Remembering the Harlem Riot of 1964

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

During the Harlem Riots of 1964, protesters march down 125th street with photographs of Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan. (Dick DeMarsico, New York World Telegraph & Sun/Wikipedia Commons)

50 years ago, 15-year-old James Powell was shot and killed by Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan, igniting a spree of riots in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant that spread throughout the country. Peniel Joseph, professor of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and author of Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama (Basic Books, 2010), and David Paterson, former governor of New York, talk about the legacy and context of the 1964 riots. Plus, listeners call in with their memories.


Peniel Joseph and Governor David A. Paterson

Comments [17]


Dear Friends,
We hope for better results when we want to solve a problem but can we expect any different or better result by continuing the same actions that do not produce different results?

When one side cannot seem to find a new way to solve a problem then the other side must think for both. Better voices of reason must connect their thoughts to action.

We contend that the so-called "uneducated" people of Ferguson can think better than than the systemized thinking of the Authorities. We therefore, propose that Ferguson residents take to the "pen" and pen a Petition of Grievances in their Churches, in their Community Centers, tonight. Let it be proofread by the journalists, re-written and be as powerful as possible; then let it be printed in every paper in the country and the World.

Not only is the Petition great but even an "X" can work if people cannot sign their own name. Petitions have worked forever and can be sent quickly everywhere.

In addition, how interesting the Streets of Ferguson will look tonight when only the police are seen and no people to confront. Send the cameras into the Churches and Community Centers and see the Voices of Reason in Action.

Aug. 19 2014 11:12 AM


Aug. 12 2014 01:17 PM
Juan Sotomayor from New York

Interesting view but did Brian forget their were Puerto Ricans in Harlem at that time. Typical white liberal reductionism locked in the white-black binary. NYC has historically ignored the Puerto Rican community and continues to do so. Did he also forget the first riot in 1935 over a black Puerto Rican Lino Rivera.

Jul. 26 2014 06:35 PM
John from office

Uprisings = burning down your own house = Riot, more nonsense from the usual crowd.

Jul. 16 2014 02:04 PM
CR from Manhattan

Yes Cervantes. That's what Fox does. It's also what MSNBC does, the NY Times, NY Post, NPR, The Atlantic, Huffington Post and Salon do too.

The facts involved, the causes of the riots, the motivations of the players, the effects of their actions, the people harmed, the damage done, the reaction by politicians, activists, community leaders, the police, and the media weren't as cut-and-dry as these two guests would have you believe. The mayor, president, police officials and others weren't the buffoons these two one-sided activists have painted them to be. An historical reflection on these events should discuss all the facts and have guests that can speak to all the details. This was a report on history, not current affairs.

Jul. 16 2014 12:34 PM

"report on one side"? isn't that what Fox does day in, day out;yet has the delusional gall to call that news?! Hypocrite!!

Jul. 16 2014 12:08 PM
CR from Manhattan

Nice job Brian... way to report (once again) one side of an issue/event.

Jul. 16 2014 11:58 AM
fuva from harlemworld

jgarbuz...The harsh fact for you is that you're delusional, and your confrontation with reality, given your disproportionate power, is up to you, for the sake of us all.

Jul. 16 2014 11:58 AM
fuva from harlemworld

jgarbuz, c'mon man...I'm not on crack...But if you don't know that you, as – presumably – a white male, have disproportionate socioeconomic power, then YOU'RE ON THE DRUG OF BLISSFUL IGNORANCE. And this country's progress depends on your successful treatment...Maybe begin here:

Jul. 16 2014 11:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


Here are the harsh facts Fuva. Reality. It's every man for himself, and same goes for women. The gov't has done all it can, and can do nothing more. Every individual and every group has to struggle to do the best it can. Government did clear a lot of paths but the rest is up to the individual to do the best he or she can with whatever limited or no resources he or she has to work with. No one stands in anyone's way. You try your best, you do what you can, and the chips will fall wherever they fall.

Jul. 16 2014 11:51 AM

Fuva.....Jgrbuz just showed himself to be the vulgar fool,we've always known him to be. the true ugly is unveiled.

Jul. 16 2014 11:50 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


My "socioeconomic power?" You must be on crack Fuva.

Jul. 16 2014 11:46 AM

how tragic that in so many ways,we've not come very far at all. Needless to say,Basil Patterson sounds quite a bit like his son, David.

Jul. 16 2014 11:44 AM
fuva from harlemworld

jgarbuz, you probably mean well, but your analysis reflects a race-unawareness that can probably be described as willful, given your disproportionate socioeconomic power...
Affirmative Action (AA) benefits those blacks who – under unfairly disadvantaged conditions (that whites and even Jews never faced in America) – are lucky enough to attain the prerequisites for leveraging it.
And so AA and civil rights acts changed relatively little, because the economic, psychosocial, etc. effects of 350+ years went unacknowledged and unaddressed. The black/white income/wealth divide is still gaping, which forces most blacks (at least 66%) to live in impoverished neighborhoods that they would not otherwise choose, even if they would prefer to live in black neighborhoods.
In the 60s, we really hoped we had applied THE FIX. But turns out, there's a lot more work to be done. The sooner we face that fact, the better.

Jul. 16 2014 11:43 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


I would say starting around 1968 a lot of "affirmative action" and the end of block busting and such did cause rapid changes. Blacks could finally move out of the ghettos that most of us Jews and whites moved out of a few years earlier on. I would say that by and large "birds of a feather flock together" and groups self-segregate, but not everywhere. But generally speaking most Blacks and Whites don't care to live together, go to school together, socialize much together or get married together. Having lived in what became predominantly black neighborhoods most of my life, I would say that is probably not going to change. SELF-segregation is probably here now and forever. I don't believe the color barrier will ever really be substantially crossed no matter what we do. That's just the way it is and probably will be for a long time to come if not forever.

Jul. 16 2014 11:26 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Oh, I remember them all. We had a small mom & pop shop not in Harlem but in Brownsville, but thankfully out of all the riots ours was never touched. I like to believe because we were very honest and forthright with our mostly Black clientele, but whatever. But I don't readily forget those years. I used to read "Muohammad Speaks" and even had occasional conversations with some Black Panthers and Black Muslims. Those were the days.

Jul. 16 2014 11:18 AM
fuva from harlemworld

This was one of about 4 Harlem uprisings in the 20th century. After each, a panel of experts and investigators acknowledged the underlying socioeconomic conditions – e.g., housing and employment segregation – and proposed socioeconomic remedies. But they were never implemented.

Jul. 16 2014 10:30 AM

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