From Harlem in ’43 to Baltimore, Roots of Rioting Haven’t Changed


A narrative arc connects the recent rioting in Baltimore with the violent Harlem Riot of 1943, says the New York Daily News. The paper’s “Justice Story” looked back at the Harlem riot, in which police killed at least five rioters and 1,500 stores were looted. That riot began after a false rumor that a cop had fatally shot a black soldier at a cheap Harlem hotel. White leaders puzzled over the root causes of the riot, and Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia said it had been “artificially stimulated” by “radicals.”

For blacks, the motivations seemed obvious. Asked to serve as soldiers abroad, blacks had second-class status at home, working lousy jobs and living in dingy tenements with police as an occupying force. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., the Harlem activist, said the riot was directed at “every white policeman throughout the United States who had constantly beaten, wounded and often killed colored men and women without provocation.” Comparing the Harlem and Baltimore riots, Mariame Kaba, a writer and activist, said, “What's the same is all of the underlying conditions that reinforce inequality and make some people feel captive within their particular communities. They feel that they have limited economic opportunities, their grievances are unaddressed, and they have an antagonist relationship with law enforcement.”

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