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"They Aren't Going to Listen to Anything But Violence": African Americans and the 1967 Buffalo Riot.

On Monday, 26 June 1967, a riot broke out in the city of Buffalo, New York, when two white police officers intervened in an altercation between two male African American teenagers. The riot erupted when a crowd of approximately two hundred African Americans, many of whom were residents of the Lakeview Projects, a public housing facility, responded to the perception that the police used excessive force in attempting to subdue the two youths. The rioting continued intermittently until Saturday, I July 1967. (2) On the first night of the riot, reports estimated that the crowd swelled from about 200 to 350 people. By the second night of the riot, approximately 1500 African Americans were involved, throwing stones and bricks at police officers who attempted to subdue the crowds with teargas. (3) The five-night riot resulted in about sixty injuries, over 180 arrests, and approximately $250,000 worth of property damage done to stores and homes. (4)

The Buffalo riot was part of a wave of riots that swept across urban areas of the North in the late 1960s. In spite of the gains made by the Civil Rights movement in the South, the quality of life for African Americans in Northern cities in the 1960s was deteriorating. The Second World War stimulated population growth among African Americans in the North. According to historian Henry Taylor, Buffalo's black population increased exponentially from 1950 to 1970 as African Americans migrated from the South to industrial jobs in the North. As Taylor explains, the growth of Buffalo's African American population then led to the phenomenon of white flight, which also occurred in other Northern cities at the time:
  As thousands of African Americans moved into Buffalo City, even
  greater numbers of whites fled to the emerging suburban hinterland.
  Driven by postwar prosperity, low-interest loan rates (through the
  Federal Housing Authority and the Veterans Housing Administration),
  and radical changes in the home mortgage system, home ownership rose
  and fueled suburban development. Between 1950 and 1970 the Buffalo
  population declined by 117,000 people, a loss of 20 percent. ...
  Most people fleeing the city were white. (5)

White flight resulted in de facto housing segregation, wherein the majority of those living in the East Side of Buffalo were African Americans. At the time of the riot, approximately 100,000 African Americans resided in Buffalo. (6) They constituted 21 per cent of the total population of the city. (7) Most of them lived either within the area affected by the riot or nearby. According to a newspaper article, "the area in which the rioting broke out is bounded [on] the north by Genessee Street, on the west by Jefferson Street, on the south by Broadway and on the east by Fillmore Street." (8) The riot-affected area was referred to by the press as "the Negro ghetto," (9) suggesting that residential segregation was a well-known fact in Buffalo.

In order to comprehend the riot, it is necessary to consider the social conditions that produced it. Historian Kenneth Kusmer asserts that the Northern riots of the 1960s resulted from a combination of racism and deindustrialization. He maintains that "the rapidly growing African American communities of northern cities had largely been excluded from the fruits of urban renewal, suburbanization, and 'growth politics' promoted by white political and business leaders after World War Il ... the riots of the 1960s were one result of this increasing, and unacknowledged, inequality--a trend that coincided with the crisis of the declining industrial city." (10) Deindustrialization led to unemployment, particularly among young African American men, who were the first to be laid off as companies closed down their factories. De facto segregation in housing kept African Americans trapped in the deplorable conditions of Rust Belt cities with dwindling resources, such as Buffalo. In his study of the decline of the city of Detroit, historian Thomas Sugrue argues:
  The combination of discrimination and deindustrialization weighed
  most heavily on the job opportunities of young African American men.
  Young workers, especially those who had no postsecondary education,
  found that the entry-level operative jobs that had been open to their
  fathers or older siblings in the 1940s and early 1950s were gone...
  . The anger and despair that prevailed among the young, at a time of
  national promise and prosperity, would explode on Detroit's streets
  in the 1960s. (11)

The dual factors of racism and deindustrialization which plagued Detroit also affected Buffalo at the time, leading to similar results.

In order to gain a better understanding of the riot, we must examine the testimony of African Americans who lived in Buffalo at the time. Historian Robin Kelley suggests that "the political history of oppressed people cannot be understood without reference to infrapolitics." He insists:
  An infrapolitical approach requires that we substantially redefine
  our understanding of politics. Too often politics is defined by how
  people participate rather than why; by traditional definition the
  question of what is political hinges on whether or not groups are
  involved in elections, political parties, grass-roots social
  movements. Yet the how seems far less important than the why since
  many of the so-called real political institutions have not proved
  effective for, or even accessible to, oppressed people. (12)

Using Kelley's definition of infrapolitics, one can see how African Americans involved in Buffalo's 1967 riot spoke through their actions, through rioting, vandalism, looting, and the destruction of property. During the riot, black Buffalonians expressed their dissatisfaction with the terrible conditions under which they were forced to live. Yet once the riot was over, African Americans also reflected on the riot and its causes, and were unafraid to comment on it. African Americans who participated in and witnessed the riot, understood and framed it not as a spontaneous criminal act, but as a political one, as an act of resistance against racial inequality.

The Buffalo riot was part of a larger pattern of racial disturbances that rocked the United States in the late 1960s. Political scientist James Button argues that the riots of the 1960s were different from any civil disorders that occurred before. He contends, "Unlike most previous black riots in the United States, the upheavals of the 1960s were initiated and dominated by blacks rather than whites. These disorders were unique too in that black rioters tended to focus, either explicitly or implicitly, on the political system itself." (13) In his study of the 1967 riots in Newark, historian Kevin Mumford points out that "civic racism" led to black discontent. He suggests, "Among black people in Newark, the abuse of power led to the outbreak of civil disobedience." (14) Like their counterparts in Newark, African Americans in Buffalo were aware that the conditions in which they lived had deteriorated. They were frustrated with those conditions as well as the apathy that they felt white Americans in Buffalo, particularly those in power, showed towards them. Lack of opportunities in employment, de facto segregated housing, and inferior education all contributed to the frustrations that black Buffalonians felt. These frustrations manifested themselves in the 1967 riot.

African American Perspectives on the Riot

In July 1967, three weeks after the riot, sociologist Frank P. Besag of the State University of New York at Buffalo and his team of research assistants conducted interviews with Buffalonians who participated in and witnessed the riot. Commissioned by the Cooperative Urban Extension Center (CUEC), a consortium of local colleges and the State University of New York at Buffalo, and initiated at the request of a group of black Buffalonians, the purpose of the riot study was to ascertain "what the causes of the disturbances might have been." (15) The interviews conducted for Besag's riot study constitute the only first-person narratives about the riot which focused specifically on the perspectives of Buffalo's black residents, providing a glimpse into the thoughts of the people who were directly involved in, and most affected by, the riot. The interviews are crucial to understanding the reasons for the riot's outbreak.

