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.
The intent of this lesson 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. Prior to implementing this unit, 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 this lesson 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."
Remind students of the “July 12, 1967: The Spark” clip from Revolution ’67 that they watched and review some of the questions they had after watching it. Discuss the following questions:
Suggested Responses: Newspaper articles, photographs, books, diaries, talking to participants and witnesses, websites, videos/films.
Suggested Responses: The Kerner Commission is secondary, based on primary sources, and it is an official government report, which implies impartiality and authority.
Review student responses to Launchpad section 2. Discuss the ways in which the Kerner Report helps to answer the questions:
Have students go to Launchpad section 3. Show Revolution ’67 online Video Clip 2: “National Guardsman: “Do I Believe There Were Snipers? Yes.” Have students complete Part A as they watch. Ask students to identify the pros and cons of using eyewitness testimony or oral history as a source when researching an event and discuss the following questions:
Suggested Responses: Both the Kerner Report and Revolution ’67 challenge the existence of snipers in Newark in 1967.
Working individually or in small groups, have students use their homework responses and information from Revolution ’67 Timeline to complete Part B of Handout 2, listing as many causes as they can find for the events of July 1967 (poverty, lack of opportunity, UMDNJ proposal, Board of Education controversy, police brutality, poor housing), and list the events that occurred during the period of unrest (Link to timeline). Discuss the following questions with the class: