The Harlem & Bed Stuy “Race Riot” of 1964 –
On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act which banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and ended segregation of public places. Two weeks after on July 15, 1964, 15-year old African American James Powell, was murdered by white off-duty police Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan. Powell’s murder enraged the Harlem community as another instance of a black person lost to police brutality. The first two days of protest regarding Powell’s death were peaceful in Harlem and other communities of New York City. On July 18th, protesters were at the police station in Harlem to call for the resignation or termination of Thomas Gilligan. The station was being guarded by police officers leading to some protestors throwing bricks, rock and bottles at the officers who walked through the crowd with nightsticks.


After word about the confrontation outside of the police station got back to different communities, riots began in then – black and Puerto Rican neighborhood, Bedford Stuyvesant. The riots lasted in Harlem and Bed Stuy for six days with businesses being vandalized and set on fire. It all came to a cease on July 22 with roughly 450 arrests, 100 people injured and 1 million dollars worth of property damage. The riots in both boroughs spurred off into a series of summer riots in different parts of the country, such as Rochester and Philadelphia. President Lyndon B. Johnson feared these riots would cause a rise in white backlash, putting a dent in his election hopes.

“One of my political analysts tells me that every time one occurs, it costs me 90,000 votes.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson

Harlem’s City College lockdown, 1969 –
On a rainy Spring morning in 1969, 200 Black and Puerto Rican students locked down the doors to City College in a victorious attempt for the City University of New York to allow open admissions for oppressed nationalities. A take over that only took 45 seconds lasted in a two-week lockdown of 17 buildings in the south Campus. Reactionary white students antagonized the students holding the lockdown.

“Whites were generally quite upset. Some yelled “Black bastards, go back to Africa,” but the answers they received were similar to “Charlie, your momma swings to “Charlie, your momma swings through trees and she’s as Black as me,” and “Why don’t you come into the gate and get your trashy sister off South Campus.” Obviously tempers snapped. As the poor whites rushed towards the gates, they were dismissed summarily by both the Black students’ security force and the College Security, which was powerless to remove the BPRSC but which did prevent some white students from getting hurt.” – The Harvard Crimson

Fearful of extreme violence happening on the campus due to prior racial violence, Mayor John V. Lindsay and other New York City political leaders gave in to opening the doors to Black and Latinx students. White students who were also unable to attend benefitted from open admissions. The students renamed it The University of Harlem.


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