African American rioters and bystanders offered many opinions regarding what they believed caused the riot. Sugrue maintains that a riot observer's political orientation determined how she or he viewed the riots of the 1960s. He asserts that "nearly every observer--black and white; conservative, liberal or leftist; grassroots participant or law enforcement official; civil rights leader or alienated youth--believed that the long hot summers were, to some extent, acts of resistance. They disagreed on how to interpret them." (16) Some black witnesses who were interviewed immediately after the riot indicated that unjust police actions precipitated the riot. For instance, when questioned about how the not started, an eighteen year-old African American rioter claimed:
  Well, there was a incident [sic] where there was a little argument
  between brothers so there was this policeman in the crowd at the time
  trying to disperse the crowd but instead of doing it the way most ..
  . the way anyone should do it, he swung his stick first and hit one
  boy in the head and another in the chest causing a very large bruise
  on his chest, and, you know, uh, through names he used like 'black
  bastard'... he tried to say that he was attacked first which wasn't
  true. (17)

Witnesses claimed that police brutality was the immediate spark of the riot. Black rioters viewed racist police practices, whether intentional or otherwise, as sufficient justification for their participation in, and their actions during, the riot.

An African American man who witnessed, but did not participate in, the riot provided an account of what he saw. When asked if he thought the police did anything to cause the riot, he answered, "Yes, I seen the police come out of cars with guns and pushing the people around down the street." When asked what else happened that night, he replied, "Well, two boys got put in jail. One boy got hit in the head with a stick ... they hit my brother in the head with a stick. And I told them that my brother was too young to get hit in the head with a stick." (18) Although it is unclear whether the man was speaking about his biological brother or if he was using the word colloquially to denote a fellow African American, the man was clearly outraged that the police would hit someone who was "too young." Another rioter explained that the riot was the result of being forced to endure the racial epithets that were hurled at black youths by police officers on a regular basis. The rioter told a newspaper reporter, "The cops, they come and push you off the street corners. Where else can you go but on the street corners? And they push and they say, 'Move, nigger.'" (19) The rioter was frustrated at being forced to hear racist slurs from white authority figures, whose job it was to ostensibly protect innocent citizens, not to herd them like cattle. Although it seems that a single incident of perceived police brutality initially started the riot on the night of June 266, the riot then continued intermittently for five days afterward. The riot, therefore, could not have remained a spontaneous eruption of crowd violence as there were many times during the five days when the crowd dispersed and regrouped again.

The 1967 riot was not the first one that black Buffalonians participated in that erupted because of racism. Historian Victoria Wolcott documents another riot that was precipitated by a racially-charged incident. She explains that in 1956, a riot broke out after "three white servicemen taunted a group of African American teenagers with racial epithets" at Crystal Beach amusement park near Fort Erie, Ontario, a popular cross-border destination for black youth from Buffalo. (20) While the 1956 riot did not lead to as much damage as the 1967 riot, the fact that a racist incident between white authorities and black youth sparked a riot was not a new phenomenon. Furthermore, the idea that a single incident of perceived police brutality precipitated the 1967 riot aligns with Sugrue's findings. He maintains, "Nearly every riot in the 1960s--other than those following King's assassination--was sparked by a police incident, usually the arrest, injury, or alleged harassment of a black person by a police officer. Police brutality and the capriciousness of the criminal justice system had been a long-running complaint among blacks." (21) The police were both the symbols and the perpetuators of the white supremacist system. They upheld racial inequality by policing the ghetto and ensuring that unemployed African Americans did not disturb the white peace. As such, they were the primary targets of the rioters' frustrations as well as the system's first line of defense against those who violently protested against it. Thus, police actions, both before and during the riot, would have greatly influenced the events of the riot.

Riot participants claimed that it was not simply one incident, namely, the police assault on two black teenagers, that started the riot, but that systemic inequalities over the decades had also contributed to the growing frustration among African Americans that had manifested itself in the form of the riot. Black Americans in Buffalo were clear about what they believed were the larger structural factors that led to the riot. Many of those interviewed singled out unemployment as a primary factor. This exchange between the interviewer and a black resident provides a telling insight:
  Q. How do you think the riot could have been avoided?

  A. Well, uh, by providing jobs and better education,
  and just doing things that should be done for our
  community, the places where we live, and the people
  within it.

  Q. Do you think the businessmen can help the situation?

  A. Businessmen can really help by giving us jobs, and
  well, being interested in the neighborhood, attending
  some of the meetings, keeping the money where it belongs,
  and so on.

  Q. How do you think the residents can help?

  A. I think the residents can help just by helping each
  other. (22)

The African American who was interviewed believed that the onus was on both the government and the private sector in Buffalo to provide fair employment opportunities for African Americans. The allusion to "keeping the money where it belongs" implies that since it was mostly African Americans who patronized the small businesses in the predominantly black East Side area of Buffalo, they should also have been the ones who were hired to work in those same businesses.

Another respondent offered a similar answer to the question, stating that "they could have gave kids [sic] more jobs, gave the neighborhood a recreational park or something, you know, stuff like that." (23) When asked, "How do you think the riots could have been averted?" an eighteen year-old black male replied, "It's like they could have been stopped ... if they had gave [sic] the Negro people jobs." (24) When asked what he thought caused the riot, one African American interviewee commented, "Well, I believe that the white people don't give the colored people a chance for jobs--something like that." (25) According to black Buffalonians who admitted to participating in the riots, systemic racial inequality, particularly in terms of employment, led to their decision to engage in the riot. Local leaders of the black community agreed that unjust social and economic conditions in Buffalo led to the riot. A newspaper article quoted a local black Assemblyman, Arthur Eve, saying that the riot was "'only logical' because of ghetto slum housing, high unemployment and poor relations with the police." (26) Although Eve did not condone the riot, he understood that it grew out of the frustrations of African Americans in Buffalo who felt oppressed by both poverty and racial injustice.

