African Americans Riot in Watts (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: Days after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the African-American community in Los Angeles exploded in an orgy of burning, looting, and violence.
Summary of Event
On the evening of August 11, 1965, on one of the hottest days of the year in Los Angeles, California, the black community erupted in what has come to be called the “Watts Riot.” Thirty-four people were killed, approximately four thousand were arrested, and more than $40 million in property damage was caused by the riot. ft was estimated that ten thousand people participated.
It came as a surprise to many that Los Angeles would be the scene of one of the most violent conflicts in the United States during the twentieth century. Most visitors to the black community in Los Angeles remarked on the fact that the community did not have the physical ugliness and dilapidated conditions of ghettos in the East, Midwest, and South. Moreover black Los Angeles did not have the tension-ridden history of other areas; for example, by 1741 New York City had experienced two major slave rebellions in which blacks had tried to burn down the entire city and had almost succeeded. Although blacks had participated in the founding of Los Angeles in 1781, an 1880 census showed that there were only about one hundred African Americans in the city. The black population of Los Angeles began to expand dramatically during World War II, when a...
(The entire section is 1775 words.)
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Watts Riot (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Violence in south Los Angeles raises concerns among nonviolent civil rights activists and underscores the need among African Americans and ethnic minorities for basic social reform.
Summary of Event
The outbreak of racial violence on August 11, 1965, shattered the summer calm of Los Angeles, California, and eroded the elation felt by many people when President Lyndon Baines Johnson had signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law only five days earlier. Official investigations confirmed that the causes of the upheaval were deeply rooted in the conditions of ghetto life in the sprawling metrop-olis. In less immediate terms, however, the upsurge of anarchistic energy stemmed from the existence of intolerable tensions in relations between whites and blacks within U.S. society.
The Watts area of Los Angeles provided a perfect setting for racial conflict. The neighborhood had long been the center of African American life in the city. As a result, Watts offered its inhabitants full exposure to the hazards of ghetto existence. More than 30 percent of the workforce was unemployed. Approximately 14 percent of the population was functionally illiterate. The black residents of Watts faced serious barriers in their pursuit of better housing, more remunerative jobs, and improved education. Separated from white society, Watts was a storehouse of combustible material on the southeast side of Los Angeles....
(The entire section is 1138 words.)