The Newark Community Union Project (NCUP) Police Brutality March across Broad and Market Street in Newark, NJ, 1965.
Credit: Doug Eldridge Collection
Newark, New Jersey, is one of thousands of American cities to experience civil unrest during the 1960s. Often forgotten by textbooks and in American memory generally, the “riots” of the 1960s provide teachers with an excellent opportunity to highlight a wide variety of important themes in U.S. history such as conflict and protest as well as the transition from the civil rights era to Black Protest movement.
The intent of this lesson and its partner is to help students comprehend and explain the changes in Newark citizens’ views and attitudes towards government and how those attitudes affected political change in the 1960s and 1970s. The City of Newark, New Jersey, is used to demonstrate trends and changes that surfaced throughout the United States regarding community and political action.
These lessons will highlight the shifting emphases and tactics of a diverse range of civic and political activists, including the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, and the Student movement. Prior to implementing these lessons, students should have studied post-war America and the civil rights movement for the foundational historical knowledge that will allow them to compare the more "traditional" narrative of civil rights with the later emergence of a more urban-centered Black Power movement.
In these lessons, students first explore the reasons why people might disagree with laws or policies and the actions they would take to effect change. Next, they investigate the ways in which citizens respond to government (in)action and social conditions by analyzing a government report to understand the causes of the Newark riots of 1967 and the community and government responses to those events.
Teachers may wish to refer to some additional resources to augment their understanding of the causes and effects of the riots and civil disturbances of the 1960s. For more information on how Newark politics and policies of the 1940s and 1950s contributed to the events that occurred in the summer of 1967, see David Levitus’s “Planning, Slum Clearance and the Road to Crisis in Newark” available at Rutgers Newark Online: The Newark Metro.
Students may find some laws more or less repugnant than others. Those that are most directly relevant will usually elicit the most passionate reactions. In general, the worse students think a law will be for them (e.g. a military draft), the more willing they will be to take more aggressive measures to stop it from being implemented. Many will begin with a letter, maybe a petition, or a request to meet with a government official. Others will simply disobey, some will be apathetic, some will even go so far as to organize a protest, while a handful may even advocate more aggressive action.