Instead of simply being an unthinking, spontaneous collective reaction to one incident of police brutality, some participants implied that there was a sense of logic to the riot. Some of those interviewed suggested that the rioters only targeted white-owned businesses for looting and vandalism. In the following excerpt from an interview conducted after the riot, an eighteen year-old black rioter provided a telling answer:
  Q. Okay, were you in the riots?

  A. You could say that I participated in the riots.

  Q. Did you witness anything?

  A. A lot!

  Q. Could you tell me why some stores were hit and
  others were avoided?

  A. Well, those were, why--those were whitie's [sic].

  Q. In other words, colored businesses weren't bothered?

  A. Well, colored businesses? Our soul brothers--no! (27)

The black rioter who was interviewed implied that the sense of solidarity among African Americans was so strong that during the riot, participants refrained from vandalizing black-owned businesses.

Another African American rioter who was interviewed provided a similar response:
  Q. How old are you?


  Q. Were you involved in the riots at any time?

  A. Yes sir.

  A. Well, I broke a couple of windows.

  Q. What kind of windows?

  A. Mostly white people's windows.

  Q. Were you alone or in a group?

  A. With a group. (28)

The idea that black rioters targeted only white property was corroborated by one newspaper article which observed that "crayoned signs saying 'Soul Brother' sprouted in the windows of Negro owned stores and these places seemed to have been spared from damage." (29) This suggests that African Americans in Buffalo viewed race as a significant factor, not just in terms of the reasons for the riot, but in terms of whom the riot was aimed against.

Another transcript of an exchange between an inte ewer and a rioter suggests a connection between the stores that the rioters chose to vandalize and those that were known to practice racial discrimination against African Americans. Below is a portion of the interview:
  Q. You say you weren't involved in the riots the
  first night. Were you involved the second night?

  A. Yes.

  Q. Did you break any windows?

  A. Yes.

  Q. Did you do any looting?

  A. No.

  Q. Were you in a group when you broke the windows,
  or did you break the windows on your own?

  A. I was in a group.

  Q. And everybody was breaking windows?

  A. Yes.

  Q. Were you breaking windows for a reason?

  A. People that wouldn't hire negroes [sic] in their

  Q. And these are the ones that were broken up?

  A. Yes. Some windows were broken by mistake--by accident. (30)

Responses such as these imply that the rioters were not merely reacting to one incident of police brutality, but to what they perceived were unjust practices committed against African Americans by their white neighbors in Buffalo over the years. After the riot, participants quickly framed their actions during the riot not only to have political intent, but as a form of protest against the racially-discriminatory hiring practices of local businesses.

The Riot as Resistance

The Buffalo riot fits into the general pattern found by the writers of the Kerner Commission Report, a national advisory committee report which analyzed various riots that occurred across the United States in 1967. The report revealed, "In general: The civil disorders of 1967 involved Negroes acting against local symbols of white American society, authority, and property in Negro neighborhoods--rather than against white persons. ... The final incident before the outbreak of disorder, and the initial violence itself, generally took place in the evening or at night at a place in which it was normal for many people to be on the streets." (31) The report suggested that for the most part, African Americans who participated in the riots that swept across the United States in the late 1960s did not intend to harm white people, but only to destroy white-owned property. In addition, Sugrue asserts that "rioters chose their targets carefully, and had just two: the police and shopkeepers. They seldom ventured into white neighborhoods. ... Rioters seldom attacked private homes and, with few exceptions, left individual whites (other than law enforcement officials and shopkeepers) alone." (32) Rioters viewed police officers as representatives of the state, which repressed them politically, and store owners as symbols of economic oppression. In his discussion of 1960s riots, historian Michael Katz distinguishes between "collective" and "criminal" violence, maintaining that "criminal violence differs from civil violence in one crucial way: it does not make claims on the state." (33) Although the Buffalo riot lasted from 26 June to 1 July 1967, it did not result in a single death. This lends credence to the assertion that African Americans viewed the riot as a form of resistance to racial inequality, as a means of expressing their collective grievances against the white supremacist system, and not as an opportunity to randomly attack ordinary white people.

Most of the black residents of Buffalo interviewed after the not had a positive view of those who participated in the disturbance. They did not view the rioters as criminals or vandals. One African American interviewee commented:

Statements such as these suggest that African Americans in Buffalo viewed the riot as a form of political protest against centuries of racial injustice. Furthermore, such statements illustrate the frustration that a younger generation of African Americans felt not only at the system of racial injustice that oppressed them, but also at the tactics used by an older generation of Civil Rights leaders and activists, tactics that the younger generation believed to have been ineffective.

The Buffalo riot, along with other riots that occurred in the United States in the 1960s were symptomatic not only of the terrible living conditions that racial inequality produced, but also of the generational rift that was taking place as the Civil Rights movement gave way to Black Power. According to historian Clayborne Carson, the slogan "black power" first emerged when Stokely Carmichael introduced it at a Mississippi march in the summer of 1966.35 The slogan "black power" spread like wildfire among young African Americans. The ideology of Black Power, albeit not easily defined, was nonetheless adapted by different black leaders to suit the needs of their particular intellectual leanings, whether it was cultural nationalism or black capitalism. The shift from the pacifist rhetoric of the Civil Rights movement to the militancy of Black Power was not lost on young African
  I have the utmost admiration for these people and I think that it
  should have been done a long time ago, because after all, for the
  last 400 years, we have been sitting around trying to figure out a
  way to solve these problems and they aren't going to listen to
  anything but violence. So if violence is all they are going to listen
  to, that is all we are going to give them. We are tired of sitting
  around waiting until the man makes up his mind--he's not going to
  make up his mind, so we are going to make it up for him. (34)

Americans, particularly those in the North, who suffered urban problems that they felt were not easily addressed by traditional Civil Rights tactics.

One nineteen year-old African American who admitted to participating in the riot told a newspaper reporter, "We could sing 'We Shall Overcome' until doomsday and nobody would listen to us. Throw a brick and break a window and the whole world wants to know what's wrong--as if they didn't already know." (36) Statements such as these suggest that black youth in Buffalo, as with black youth in other cities of the urban North, had by 1967 become increasingly tired of the pace of change with respect to race relations in the United States. They had grown tired of nonviolent passive resistance as the method by which they were supposed to achieve civil rights. One African American youth told a newspaper reporter that he looted during the riot to offset the economic inequality that he and his family suffered over the years. He explained, "I want some of those clothes in that white man's store--he cheats my mom out of every dime she makes. It's about time I collected some of that money back." (37) Some black teenagers saw the riot as a means by which they could make right that which the white supremacist system, and those who supported it, had done wrong.

