On This Day: The Newark Riot

On July 12, 1967—45 years ago today—Newark, New Jersey, dissolved into a bloody riot that would, over the next six days, leave 26 individuals dead, hundreds injured, and between $10 and $15 million in property damage.

Newark was already home to a great deal of racial tension. Neighborhood composition had changed quickly, and unemployment and poverty plagued residents. African Americans were politically marginalized and suffered police brutality on a regular basis.

Within this climate, violence erupted after a cab driver who was arrested for allegedly driving around a double-parked police car was severely beaten by police officers. When rumor spread that the cab driver had died in police custody, an angry crowd threw bricks and bottles at the precinct. Police reacted with speed, force, and brutality.

The riot was characterized by shocking and indiscriminate violence; for instance, a woman named Eloise Spellman was shot while peering out of an apartment window ten stories up. (Click here to learn more about the victims.) Excessive looting and arson led to millions of dollars in property damage.

Three nights into the riot, New Jersey Governor Richard Hughes declared a state of emergency.

The violence settled down on July 17th, after which National Guardsmen and state troopers moved out of Newark. In the end, 24 African Americans, one white police detective, and one white fireman were killed—most of them by police or National Guard troops aiming at suspected snipers. More than 1,500 individuals were arrested.

Coming two years after the infamous Watts Riot of 1965, the Newark riot was followed by more violence as racial tension led to additional riots in other cities—including in Detroit less than two weeks later.

To learn more, check out this detailed summary from Rutgers University. This site also includes video clips of oral history interviews with people who witnessed the violence.

Another website contains day-by-day summaries of the riot, excerpted from Tom Hayden’s 1967 publication Rebellion in Newark.

To read a collection of Newark Evening News articles printed between July 13 and July 16, check out this page from the Newark Public Library.

This 2006 USA Today article about a museum exhibition about the event includes interviews with survivors of the riot.

Four years after the riot, journalist Ronald Porambo, who was in Newark during the violence, published No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark.

To learn more about Newark’s racial history, check out Kevin Mumford’s Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America (NYU Press, 2008).