1964 Rochester race riot

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The Rochester 1964 race riot was a riot that occurred in 1964 in Rochester, New York, United States.

1964 Rochester race riot
Part of Ghetto riots
DateJuly 24–26, 1964
Rochester, New York, United States
Caused byPolice brutality against African-Americans
Parties to the civil conflict
Black rioters


The African American population of Rochester grew precipitously during the 1950s and 1960s, increasing from 7,845 in 1950 to more than 32,000 in 1964, at the time of the riot. Much of that population growth came from the South, travelling north in hopes of better socioeconomic conditions. Black migrants were instead met with segregated schools, dilapidated housing, and an unemployment rate that was more than six times higher than the unemployment rate for whites.[1] Black residents also suffered from constant public harassment and humiliation, often being referred to as "bean pickers" in a reference to black migrant workers in the area, as well as being denied housing throughout the city, with African Americans being funneled into the run-down Upper Falls neighborhood.[2] The Rochester race riot also came at a time of especially heightened racial tensions and violence, occurring only a week after a major race riot in Harlem.


At 10:00 p.m. on July 24, 1964, the Rochester Police Department attempted to arrest an intoxicated black man at a street block party and dance on Joseph Street, in the Upper Falls neighborhood of Rochester.[3] Police found 20-year-old Randy Manigault unruly and disorderly. They determined he was intoxicated and attempted to arrest him. Manigualt became combative and resisted arrest. Bystanders felt police were too forceful and began to interject themselves, and started throwing bottles and bricks at police. Police then called for backup from the R.P.D., with a K-9 unit responding due to a shortage of other officers. Despite it being against R.P.D. practice to use police dogs on crowds, an officer from the scene reported that two police dogs were used to control the crowd. This use of police dogs seems to have played a part in starting of the riot, with the presence of K-9 units evoking memories of violent police dogs being used against peaceful civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama.[4]

By 11:30 p.m. all available officers had been deployed and were engaged with around 400 rioters. At 2:00 a.m., Rochester police chief William Lombard ordered officers to use riot weapons on the crowd. The riot had swelled to 2,000 people by 3:30 a.m. and looting had begun on Clinton Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Upper Falls. Governor Rockefeller had declared a state of emergency by 9:00 a.m., with the event being officially dubbed a "riot" at that time. The chaos calmed during the day on July 25 before rioting resumed in force that night, with the violence finally ending by the evening of July 26.[5]


Peace was restored after three days, and only after Governor Nelson Rockefeller called out the New York National Guard.[citation needed] By the time the disturbance was over, five were dead (four in a helicopter crash) and 350 injured.[citation needed] Almost a thousand people were arrested and 204 stores were either looted or damaged.[citation needed]

A police officer, Dominick D'Angelo, suffered a cut under his eye, but was able to remain on duty,[6] and Dick Baumbach a reporter for ABC News was shot in the face, but it only grazed his facial structure.[citation needed]

Although the riot was initially blamed on "outside agitators," almost all the rioters arrested were from the local area, with only 14 people arrested who resided outside Monroe County. Third Ward Supervisor Constance Mitchell stated, "I know the kids here. I know the hard ones and the good kids. And it was the good kids in my ward who first threw the bricks through the windows. Then the adults stepped in. This community just went insane."[7] This led to a reappraisal of policies and practices which had not changed in face of a tripling of the black population in the previous 10 years.[citation needed]

At that time, most blacks held low-pay and low-skill jobs and lived in substandard housing, and Rochester was the last city in the State of New York to implement a public housing program.[citation needed]

Throughout the decade following the riot, the City of Rochester acquired the land blighted by the riot, leveled remaining buildings, and removed or repositioned many of the streets.[citation needed] One of the first housing projects built after the riots was the Chatham Gardens Apartments, which opened in 1965.[citation needed]

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