When asked if the people were justified in rioting, an eighteen year-old African American male replied, "Yes they were. I figure they couldn't be too wrong because riots broke out in Detroit, Cleveland and lots of places. I felt that 1 was doing the right thing because we boycotted the school. We walked out of there because we were discriminated against and we went back. But I think rioting is the best way." (38) Statements such as these imply that rioters were young African Americans who were tired of traditional Civil Rights movement tactics, such as peaceful protests and boycotts. Frustrated that nonviolent demonstrations had not achieved the level of racial equality that they believed would change their lives, they seized the opportunity to riot when it presented itself. They were also aware that riots had erupted in other cities, such as Cleveland in 1966 and Detroit in 1967, and they were emboldened as to the efficacy of riots in attracting government attention to alleviate their grievances. They drew strength from the idea that African Americans in other cities had rioted in protest to similar deplorable living conditions.

An eighteen year-old African American male who admitted to participating in the riot provides insight into the mindset of a young rioter. The exchange below is revealing:
  Q. Did you feel that people are justified in rioting?

  A. In a way, because most of the white people got all these
  businesses in negro [sic] communities that they charge more
  for these goods that you would get downtown. Like the
  drugstores--they charge high prices for the drugs and stuff. White
  people--I figure that if they want us to patronize their businesses,
  then they should hire some of us, which they didn't.

  Q. What is your present view on the rioting across the country?

  A. I think it is the same thing all over the United States.
  The United States are not going to give us our rights overnight. So
  there is either going to be a whole lot more rioting or they are
  going to have to ship us out of the country.

  Q. Do you think this rioting will accomplish anything?

  A. It will get the whitey to move
  faster, because he don't [sic] want his businesses torn up. (39)

The teenager's answers suggest that he viewed the riot as an overtly political act. He believed that the riot was justifiable because the stores that the rioters looted and vandalized were the same stores that practiced racial discrimination against African Americans. Furthermore, he contended that "rights," full participation for African Americans in a democratic society must be given or riots would continue.

Even African Americans who did not participate in the riot empathized with the rioters and felt a sense of solidarity with them because of a shared history of racial oppression and the terrible conditions in which they all lived. The exchange between an eighteen year-old African American girl and an interviewer below is instructive:
  Q. Do you think that people are justified in rioting now?

  A. Yes I do.

  Q. Why?

  A. Well, colored folks don't have no [sic] rights and they have
  to get them somehow. (40)

Like the eighteen year-old rioting male in the previous interview, this eighteen year-old non-rioting female believed that the not was a means by which African Americans could achieve the "rights," both civil and economic, that were being withheld from them.

Some African American teenagers admitted that although they did not actually participate in the riot, they had wanted to do so. When asked why he did not participate in the riot, one black youth replied, "Well, I didn't myself, because, like I said, I'm only 16 years old and my mother didn't want me to get involved because she thought I might be hurt. But if it had been up to me, I would have been out with my black brothers, helping make this a community which 1 would be proud to live in." (41) Instead of viewing the riot as destructive to the black community, young African Americans who witnessed the riot viewed it as positive and uplifting. According to Button, "The urban black riots [of the 1960s], perhaps the most publicized internal violence of the decade, were interpreted by many blacks and a number of public leaders as meaningful, politically purposeful acts of destruction." (42)

Many of the African Americans interviewed after the riots who admitted to participating were teenagers. This conforms to the findings of the Kerner Commission Report on Civil Disorders which concluded that the "typical rioter was a teenager or young adult, a lifelong resident of the city in which he rioted, a high school dropout; he was, nevertheless, somewhat better educated than his nonrioting Negro neighbor, and was usually underemployed or employed in a menial job. He was proud of his race, extremely hostile to both whites and middle-class Negroes and, although informed about politics, highly distrustful of the political system." (43) The black rioter viewed the riot as an expression of political resistance. Meanwhile, most African American witnesses viewed the riot through the lens of racial solidarity.

The idea that the black rioter viewed the riot as a tool against racial oppression is corroborated by the words of young African Americans who clearly explicated the larger issues that they believed caused the riot. When asked what she thought some of the major problems affecting the black community in Buffalo were, one sixteen year-old African American girl replied extensively:
  Well, to begin, first of all, the neighborhoods. The ghettos
  we are living in--poor ragged houses with[out] facilities which
  other people have. Some people don't even have drinking water
  in their houses, some people don't even have toilet stools and
  we're living hungry and we don't have proper clothes to go to
  school in and primarily in the Negro schools, we don't have good
  adequate teachers where all white children go to school. It is
  just one big messed up thing and it's got to be straightened out
  because we are going to grow up and we want to lead the world just
  as much as you want to lead it too and we want to be taught
  correctly just as they are being taught correctly. And if we are
  not given the proper instructions and proper recreation and places
  to go to, we are going to be in a worse condition than we are now.

The teenage girl believed that inadequate living conditions and inferior education kept African Americans trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty. Her response implies that she was aware of the different living conditions that racial inequality produced when she mentioned basic amenities, such as running water and functioning plumbing, that houses in the ghetto lacked or the "facilities which other people have." She also specifically maintained that predominantly black schools in Buffalo offered inferior education when compared to those that were predominantly white. She boldly demanded equality, seeking empathy from her interviewer, when she insisted that African American youths "want to lead the world just as much as you want to lead it too." She asked only for what was just, adequate housing, and a quality education, the birthright of all Americans in a democratic society.

When asked why the riot occurred, another sixteen year-old black youth, provided a similar response:
  There are many reasons for the riots, some people think that [it was]
  because of jobs, people are sick and tired of having second class
  jobs like cutting grass. People want something to do. Another reason
  was because of lack of education. We are tired of going to schools
  where they teach you how to read and write up until high school and
  you learn nothing else. You got to get a job and you are not
  qualified for the job. Why? Because [of] this low quality education.
  Another reason for the riots [is] because we are tired of living in
  these slums, houses run by white landlords who don't care. There are
  many reasons for the riots. (45)

Even if they did not participate in the riot, most African Americans in Buffalo at the time believed that the riot was a consequence of systemic racial inequality and the terrible living conditions that it produced. They were more critical of the white supremacist system than they were of the rioters. The Kerner Commission Report concluded, "Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood--but what the Negro can never forget--is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it." (46) The sixteen year-old black youth's statement about "white landlords who don't care" connected the frustrations that young African Americans in Buffalo's ghetto felt with the economic gains made by those whites who benefitted from the system of racial inequality.

