Monday, June 26, 2017

The Rebellions of the 1960's.

The rebellions in America from 1963 to 1968 changed America forever. They were a part of the expressions frustrations of many about the injustices going on in the United States of America. These rebellions were different from the anti-black riots from white racists in that white racists had the intention specifically to murder and target black people violently. These rebellions of the 1960’s were created out of anger and out of hurt from neglect and oppression from capitalist America. The Second Great Migration allowed millions of African American to go into large urban centers in the North, the Midwest, and the West. Black people in those locations still faced de facto segregation (which is segregation by unwritten policies not by legal mandate), struggling educational services, police brutality, racism, discrimination, and bad social plus economic conditions. The 1963 Birmingham rebellion was a watershed movement in American history. This was long before the Watts rebellion. Black people in the South used self-defense for centuries and this rebellion was the beginning of the others in the future years after 1963. It started after white racists bombed many homes belonging to African Americans like the Gaston Motel, and the home of A.D. King (or Dr. King’s brother). The bystander Roosevelt Tatum survived one bombing too. Tatum said that the local police planted the bombs and A.D. King demanded that the FBI arrest local police members. Dr. King received a death threat. The Klan threatened people too. The Klan abhorred the agreement reached in Birmingham. On May 11, 1963, it started. One officer was stabbed. Many people started to reject nonviolence. State troopers came. One tank arrived. Armed cops patrolled the streets. White journalists and black people were sequestered in a bombed motel with no food or water until morning. President Kennedy wanted to promote law and order.

JFK enacted Operation Oak Tree which involved military force to end the rebellion in Birmingham. Operation Oak Tree was the first time in modern United States history that the federal government deployed military power in response to civil unrest without a specific legal injunction to enforce. Yet, Malcolm X accurately stated that Kennedy didn’t intervene when bombs were coming in the homes of black people or when dogs bit black men, black women, and black children in the streets. Malcolm X said that he only responded when black people used rebellion and self-defense. He’s right. New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell said that if Kennedy didn’t move quickly on civil rights in Birmingham and nationwide, then rebellions would spread nationwide including the capital of Washington, D.C. He was right also. Ironically, the rebellion increased the speed in which civil rights legislation would be passed. In August 1-4, 1963, white racists use bricks and bottles to harm the house of Reginald Williams (who is a black man) in the Englewood section of Chicago. More than 220 people are arrested. There was the Cambridge rebellion in 1963 too. Cambridge was in Maryland in the Maryland section of the Eastern Shore. The Civil Rights movement in Cambridge was led by Gloria Richardson and SNCC against the pro-segregationist police and power structure. I have been to Cambridge before in real life. The movement wanted to end discrimination. The Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) is founded soon after these initial demonstrations to support and continue local protests as early as 1962. SNCC and the CNAC also want fair housing, equal employment opportunities, and desegregation of public accommodations. The power structure refuses to budge. On June 14, 1963, a protest happened. Later, businesses were burned. White and African American citizens exchange gunfire and then martial law was declared by Governor Tawes. Governor Tawes declared martial law and deployed the Maryland National Guard to Cambridge after the CNAC refuses a year-long moratorium on protests. The guardsmen remain in the town for a 25-day period, from June 14 through July 8. During the summer, both white and blacks exchange gunfire continuously and the Maryland National Guard occupied Cambridge. In 1964, rebellions grew. During the summer of 1964, they existed in New York City, Rochester (in New York State), Philadelphia, Elizabeth (in New Jersey), Paterson (in New Jersey), and Dixmoor (or a suburb in Chicago).

