African American History Black History Month

Feb 14: The Riots of 1968

by Maddie Murphy

Soldiers stand guard in front of a supermarket on 63rd Street on Chicago’s South Side on April 7, 1968. (AP Photo ). Image source:

During the 1960s, major cities such as Boston, Kansas City, and Washington, were the homes of rising anger between the races. Discrimination, segregation, police brutality, and poverty were the inevitable realities of the ghettos within these large cities. Ghettos were public housing areas specifically created by the U.S. government to house people of the same race. African Americans were crowded into these ghettos where garbage was not collected, rental prices were higher, and disease was common. These ghettos were provoked at even the slightest instigation, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination was the biggest instigation of all. After King’s assassination, riots began to break out in about 125 cities. African Americans were extremely upset about the way they were being treated throughout the country. Instead of using peace, they turned to violence to voice their anger and frustration. The riots became so violent that the National Guard had to patrol the cities and try to stop the fights. The riots burned major American cities and caused approximately $65 million to $385 million worth of damage.

The Riots of 1968 are important because they show what life was like after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. When many people think of Black History Month they only think of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. People tend to forget about what happened after King was shot, but what happened after his assassination helped to set the stage for how racism continued and segregation both continued and eventually changed. This topic was interesting to me because I had never heard of them before, and I now know why they started. I believe that the riots happened because people around the world were tired of nothing being done to fix segregation. The riots were an ongoing event because of white racism and oppression of African Americans.

An editorial authored by staff writers at the JHU News-Letter called for greater compassion about the riots. Source:

This relates greatly to Black History Month because these riots are a huge part of African American and American History. Theses riots showed how African Americans and even white people dealt with the assassination and the ongoing racism throughout the world. King wanted to use peace to protest, but after he was killed, peaceful protests and marches turned to fights, fires, and destruction. The riots symbolize the extreme anger and hate the African Americans had for the ways in which they were being forced to live. The riots allowed conservatives and officials to finally open their eyes and address laws that were an issue within America. The riots, although violent and destructive, showed people around the world that the way African Americans were being treated would not be tolerated.

The riots happened in over 100 cities and started because of many years of racial unrest. These riots happened as a result of the ongoing black and white segregation throughout America. For example, African Americans could not find jobs, lived in ghettos, and even had to go to separate schools. This continued racism triggered the mass destruction that went on in many cities throughout the country. Racism, although improved today, is still an issue within our country.