The Riots

July 9, 2007

For a New Jersey resident of A Certain Age, any reference to the Newark race riots of 1967 brings an almost visceral reaction. The week-long conflagration that started on July 12 created a cloud of fear that settled all over the state like a pall of volcanic ash, and sentenced the city to a generation-long half life as the poster child for urban decay. When state planners were gearing up for the 1997 opening of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, or NJPAC, they realized that a whole new system of road signs would have to be installed to guide motorists. In the decades following the riots, it had simply been assumed that nobody would be interested in driving into Newark.

I don’t know if 40 years allows enough distance to make sense of what happened, but there’s no shortage of people giving it a try. The New York Times has a retrospective piece, and yesterday’s Star-Ledger marked the start of a four-part reappraisal of the riots. The Ledger also has this disapproving writeup on the PBS documentary about the riots, Revolution ’67, set to air tomorrow night.

I’m not sure any one article or documentary is going to satisfy anyone as being the last word on the Newark tragedy, but the riots opened a huge festering wound in the heart of New Jersey — a wound that only now seems to be starting to heal. That definitely deserves our attention.

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2 Responses to “The Riots”

  1. Scott Stiefel Says:

    I saw the movie several weeks back. The production values were a bit cheesy, but it essentially takes the same point of view on the origins, evolution and denouement of the riots as the Ledger’s series.


  2. These wounds are healing? Time to attend an event sponsored by the People’s Organization for Progress and ask folks there in Newark if wounds are healing. Ask Earl Faison’s family (in neighboring Orange, NJ). Talk to Larry Hamm, civil rights leader from Newark, NJ, who holds rallies in 2007 to point up the issue of police brutality in 2007, if wounds are healing.

    http://www.njpop.org/


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