According to historian Mark Naison, the mid to late 1960s was a time of ardent community activism in Buffalo. He asserts, "Black Buffalo was caught up in the ferment of the civil rights and black power movements; local activists participated in Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Black Panthers, and community residents took part in several civil disorders. An Alinsky organized advocacy organization called Build, Unity, Independence, Liberty, Dignity (BUILD) emerged in Buffalo, spawning protests directed at the school system, the city government and construction unions." (47) It makes sense that African Americans in Buffalo were eager to frame the riot as a political rather than a criminal act, because of the political activism that was occurring in their neighborhoods at the time. * I * * * *-** ****** *

Yet not all black Buffalonians were completely supportive of the rioters. In her discussion of 1960s riots in Chicago, historian Amanda Seligman calls for more a more nuanced approach to understanding the ideas of not bystanders. She argues that "nonparticipants on the margins of 1960s upheavals may have shared the anger of the crowd, but they did not reflexively support their actions." (48) For instance, a twenty-one year old African American woman who witnessed the Buffalo riot told an interviewer, "Personally, my opinion is out here on the East Side, Jefferson is the only shopping center that the Negro people have in this community, and uh, I don't see any reason why they try to harm the businessmen of this neighborhood. If they had any complaints or differences, they shoulda [sic] went to City Hall and tried to talk it over ... come to some kind of negotiations." (49) The observer did not condone the destruction of the stores in her neighborhood during the riot. She also mentioned that she did not belong to any Civil Rights organization. However, when the interviewer asked her how she thought the riots could have been averted, she replied, "my opinion is the jobs in Buffalo is [sic] not really adequate ... your housing ... it's not even fit to live in." (50) Although the witness did not agree with the method by which the rioters sought to express their grievances, she nonetheless shared their belief that the unemployment and inadequate housing of black Buffalonians led to the riot.

On 3 July 1967, two days after the riot ended, a group of sixty black residents met to discuss solutions to the economic and social problems that they believed caused the riot. They assembled a "federation of young black adults to articulate our generation's anguishes and hopes." (51) The meeting was organized by Melvin Erni, a twenty-nine year-old black Buffalonian who worked at the African Culture Center. Erni contended that his group wanted to avoid the previous mistakes that led government officials to misunderstand the particular concerns of African Americans, especially those who were young. He insisted that 'the power structure always calls in a lot of preachers who are out of it when they want to find out about the Negro community." (52) Erni's distrust of black preachers illustrates the generational rift that was occurring in black communities all over the United States at the time. The events that took place in Buffalo in 1967 were part of the larger intellectual shift that occurred within African American communities across the United States as the Civil Rights movement gave way to the Black Power era. The reported goals of the meeting were to push for "job centers in the Negro neighborhoods, grievance machinery for youngsters, a human relations organization made up primarily of grass roots people 'who are not Uncle Toms nor afraid to lose their jobs,' and a greater stress on Negro heritage in the schools and on the streets." (53) By alluding to -Uncle Toms," Erni was distinguishing himself from those whom he and his constituents, namely young black Buffalonians like those who participated in the riot, believed had betrayed the African American community. He was staking a claim as one of the "grass roots people," those who not only belonged to Buffalo's black community, but worked toward achieving its betterment.

The newspaper article also alluded to a schism between Emi's organization, the African Culture Center, and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). According to the article, "The two-hour meeting, which ended at 5 P.M., conflicted by coincidence, Mr. Erni said, with a mass meeting at a local church sponsored by the Buffalo branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where close to 200 Negro 'establishment' adults attended." (54) By calling the African Americans who attended the NAACP meeting "establishment," Erni distanced himself and his organization from the traditional, more mainstream Civil Rights groups, such as the NAACP. Founded in 1909, the NAACP was the country's oldest and most prominent Civil Rights organization. It focused on federal and state litigation in an effort to solve the problem of racial inequality. (55) However, in the 1960s, newer organizations were gaining more support in African American communities around the country because of the shift from Civil Rights to Black Power. Many African Americans, particularly teenagers and young adults, viewed the NAACP as old and ineffectual. According to historians Henry Taylor and Mark Naison, "the riots introduced the dawning of a new era when unemployment, underemployment, declining participation in the labor force, poverty, the rise of the underclass, and catastrophic social problems would replace Civil Rights as the dominant issues on the black agenda for advancement." (56) The Buffalo riot ushered in a new postindustrial era.

The Buffalo Riot, Civil Rights, and Black Power

The Buffalo riot occurred at the time when the Civil Rights movement was giving way to the Black Power era. Many African Americans were becoming increasingly impatient with the pace of change in race relations. The locus of protest and agitation was changing from the South to the North. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the city of Buffalo on 9 November 1967, addressing a crowd of 2,100 people at Kleinhans Music Hall. He delivered a speech titled "The Future of Integration." Of the Buffalo riot that occurred four months prior to his talk, King maintained, "Violent revolts grow out of revolting living conditions. Violence is the language of the unheard. Summer riots are caused by winters of delay." (57) King chose to highlight the racial injustice that African American suffered at the hands of the white supremacist system rather than condemning the rioters.

In Where do We Go from Here?: Chaos or Community, directed at proponents of Black Power, King wrote, "A vigorous enforcement of civil rights will bring an end to segregated public facilities, but it cannot bring an end to fears, prejudice, pride and irrationality, which are the barriers to a truly integrated society. These dark and demonic responses will be removed only as men are possessed by the invisible inner law which etches on their hearts the conviction that all men are brothers and that love is mankind's most potent weapon for personal and social transformation." (58) When King spoke about love and brotherhood, it was grounded in his belief that compassion among men was a redemptive and powerful force for social change, and that it could remake an unjust nation into a "beloved community." Yet King was aware that a younger generation of African zAmericans was becoming restless with the tactics of passive resistance and civil disobedience.

