chapter  19
9 Pages

The riots of the 1960s

ByWilliam J. Collins

The riots of the 1960s were neither the first nor last examples of destructive civil disorders in American history. However, they were different in ways that make the period stand out from others. Prior to the 1940s, most race-related riots were instigated by whites who attacked blacks, as in the infamous 1919 riot in Chicago and the 1921 riots in Tulsa. In 1943, there were riots bearing a closer resemblance to those that occurred in the 1960s, including clashes between black civilians and police, looting of retail establishments, and arson. But in comparison with the 1943 riots, those of the 1960s were unprecedented in scale and scope. Hundreds of riots broke out all over the United States in the space of a few years. To the extent that the outbreaks had particular targets, Sugrue (2008: 326) points out that most violence was directed toward the police and local shops in black neighborhoods. White residential neighborhoods were rarely affected directly. Most riots were not severe in terms of loss of life or property damage, but several were extremely serious by historical standards.