That smoke lingers, and the people periodically erupt in outrage, as when officers were acquitted in 1992 following the brutal beating of Rodney King, or when George Floyd died after a cop knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he lay face down and handcuffed.

As the New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote recently, “The lulls you experience between explosive revolts of the oppressed should never be mistaken as harmony. They should be taken as rest breaks.”

In the summers of the 1960s and early 1970s, my family could only hope for the best when driving while Black from Los Angeles to New York every other year. We went to reconnect with our East Coast kin.

To guide us, my mother ordered TripTiks from the American Automobile Assn., small, spiral-bound books that outlined the best path. My sense is that my parents asked for directions that expressly avoided the South, out of concern that we might get pulled over by racist highway patrolmen during the turbulent civil rights era.

In a time before major interstate highways, we connected to Route 66 and kept it moving along two-lane highways dotted with bad diners and dimly lighted motels. To pass the time, my mother read my father and me novels, such as “The Grapes of Wrath.” The AAA TripTiks highlighted points of interest along the way, such as Native communities or petroglyphs, but we flew by them all to make “good time.”

Once we were safely in New York, our people descended on us in my grandmother’s Harlem kitchen. Over the next couple of weeks, we visited family around the tri-state area and in New Castle, Del., and binged on a buffet of delights at Coney Island.

Only on the way back did we slow down to sightsee. We might cruise the pulse of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue or down a two-laner through Davenport, Iowa, stalks of corn swaying as if to the tune of “for amber waves of grain.”

We wound our way up the Black Hills of South Dakota to regard the 60-foot faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln blast-sculpted into granite. We strolled around charming Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and heard the church bells peel at noon.

When we entered a restaurant, hotel or curio shop, I secretly watched to see how people received us as a Black family. I can’t remember coming across anyone who was unwelcoming.

At the same time, these were the same years when a president, a presidential hopeful — John and Robert Kennedy — along with three civil rights leaders, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, were assassinated.

The tranquil beauty of the United States passing by my window over those summers seemed out of sync with our country’s history of violent bloodshed. I began to perceive the image of America as a glossy brochure for a house, where the best features are well-lighted and captured with a wide lens while flaws, such as lead water, termites and a roof about to cave, were cropped out.

Of all the places we toured, Mt. Rushmore made the deepest impression. At the time, I was ignorant that it was built on stolen Indigenous land by a sculptor with ties to the Ku Klux Klan. I just remember gazing up at those carved faces, particularly Lincoln’s, farthest to the right, and noting that the pinch in his brow barely hinted at the pressure he faced watching the U.S. become engulfed in a civil war over slavery.

Though Lincoln tried to warn us that a house divided against itself cannot stand, our country has yet to mend its cracked foundation. Too many continue to hold the American brochure aloft, while stubbornly refusing to address the pressing repairs needed to fix the racism, inequality and police brutality.

Recently, I heard a NPR interview with the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist, Martin Luther King Jr.’s old church in Atlanta. He said that the current moment is not about burning ourselves out trying to squash all racial hate.

“I just want to make sure that our city and our state and our country is not too busy to love,” he said. “And justice is what love looks like in public.”

As the 55th anniversary of those fateful, fiery days in Watts approaches, there’s no AAA TripTik we can follow to show us a way forward. But I think James Baldwin sagely pointed toward the North Star when he observed: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Pamela K. Johnson is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. @pamelasez

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The Background

Though the five-day revolt began in August 1965, its roots go all way back to the aftermath of World War II, when hundreds of thousands of African-Americans traveled to the west to flee the discrimination and racism they found in the east and the south. Unfortunately, they couldn’t escape it. The lines of inequality were clearly seen in the difference in education, housing, and employment. Decades of mistreatment and suffering led to an overflow of outrage in August 1965.


Bringing the Watts rebellion, the rise of the carceral state, and the celebration of Wattstax into the same frame helps us to educate a new generation about the urban rebellions of the 1960s. As we work to incorporate the black freedom struggle “beyond Dixie” into our classrooms, seeing the many meanings of the events in Watts can provide students with new insight into both the past and the present moment. Given the wave of popular protests currently sweeping college campuses and the streets—and the outrage over recent pepper-spraying incidents by police—a revival of academic interest in urban rebellions seems inevitable. In the aftermath of last year’s social upheaval and massive public protest in the Middle East, Western Europe, and then the United States, celebrated by Wall Street demonstrators as the “Arab Spring, European Summer, and New York Fall,” what radical social historian E. P. Thompson so powerfully annointed “the moral economy of the crowd” has renewed meaning for many, both at home and abroad.

Gerald Horne, Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s (New York: Da Capo Press: 1997), 45–133 Heather Thompson, “Urban Uprisings: Riots or Rebellions,” in The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s, ed. David Farber and Beth Bailey (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 109.

Horne, Fire This Time Horne, “Black Fire: ‘Riot’ and ‘Revolt’ in Los Angeles, 1965 and 1992” in Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California, ed. Lawrence B. De Graaf, Kevin Mulroy, and Quintard Taylor (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), 377–404.

Horne, Fire This Time, 134–67.

To familiarize students with the cross-currents surrounding Watts and the 1960s urban rebellions, there are a number of rich primary and secondary sources that offer competing points of view. Some excellent options include The McCone Commission Report on Watts, available online at The Kerner Commission Report, excerpts of which can be found here: James Baldwin, The Fire This Time Johnny Nash and Donald Warden’s performance and spoken word album, “Burn Baby Burn” writings by the Black Power activists who emerged in the wake of Watts, including Huey Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide (1973) and Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (1970). For a broader social history of the West Coast Black Power movement that cohered in the wake of Watts, see Donna Murch, Living for the City: Migration, Education and the Rise of the Black Panther Party (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010) Judson L. Jeffries and Malcolm Foley, “To Live and Die in L.A.” in Comrades: A Local History of the Black Panther Party ed. Judson L. Jeffries (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), pp. 255–90 Darnell Hunt, Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities (New York: New York University Press, 2010).

Heather Thompson, “Urban Uprisings,” 109–17 Horne, “Black Fire Horne, Fire This Time Manning Marable, Race, Reform and Rebellion. The debate about the efficacy and rationality of popular street protest certainly did not start in postwar U.S. and African American history, and compelling parallels can be seen in E.P. Thompson’s revisionist history of working-class struggle in the “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present 50 (February 1971): 76–136.

Horne, Fire This Time, 64–78 Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating The Future in Los Angeles (New York: Verso, 2006).

Bayard Rustin, “‘Black Power’ and Coalition Politics,” Commentary 42 (September 1966): 35–40.

Cleaver, Soul On Ice, 38 Horne, “Black Fire,” 381–82.

Martin Schiesl, “Behind the Shield: Social Discontent and the Los Angeles Police since 1950” in City of Promise: Race and Historical Change in Los Angeles, ed. Martin Schiesl and Mark M. Dodge, 137–74 Davis, City of Quartz Murch, Living for the City Horne, Fire This Time.

Washington Post, December 9, 1969, A1 Mike Davis, City of Quartz, 298 For Panthers’ account of this incident, see “Pigs Attack Southern California Chapter Of Black Panther Party,” The Black Panther, December 13, 1969. For a more comprehensive account of this development in the second half of the twentieth century, see Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010).

Mike Davis, City of Quartz, 221–64, 268. Article dates are misquoted in Davis’s footnotes. For correct article citations, see Los Angeles Times April 3, 1988 and April 6, 1988.

Donna Murch, Crack: A Social History, forthcoming book manuscript.

For recent historical scholarship on the modern American carceral state please see Heather Thompson, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and Transformation in Postwar American History” Journal of American History (December 2010): 703–734 Donna Murch, Living for the City Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (New York: Verso, 1999) Kelly Lytle Hernandez, MIGRA! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (University of California Press, 2010) Khalil Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Ideas about Race and Crime in the Making of Modern Urban America. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010) Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of a Prison Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010) Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley: University of California, 2007).

Horne, The Fire This Time Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow.

Donna Murch, “The Urban Promise of Black Power: African American Political Mobilization in Oakland and the East Bay, 1961–1977,” (PhD diss., University of California Berkeley, 2005), 159.

This is not to imply that white anti-liberalism started in the late sixties. As Thomas Sugrue’s Origins of the Urban Crisis, Heather Thompson’s “Mass Incarceration,” and my own book, Living for the City, have shown, white backlash had broader and deeper roots in postwar struggles over jobs, housing, schools, and black migration to northern cities that stretched back to the World War II era. Nevertheless, more historical scholarship is needed examining specific national and regional responses by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to the radical social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. For important pioneering work in this regard, please see Christian Parenti, Lockdown America.

Watch the video: LA 92 Full Documentary. National Geographic (December 2021).