The rioters themselves clearly explained that they were tired of the rhetoric of nonviolence. For instance, a nineteen year-old Buffalo resident who worked with community organizations told an interviewer, "For too long the whites have said 'Be non-violent,' Martin Luther King has said, 'Be non-violent.' But, uh, I don't see any white people being non-violent. When they puts [sic] down their guns and become non-violent, possibly we will become non-violent at the same time." (59) He further explained that a riot was "a way of attacking back to let them know that we're fed up with the atrocities that the white race has put on us. Then again, this proves that a riot can get something better out of it instead of walking around with a sign and letting somebody beat you on the head." (60) The nineteen year-old made a distinction between rioting and peaceful protest, preferring the former because he believed it was more effective in obtaining results. The riots that raged across the country in the late 1960s were the visible manifestations of the frustrations of young African Americans, who were discouraged, not only with the racial status quo, but with what they believed were old and ineffective Civil Rights organizations.

White Responses to the Riot

Even some white Americans in Buffalo understood that a change was occurring within the African American community. One white Buffalonian, a twenty-six year-old construction worker, interviewed after the riot explained what he believed were the differences between the Civil Rights organizations and the Black Power groups and their relationship to the Buffalo riot. Of the Civil Rights demonstrations, he asserted:
  I thought they were justified. Martin Luther King. Then he got a
  little bit too cocky. The marches were alright. Down South, they did
  have a beef. I don't think that anybody should live like some of the
  people live down South. I see on television this Stokely Carmichael.
  He is downgrading the government and downgrading white people. Why do
  they put him on? Why do they let him on television in front of the
  public? Half the colored people don't have any education. They hear
  this guy and they think this guy is a god. You might find a few that
  would be decent, but the majority don't take care of their property
  and let things go. I drove in those sections years ago, and 1 know.
  They don't care who you are or what you are. There is a few of them
  that are good ones but the majority of them are bad. (61)

The white construction worker's observations about the differences between Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael suggest that the generational rupture between Civil Rights activists and Black Power advocates was noticeable even to those outside of Buffalo's African American community. He made a distinction between what he perceived as justifiable protest, against the living conditions of African Americans in the South, and unjustified protest, against their living conditions in the North. Furthermore, he blamed African Americans in Buffalo for the depravity of their living conditions, citing their lack of education as the cause of their alleged immorality. Although he did not live in Buffalo's East Side, the fact that he "drove in those sections years ago" caused him to believe that he could effectively comment on the living conditions and mentalities of African Americans in that neighborhood. The white construction worker's complaint about black homes is similar to those made by working-class whites in historian Arnold Hirsch's study of Chicago. Hirsch contends that black homeowners in formerly white neighborhoods often could not afford to maintain their homes to the same degree as whites. This was because of the dual housing market, which meant that black people were forced to pay far more than whites for the same house, leaving little money left over for home maintenance and repair. (62)

Yet not all white Buffalonians viewed the rioters as mere criminals. Some white officials in Buffalo understood that the causes of the riot were much more complex than the propensity of crowds of teenagers to commit acts of vandalism. According to Button:
  Among the public officials who viewed the disorders in liberal' -to-
  'radical' terms were many federal executive elites (and to a lesser
  degree most northern Democratic congressmen and big city mayors).
  These officials tended to perceive the ghetto riots as demands for
  help from a disadvantaged minority group that had little or no access
  to conventional political channels. Serving as a primary focus of the
  violence, these national executive elites attempted to respond to
  many of the grievances expressed by the ghetto rioters even though
  these responses in time proved to be somewhat limited, transitory,
  and flexible. (63)

Indeed, a sympathetic opinion piece in the Philadelphia Tribune agreed with black Buffalonians that the main issue behind the riot was unemployment. The article stated, "We feel there is no answer to the summer riots except year-round concern with providing the Negro with a job paying a living wage and one that is not degrading, a decent house, and quality education for his children." (64) The editorial placed the blame for the riot squarely on the shoulders of a white supremacist system that perpetuated unemployment, inadequate housing, and unequal education for African Americans.

Immediately after the riot, local white officials, such as the mayor of Buffalo, Frank A. Sedita, were willing to work with black community leaders to find solutions to the grievances of black Buffalonians, particularly those who lived on the East Side. According to a newspaper article, "The [NAACP] branch president, Rev. Milton C. Williams, told them that Mayor Frank A. Sedita and the Chamber of Commerce had agreed to try to provide 3,000 summer jobs for unemployed Negro youths." (65) About 750 youths signed up for the prospect of obtaining a summer job. The manufacturing company, Bethlehem Steel, promised to provide 100 summer jobs. (66) However, as Button contends, the response of the authorities to the grievances of the rioters, although sympathetic, proved to be "somewhat limited" and "transitory." (67) A week after the riot ended, the mayor was unable to deliver on his promise of 3,000 summer jobs. A newspaper article noted, "Mayor Frank Sedita, generally held in high regard by rights leaders, told how his efforts to invite 200 representatives of the largest Buffalo firms to discuss jobs for unskilled and semiskilled people had resulted in a response from just 30 of them and a total supply of only 150 jobs for youth. (68) Another newspaper article published two months after the riot reported, "At the height of the riots, the Mayor went into the ghetto and at a tense meeting with a gathering of Negroes, promised to try to find between 3,000 and 3,500 jobs for Negro youths. The Chamber of Commerce agreed to oversee the effort. But local industries offered only about 400 jobs through the chamber. Moreover all of them were temporary summer jobs." (69) Two months after the riot, the mayor of Buffalo's plan to secure employment for 3,000 African American youths, including some who had participated in the riot, ultimately failed.

The Buffalo riot led Civil Court Judge Thomas R. Jones to propose that the New York State Constitution be amended to ban racial discrimination. He argued, "What we must have is a clear, determined, and unequivocal statement that our State bars a man or a woman from being denied the right to obtain employment because of race, religion or creed. ... Notwithstanding the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 and our state legislation, the systematic exclusion of minority groups from major aspects of American life, and the perpetuation of segregation in housing and education and the outrageous discrimination in employment, reinforce the poverty cycle." (70) Jones connected the riot to the issue of unemployment among African Americans in New York State. According to him, "If we study the disturbances and riots that have hit our cities--New York, Rochester, Buffalo--within the past few years, we find that the lack of jobs is the basis for the unrest; that discrimination in employment is at the heart of the frustration." (71) The judge's proposal to amend the New York State Constitution was a direct response to the Buffalo riot and an attempt by one white official to prevent future disturbances.


