History is alive through the stories of others. We are all part of history. The documentary, Revolution ‘ 67, discussed the story of the Newark riots. Many individuals were featured in this video. This documentary included interviews from Tom Hayden and Carol Glassman, activists, Amiri Baraka, a poet from Newark, and historian Clement Price from Rutgers. One was able to get an idea how Newark was during the riots through its vivid photos and video recordings from the time period. The narration in the video comes from first hand experience and described the events in detail from the snipers, the looting in the streets, and lack of human dignity and rights from the National Guard.
The Beginning: July 12, 1967
The documentary shows how race played a role during the Newark riots. The video shows the 1st event of the Newark riots on July 12, 1967. The documentary showed racial disparity in Newark, New Jersey during the 1960s. Italian American police officers arrested an African American named John Smith for tailgating. The police were a symbol of dominant culture over the majority of African Americans. The majority of African Americans did hold occupations in the police department or government. The cab driver became the victim of the police. According the video, the incident could have been one of many incidents that could have sparked the Newark riots, but this incident came at the right time. Other cities, like Detroit, were rioting for social justice.
Newark’s history before the riots
Newark was experiencing poverty and inequality . Meanwhile, the United States was battling a war overseas. Most of the United States ignored the issues of poverty in the cities. We live in a racially divided society. African Americans could not follow in the footsteps of previous immigrant groups. African Americans carried a history of slavery and discrimination into the twentieth century. Newark is proof of this. Newark was destined to be a poor city. The practice of redlining was used to determine where one would live and where one couldn’t live. Getting a mortgage depended on your skin color. There would be sections where blacks and white could live. Many African Americans were left with less options for mobility. Many jobs in industry were sent to South Jersey and beyond. This left poor housing and health care in Newark after the 1950s.
Reasons for the riots: Power Struggle, Race relations, human rights
The riots could be viewed in many ways according to the documentary. The riots could be seen as a response of dominant culture losing dominance. The documentary pointed out the reforms from the early 1960s. One of them was known as the anti-poverty programs. These programs would go directly to the individuals instead of the government. The city government was being stripped of its power as money was being given to the people directly. The federal government gave power to the citizens of Newark through this program.
The riots were also a response towards the lack of human rights. There was corruption in many areas of government. The housing authority did the manage the housing projects properly. The housing projects were ran without regarding safety. The council did not have any representations of African American heritage yet they were the majority of the population. The majority was discarded in all fields, especially in health care. LeRoi Jones, now known as Amiri Baraka, experienced brutality against the police . When he was injured, he arrived at the hospital. The hospital staff did not treat him like a human being when he needed stitches. The hospital staff sewed Jones without numbing the area.
It could also be seen as a week when martial law took place. The National Guard, the New Jersey state police, and the Newark police were searching citizens of Newark at checkpoints. Barbed wire was used to create checkpoints. .Individuals could be stopped if they were the citizens of Newark. According to one individual, they were stopping us because we [the majority of Newark citizens] were black. National Guardsmen were instructed to shoot . This is because they could have been snipers hiding somewhere. The image of the sniper became the image of the African American. This image used to scare people about “the other”.
The documentary shows how Newark was heading towards a riot. This is because of its history, the government, and social inequality in Newark. As Price puts it, “I am surprised Newark did not have an earlier riot”. Newark experienced the crimes against human rights and the corruption of the government. The riots were a struggle between power of the people and power of the government. The riots became a symbol to fight for social justice.
Tibaldo-Bongiorno, Marylou. “Revolution ‘ 67” Recorded July 10 2007. POV. DVD