1964 Rochester race riot
In the early evening of Friday, July 24, 1964, the Rochester Police Department attempted to arrest a 19-year-old intoxicated black male at a street block party and dance. A member of the group "Mothers Improvement Association of the Eighth Ward" concerned with the male's behavior was the first to contact the Rochester Police Department.
The police response to the call included a K-9 Corps dog. Rumors alleging brutal actions by police against blacks spread quickly, and an angry crowd formed on Joseph Avenue and became violent. The riot broke out in two of Rochester's predominantly black wards, near the location of the intersection of Nassau Street and Joseph Avenue, as well as downtown.
Peace was restored after three days, and only after Governor Nelson Rockefeller called out the New York National Guard, the first such use of troops in a northern city since the Civil War. By the time the disturbance was over, four were dead (three in a helicopter crash) and 350 injured. Almost a thousand people were arrested and 204 stores were either looted or damaged.
A police officer lost his eye when hit by a bottle and a reporter for ABC News was shot in the face, but it only grazed his facial structure.
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.” 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.
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. However, most historians consider the cause to be racism rather than poverty since the low-pay and low-skill poor whites who attended the same public schools did not riot.
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. One of the first housing projects built after the riots was the Chatham Gardens Apartments, which opened in 1965.
- Mangione, Jerre. Mount Allegro A Memoir of Italian American Life, 1989. Syracuse University Press.
- Hosmer, Howard C. A Panoramic History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York, 1979. Windsor Publishers.
- Democrat & Chronicle: Study a year later disputed image of ‘ lawless' rioters
- Photographs and timeline of riot at July'64 website
- Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle series about the riot
- Photographs of riot from New York Heritage website
- July'64 Recent PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) documentary about the 1964 Rochester riot
- 22 Schools reading scores and the areas demographics
- Rochester Wiki Page
- Dr. Cooper Papers-Box 4: Black Muslims, Malcolm X, Police Brutality, Baden Street Settlement, and the Riots; 1960-1965