Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Revolution '67, Lesson 2: What Happened in July 1967? How Do We Know?

Created November 28, 2011


The Lesson


Revolution '67 image

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.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify types of primary sources.
  • Analyze primary sources.
  • Describe the events referred to as the Newark riots, and begin to uncover the causes for the unrest.
  • Evaluate the reliability of primary and secondary sources.


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."

Preparation Instructions

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. What Happened and How Do We Know?

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:

  • How could you find the answers to those questions?
  • How do we know what happened in Newark in July 1967?

Suggested Responses: Newspaper articles, photographs, books, diaries, talking to participants and witnesses, websites, videos/films.

  • What type of source is the Kerner Commission and its report?
  • On what sources did the Kerner Commission build their report?

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:

  • What happened in Newark in July 1967?
  • What does this document tell us about why and how people protest?

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 completePart 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:

  • In the film, how does the archival footage of police using automatic weapons challenge the National Guardsman’s assertion that he was fired upon by a sniper?
  • How does the Kerner Report treat Newark Police Director Spina’s testimony re: snipers?

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:

  • Why did people riot or rebel in 1967?
  • Was it justifiable?
  • Was it a type of political action?
  • Do you think the historical interpretation of these events might have changed in fifty years? Why or why not?

The Basics

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies


Activity Worksheets
Student Resources

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