The common factor among all of these rebellions is that these locations are filled with people who were victims of many injustices (like police brutality, racism, housing discrimination, economic exploitation, de facto segregation, and educational issues). Many people in the rebellions were working class. Most of these rebellions took place during the Summer of 1964. During the Watts rebellion of 1965 in Los Angeles changed everything. It happened when the police in Watts arrested a black person. The person’s mother’s intervened and the rebellion happened. For years, black people in Los Angeles were oppressed by the police. African Americans since the 1950’s have complained about excessive force by the police and discriminatory practices. Restrictive covenant policies restricted African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans from receiving adequate housing of their choice. White racists in the early 1950’s bombed homes, fired homes, and burnt crosses on the homes of black Americans in Suasion Avenue. White gangs harassed black people in LA since the 1920’s.  In August of 1965, the Watts rebellion happened. Homes were bombed. Stores were destroyed. The California Army National Guard arrested people. The military response was huge and some people used physical combat against the military. This was the beginning of some of the biggest urban unrest since the Civil War. Most of those involved in the rebellion had no criminal record. They were mostly working class human beings. Between 31,000 and 35,000 adults participated in the riots over the course of six days, while about 70,000 people were "sympathetic, but not active." Over the six days, there were 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $40 million in property damage. In a 1966 essay, black civil rights activist Bayard Rustin stated: "The whole point of the outbreak in Watts was that it marked the first major rebellion of Negroes against their own masochism and was carried on with the express purpose of asserting that they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. immediately came into Watts to access the situation. He was booed by some black people. Dr. King said that the rebellion was part of the frustration of black Americans. While he condemned the violence, he recognized that something must be done to address the needs of the black residents of Watts. The McCone Commission report identified the root causes of the riots to be high unemployment, poor schools, and other inferior living conditions for African Americans in Watts. The McCone Commission called for “emergency literacy and preschool programs, improved police-community ties, increased low-income housing, more job-training projects, upgraded health-care services, more efficient public transportation, and many more." Most of these recommendations were not acted upon. In 1966, rebellions happened in Chicago, Omaha, Cleveland, Waukegan (in Illinois), Benton Harbor (in Michigan), in Atlanta, and in other places. The 1967 rebellions were large and it was called by the media as ‘long hot summers.’ The biggest of such rebellions happened in Detroit from July 23-29, 1967. It happened because of many reasons. A white racist gang killed Danny Thomas, who was a black Army veteran. Since the 1950’s, there has been massive white flight. Detroit is known for its racism spanning decades and centuries. The police raided an after-hours club in Detroit. The police claimed that the club was didn’t have a legal license. One cop slammed the window of a social club with a sledgehammer.  Later, in a memoir, Walter Scott III, a doorman whose father was running the raided blind pig, took responsibility for starting the riot by inciting the crowd and throwing a bottle at a police officer. Then, the rebellion happened. It involved looting, sniper fire, burning of cars, and other actions. Local, state, and federal authorities were called. During these rebellions, police brutality was abundant too. Shortly before midnight on Monday, July 24, President Johnson authorized the use of federal troops in compliance with the Insurrection Act of 1807, which authorizes the President to call in armed forces to fight an insurrection in any state against the government. This gave Detroit the distinction of being the only domestic American city to have been occupied by federal troops three times. The U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division had earlier been positioned at nearby Selfridge Air Force Base in suburban Macomb County. Starting at 1:30 on Tuesday, July 25, some 8,000 Michigan Army National Guardsmen were deployed to quell the disorder. Later, their number would be augmented with 4,700 paratroopers from both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and 360 Michigan State Police officers. The local police assaulted those they have arrested both blacks and whites. The Algiers Motel incident was when the police murdered innocent people. The economic damage and the human life loss were huge. Thousands of people were injured. Dozens in about 43 people died. Damaged ranged above $40 million. Almost 400 families were homeless. The events caused the Housing bill in the state level to be passed in Michigan. It caused an acceleration of white flight. After 1967, Detroit’s infrastructure started to rapidly decline because of loss of tax revenue, underfunding, and the deindustrialization. The scale of the riot was surpassed in the United States only by the 1863 New York City draft riots during the American Civil War and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Detroit once had some of the highest growth of the black middle class in the nation. Detroit is resilient and today, Detroit has tons of real people doing great work. Many black nationalists like H. Rap Brown welcomed these rebellions as precursors to the revolution. Dr. King condemned the violence in the rebellions while understanding that riots are the voices of the unheard (and that you must do more than just condemn a riot. You have to understand what causes riots in order to find the solutions). 1967 saw rebellions in Cincinnati, Buffalo, Newark, Plainfield (in New Jersey), Cairo (in Illinois), Cambridge (in Maryland), Saginaw (in Michigan), and Milwaukee.

The 1968 Orangeburg Massacre in South Carolina involved the police killing innocent black demonstrators (who were protesting racial segregation in a bowling alley in Orangeburg, SC. Many of the protesters were students from South Carolina State University) in February 8, 1968. South Carolina State University is a HBCU or a Historically Black College or University. The state and local police officers fired guns on an unarmed group of black students. 3 students were killed and 27 people are wounded. It was an injustice by the police. In a state trial in 1970, the activist Cleveland Sellers was convicted of a charge of riot related to the events on February 6 at the bowling alley. He served seven months in state prison, getting time off for good behavior. He was the national program director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1973 he wrote The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC. Twenty-five years later, Sellers was officially pardoned by the governor of South Carolina. Cleveland Sellers was an innocent man who was oppressed by a racist regime in America. After the April 4, 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., rebellions happened in over 100 cities. Roy Wilkins and many moderate civil rights leaders wanted calm. Kwame Ture said that white America made a big mistake when Dr. King was murdered. Some people felt that nonviolence wouldn’t work to cause change. Johnson called Coretta Scott King to send condolences and to promote a sense of justice. Attorney General Ramsey Clark pushed the FBI to find the murderer. Troops and tanks were in the streets of Washington, D.C. Troops with machine guns were guarding the U.S. Capitol. This was the biggest insurrection since the Civil War. There were questions about whether the nation would survive. There were questions on whether people can come together. We, who live in this generation, are the answers to those questions. The truth is that the nation survived. The truth is that both nonviolence and self-defense are legitimate avenues of activism and hope should always be embraced by any oppressed people. The rebellions taught us that the voices of the oppressed must not only be heard, but respected. We are not na├»ve either. We have a long way to go. Imperialism, racism, police terrorism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of fascism still exist globally. Those evils must be eradicated completely. Compassion and empathy go a long way in fighting for justice. The movement continued and persisted.

By Timothy

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