3 Major Race Riots That Shaped America's Understanding Of Black Protest

broken shop window from riot damage
Via Picryl
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
January 19, 2022

Harlem, beloved gem of NYC, is rooted in Black history. It was HERE that generations of Harlem’s Black residents took to the streets in protest. These three “race riots” forever shaped Harlem as a site of Black resistance!

#1: Harlem Race Riot of 1935 

Considered America’s first modern “race riot,” this uprising began with rumors that police had murdered a Black teenager. 10,000 of Harlem’s Black residents took to the streets, and within 24 hours there were 125 arrests, 100 injuries, 3 deaths, and $2 million worth of damages! Unfortunately, another incident occurred only 8 years later…

#2: Harlem Race Riot of 1943 

When a white policeman shot a Black WWII soldier, Harlem’s Black residents vandalized white-owned establishments, resulting in 6,600 police officers and 8,000 States Guardsmen being deployed to Harlem and the first city-wide curfew being mandated – which wouldn’t happen again until protests for George Floyd.

#3: Harlem Race Riot of 1964 

An OFF-DUTY policeman murdered a Black teenager. At first, a peaceful demonstration against police brutality was organized, but when police responded aggressively, a violent riot spread throughout NYC, resulting in 1 death, more than 100 injuries, and 450 arrests.

The Harlem Riots were rooted in police brutality and Black people collectively distrusting police. Nearly five generations have passed since 1935, yet we’re still fighting the same system.

Remember, America’s original “police” were slave patrols, and policing is still white supremacy disguised in a uniform. Like generations of Harlem’s Black community, we must persevere in fighting white supremacy by whatever means necessary!

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