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Description de l’éditeur
In July 1964, after a white police officer shot and killed an African American teenage boy, unrest broke out in Harlem and then Bedford-Stuyvesant. Protests rose up to call for an end to police brutality and the unequal treatment of Black people in a city that viewed itself as liberal. A week of upheaval ensued, including looting and property damage as well as widespread police violence, in what would be the first of the 1960s urban uprisings.
Christopher Hayes examines the causes and consequences of the uprisings, from the city’s history of racial segregation in education, housing, and employment to the ways in which the police both neglected and exploited Black neighborhoods. While the national civil rights movement was securing substantial victories in the 1950s and 1960s, Black New Yorkers saw little or uneven progress. Faced with a lack of economic opportunities, pervasive discrimination, and worsening quality of life, they felt a growing sense of disenchantment with the promises of city leaders. Turning to the aftermath of the uprising, Hayes demonstrates that the city’s power structure continued its refusal to address structural racism. In the most direct local outcome, a broad, interracial coalition of activists called for civilian review of complaints against the police. The NYPD’s rank and file fought this demand bitterly, further inflaming racial tensions. The story of the uprisings and what happened next reveals the white backlash against civil rights in the north and crystallizes the limits of liberalism.
Drawing on a range of archives, this book provides a vivid portrait of postwar New York City, a new perspective on the civil rights era, and a timely analysis of deeply entrenched racial inequalities.
Rutgers University history professor Hayes debuts with an immersive chronicle of the July 1964 uprising in New York City's Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods over the police killing of a Black teenager. Hayes documents "the vast system of structural discrimination" faced by Black New Yorkers, and contends that concurrent advances by the national civil rights movement, which tended to focus on the South, led to "rising expectations during a time of declining fortunes." He notes that Democrats and Republicans of the era espoused law and order rhetoric, and describes a Black population increasingly frustrated with the nonviolence ideology of the civil rights movement and more supportive of militant speakers. Hayes also delves into corruption in the NYPD, which participated in illegal activities such as sex trafficking, gambling, and drug dealing. The protests started "within minutes" of the shooting of 15-year-old James Powell by an off-duty police officer and continued for six days, resulting in nearly 500 arrests and the looting of hundreds of stores, and leading to a fierce political battle over demands for a panel of civilians to review citizens' complaints against police. Hayes unpacks the causes and effects of the uprising in scrupulous detail, and makes salient connections to recent events. This scholarly history is a powerful reminder that it takes "great force" to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.