The Buffalo riot was one in a series of racial disturbances that shook the United States in the late 1960s. Since that time, there has been ongoing debate regarding whether or not the riots constituted genuine political activity. The contours of the debate remain relatively unchanged since the late 1960s, with some scholars contending that the riots were legitimate forms of protest against racial injustice. For example, historian Heather Thompson argues that "the African Americans who set cities aflame in the latter half of the 1960s were rebelling not only against white violence toward them but also against what they believed to be the empty promises of true equality and opportunity proffered by liberal leaders of the Sixties." (72) These historians situate the riots within the context of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements as well as the harsh living conditions that plagued African Americans in Northern urban ghettoes. Historian Paul Gilje maintains, "Having observed the assault on institutional segregation in the South, the rioters in urban areas throughout the nation reminded whites of the de facto segregation that predominated elsewhere in America and that seemed to be preventing African Americans from escaping the inner city." (73) Through the act of rioting, African Americans in Buffalo and other Northern cities attempted to call attention to the fact of racial segregation and the appalling conditions in which they were forced to live. Riots functioned as a last resort, when peaceful methods had already been exhausted.

On the other side of the debate, some scholars claim that the riots resulted from the failure of liberalism in the late 1960s. In a statement indicative of this view, journalist Jim Sleeper asserts, "Guilt-ridden white elites, preoccupied with liberating themselves from unearned privileges and concomitant repressions, formed liaisons with ghetto hustlers whose interests meshed perversely with theirs." (74) According to these scholars, white liberals failed to control Black Power militants who took advantage of the lack of discipline and propensity for criminality among young, black urban residents, and incited riots. Furthermore, writer Fred Siegel insists, "Violence and the threat of violence were leveraged into both a personal style for street kids and a political agenda based on threat and intimidation." (75) In this view, riots amounted to outbursts of communal hostility, and functioned as a form of blackmail, in which Black Power leaders threatened to unleash hordes of ghetto criminals if white liberal authorities did not submit to their demands.

The actions of African Americans during the Buffalo riot, however, attest to their political intentions. For instance, the lack of violence against whites during the riot was proof that the riot was a form of resistance against the system of racial oppression. In his study of 1960s riots, sociologist Max Herman contends, "Violence during the 1960s was inflicted by rioters primarily on property rather than people." (76) The fact that black rioters in Buffalo did not attack any white residents, but chose instead to focus their aggression on symbols of racial inequality, such as white-owned businesses, indicates that the riot functioned as a form of protest, albeit a violent one. Additionally, the fact that black Buffalonians clearly articulated their grievances with racial injustice when explaining why the riot occurred demonstrates its purpose as a political act.

Although certain limitations exist when using oral history to examine the causes of events like the Buffalo riot, such as the failure of memory to capture all the details or the reticence of respondents to disclose their private thoughts during interviews, many aspects of oral history counterbalance those limitations. According to historian Michael Frisch, oral history provides a much-needed corrective to the ideas that scholars bring when analyzing controversial events in the past:
  The crucial issue is not import, but authority. Those truly
  interested in a history from the bottom up, those
  who feel the limits of the historical reality defined by the
  powerful, must understand that presuming to 'allow' the
  'inarticulate' to speak is not enough. We must listen, and
  we must share the responsibility for historical explication
  and judgment. We must use our skills, our resources, and our
  privileges to insure that others hear what is being said by
  those who have always been articulate, but not usually attended
  to. (77)

In the case of the Buffalo riot, the African Americans who were interviewed for the Besag riot study in 1967 were more than willing to tell their stories. The riot study itself was prompted by a request from members of Buffalo's black community because they wanted their perspectives to be heard. Moreover, since the interviews were conducted anonymously, the respondents felt secure enough to provide completely honest answers. Lastly, the statements made by African Americans interviewed after the riot reveal not only details about the event, but also present a political analysis of its causes, demonstrating their understanding of its meaning as well as asserting their right to its interpretation.

The testimonies of African Americans after the Buffalo riot challenge the declension narrative advanced by scholars who view the 1960s riots as the juncture in which the glorious interracial consensus of the Civil Rights movement turned into the ill-fated racial militancy of Black Power. According to black Buffalonians, the Civil Rights movement had not gone far enough in securing their rights to fair employment, open housing, and equal education. In the late 1960s, African Americans in Buffalo were aware that their living conditions had deteriorated and that the decline was not natural or inevitable, but a direct consequence of the white supremacist system that functioned in the United States at the time. They were frustrated with those conditions as well as the apathy that they felt white Americans in Buffalo, particularly those in power, displayed towards them. These frustrations exploded in the 1967 riot.

African American perspectives on the Buffalo riot expand our understanding of the history of New York State which, aside from the Harlem and Rochester riots of 1964, experienced relatively little racial violence in comparison to other states at the time. They complicate the distinctions between the struggles against segregation in the South and those in the urban North. For many black Buffalonians, the riot constituted a legitimate and necessary form of collective action. African Americans interviewed immediately after the riot sought to define it not as a criminal act, but as a political one, as a catalyst by which to push for state intervention to ameliorate their living conditions. They framed the riot as an act of resistance against racial inequality. The story of African Americans and the 1967 Buffalo riot draws attention to the actions of ordinary people who, faced with extraordinary hardships, were forced to take extreme measures in order to be heard.

(1.) Rowena 1. Alfonso is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Toronto.

(2.) Frank P. Besag, The Anatomy of a Riot: Buffalo, 1967 (Buffalo: University Press, 1967), 16.

(3.) Thomas A. Johnson, "14 Wounded in Buffalo as Violence Erupts Anew," New York Times, June 29, 1967, 1.

(4.) Sydney N. Schonberg, "Buffalo: 'Nothing's Changed' Since Riot: City Leaders Motives are Sincere, but Negroes Insist on More Action," New York Times, September 18, 1967, 49.

(5.) Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., "The Theories of William Julius Wilson and the Black Experience in Buffalo, New York" in African Americans and the Rise of Buffalo's Post-Industrial City, 1940 to Present, Volume I, ed. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. (Buffalo: Buffalo Urban League, Inc., 1990), 69.

(6.) Thomas A. Johnson, "Buffalo Negroes Blame the Police: Racial Strife Laid to Poor Relations with Force," New York Times, July 1, 1967, 10.

(7.) Steven Taylor, Segregation in Boston and Buffalo: The Influence of Local Leaders (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 4.

