This Police-Involved Killing Kicked Off A Summer Of Violence

demonstrators at the harlem 1964 riots
Leslie Taylor-Grover
July 22, 2022

It was the summer of 1964. The Civil Rights Act was now law, and it was officially illegal to discriminate against our people. We’d just won a major victory – or so we thought.

Just two weeks later, a Black teenager lay dead in the streets of Harlem, shot down by a white, off-duty police officer. Part of the officer’s defense was that he had 10+ years of experience. 

But that just brings up an important question.

If this officer had so much experience, why didn’t he know how to deal with a teenager without shooting him? The answer was simple – no matter what laws were passed, white police officers were still killing Black people, seemingly without reason. 

All Hell broke loose in Harlem.

For six days, riots erupted through Harlem and Brooklyn. In the end, the charges against the white officer were dropped – and riots in other cities broke out! Our people let the white politicians and police know one important thing.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave us a little bit of equality – on paper. It was not the end of our fight to demand our rights, and we must continue to fight today. We must never settle for the appearance of equality – words without action have no meaning!

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