Learning from the Wattz Rebellion, 50 Years Later

3 Sep

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Police arrest a man during the Watts riots, 1965. Photo: World-Telegram / Ed Palumbo / Library of Congress

by Sekou Franklin

August 31, 2015

A week after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement, the Watts rebellion broke out in Los Angeles. The riots began on August 11, 1965, when an argument between a white highway patrolman and a black motorist led to violent confrontations among police and residents of South Los Angeles. By August 17, thirty-four people had died, and more than 1,000 injuries and nearly 4,000 arrests were reported. The demonstration of black rage in Watts was a stark contrast to the jubilation of civil rights activists a week earlier at the VRA’s signing ceremony in the White House.

Less than a year later, one activist, Bayard Rustin, authored The Watts “Manifesto” & the McCone Report in an…

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