(8.) Johnson, "14 Wounded in Buffalo as Violence Erupts Anew," I.

(9.) Maurice Carroll, "Buffalo Still Tense: Patrol is Resumed," New York Times, July 1, 1967, 1.

(10.) Kenneth L. Kusmer, "African Americans in the City Since World War II: From the Industrial to the Postindustrial," in The New African American Urban History, eds. Kenneth Goings and Raymond Mohl (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc., 1996), 332.

(11.) Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 147.

(12.) Robin D. G. Kelley, "'We Arc Not What We Seem': Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in the Jim Crow South," The Journal of American History, June 1993, 78. Emphasis is in the original.

(13.) James W. Button, Black Violence: Political Impact of the 1960s Riots (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 9.

(14.) Kevin Mumford, Newark: A History of Race. Rights, and Riots in America (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 6.

(15.) Besag, Anatomy of a Riot, 1.

(16.) Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2008), 334.

(17.) Frank P. Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interview: 1-10," Case # 13, p. 3, 1967, University Archives, University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

(18.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interviews 101-112," Case 4 101: Marked "Interview (colored man)."

(19.) Thomas A. Johnson, "Violence Called Only Language: Buffalo Rioters Say Pleas Fall on Deaf Ears," New York Times, 30 June 1967.

(20.) Victoria W. Wolcott, "Recreation and Race in the Postwar City: Buffalo's 1956 Crystal Beach Riot," The Journal of American History 93 (June 2006): 67.

(21.) Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty, 327.

(22.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interview: 1-10," Case # 8, p. 2.

(23.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interview: 1-10," Case # 9.

(24.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interview: 1-10," Case 4 5, p. 4.

(25.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interviews 101-112," Case # 101, p. 2.

(26.) Johnson, "Violence Called Only Language," 14.

(27.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interview: 1-10," Case # 13, p. 2.

(28.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, "Case # 104--Paper Marked "Interview (colored boy)," p. 1.

(29.) Carroll, "Buffalo Still Tense," 1.

(30.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interviews 101-112," Case # 101, p.2.

(31.) United States Kerner Commission, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968), 3.

(32.) Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty, 326.

(33.) Michael B. Katz, Why Don't American Cities Burn? (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 79.

(34.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Interview # 51," p. 4.

(35.) Claybome Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 215.

(36.) Johnson, "Violence Called Only Language," 14.

(37.) Ibid.

(38.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interviews 126-138," Paper Marked "Interview (colored boy)," p. 10.

(39.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, "Case # 104--Paper Marked Interview (colored boy)."

(40.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, "Case 107--Paper Marked "Interview (colored girl)," p.7.

(41.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, "Interview # 51," p.4.

(42.) Button, Black Violence, 157.

(43.) Kerner Commission, Report, 4.

(44.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interviews 113-120," Paper Marked "Interview (colored girl)," 3-4.

(45.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, "Interview # 51," p. 4.

(46.) Kerner Commission, Report, I.

(47.) Mark Naison, "In Quest of Community: The Organizational Structure of Black Buffalo," in African Americans and the Rise of Buffalo's Post-Industrial City, 1940 to Present, Volume 1, ed. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. (Buffalo: Buffalo Urban League, Inc., 1990), 209.

(48.) Amada I. Seligman, "'But Burn--No': The Rest of the Crowd in Three Civil Disorders in 1960s Chicago," Journal of Urban History 37:2 (2011), 232.

(49.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Paper Marked "Interview # 2 (21 year-old Negro Woman)," p. 2.

(50.) Ibid., 3.

(51.) Thomas A. Johnson, "Buffalo Negroes Plan Youth Group: 60 Meet Over Concern for Truth in their Society," New York Times, July 3, 1967, 6.

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) Ibid.

(54.) Ibid.

(55.) Adam Fairclough, foreword to Long is the Way and Hard: One Hundred Years of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), eds. Kevern Verney and Lee Sartain (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009), xii.

(56.) Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., and Mark Naison, "African Americans and the Dawning of the Postindustrial Era," in Historical Roots of the Urban Crisis: African Americans in the Industrial City, 1900-1950, eds. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., and Walter Hill (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), 282.

(57.) Patricia Donovan, "MLK Speech in Buffalo 45 Years Ago is a Legacy for UB's Annual Commemorative Lecture," University, at Buffalo News Center, February 2, 2012.

(58.) Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here?: Chaos or Community (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 101.

(59.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Paper Marked "Case # 18, 7/22/67," p. 2.

(60.) Ibid.

(61.) Besag Papers, Riot Study, Folder Marked "Interviews 126-38," Paper Marked "Interviews (white man)," 3-4.

(62.) Arnold Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 3236.

(63.) Button, Black Violence, 157.

(64.) "Buffalo Slow to Learn Its Lesson," Philadelphia Tribune, July 22, 1967, 7.

(65.) Johnson, "Buffalo Negroes Plan Youth Group," 6.

(66.) Carroll, "Buffalo Still Tense," I.

(67.) Button, Black Violence, 157.

(68.) "Buffalo's Story: Too Little When it is Too Late," New York Amsterdam News, July 8, 1967, 1.

(69.) Schanberg, "Buffalo," 49.

(70.) "NY State Constitution Urged to Ban Job Bias," New York Amsterdam News, July 22, 1967, 23.

(71.) Ibid.

(72.) Heather Ann Thompson, "Urban Uprisings: Riots or Rebellions?" in The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s, eds. David Farber and Beth Bailey (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 115. Sec also Robert M. Fogelson, Violence as Protest: A Study of Riots and Ghettos (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971), 22-26; David 0. Sears and John B. McConahay, The Politics of Urban Violence: The New Urban Blacks and the Watts Riot (Washington: University of America Press, 1981), 34-54; James R. Ralph, Jr., Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1993), 111-113.

(73.) Paul A. Gilje, Rioting in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 158.

(74.) Jim Sleeper, The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990), 33. This view was first advanced by Jonathan Rieder, Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 70-72.

(75.) Fred Siegel, The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America's Big Cities (New York: The Free Press, 1997), 10.

(76.) Max Arthur Herman, Fighting in the Streets: Ethnic Succession and Urban Unrest in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2005), 75.

(77.) Michael Frisch, A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), 71.

Rowena I. Alfonso (1)
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Author:Alfonso, Rowena I.
Publication:Afro-Americans in New York Life and History
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Date:Jan 1, 2014
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