The book, Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America by Kevin Mumford gives the reader a glispe of how the riot started from its very beginnings. The riots‘ roots, according to Mumford, originated in the 19th and 20th century when blacks were coming to New Jersey as part of the Great Migration and faced discrimination in housing and in factory work. As Mumford points out, “New Jersey, as you know is north of is from the fields of Jim Crowism, segregation finds its way into the field of New Jersey”(Mumford pg. 22). Even though slavery ended, many African Americans found themselves living in unlivable conditions in a ghetto environment like having a lack of plumbing. Even medicine was segregated. Many blood donations were segregated, and many were labeled depending on the individual’s race.
The book also addressed how WWII was a motivator for the fight towards social equality as Americans were fighting in WWII against the Axis even though there was segregation, prejudice, and discrimination in our country. The Double V victory campaign became popular as blacks were fighting for their rights, and this became more transparent as soldiers were returning from the war with more social mobility. The white population began to move in the suburbs, and this left Newark with less funding for extraccircular activites like recreation. Only a few white populations, like the Italian Americans in the North Ward, stayed in Newark and would play a big part during the riots.
Mumford gave a well-rounded picture of Newark by going into detail about the main characters involved during the riots. Anthony Imperiale, an Italian American, and Amiri Baraka, also known as LeRoi Jones, were enemies of each other. Anthony Imperiale was a high school drop out who was became a vilgante group during the Newark riots to protect the North Ward against “other populations” while Baraka wanted to increase the representation of African Americans in Newark. Imperiale and Baraka were two sides of the coin. Baraka was educated,a poet, and well known while Imperiale was not as educated and served in the National Guard but not during the riots. Both men had an agenda but each one was as headstrong about their agenda which made them similar in their nationalistic ways, according to Mumford.
Mumford pointed out what happened in the aftermath and the results of the riots. Many business owners took the insurance money and left Newark. The politics of Newark changed to represent the population. Between 1968 to 1970, the first African American mayor was elected mayor. The riots, according to Mumford, were a turning point in Newark’s history and culture. Since the riots are now part of Newark’s history, the riots were remembered in 2007 with a plaque, thanks to Cory Booker and council to celebrate the forty year anniversary when Newark made history in July 1967.
As a reader, I enjoyed how Mumford gave a well-rounded view of Newark and how the riots started. Nothing happens in one day. The riots resulted from years and decades of segregation, discrimination, lack of proper of housing, social inequality and lack of social mobility after the Second World War. For this reason, the riots became the answer to lack of political representation. To this day, we remember the riots of when people stood up and said “Enough is enough”.