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The Newark Riots of 1967 in New Jersey were the worst in the state’s history, ignited by racial tensions between the city’s Black residents and police officers. After the arrest and beating of a Black cab driver, citizens took to the streets and a six-day riot raged on before it was quelled by the National Guard and local authorities.

Newark, a predominately Black city and the largest in the state, was one of the first cities to hire Black officers, yet the force remained overwhelmingly white. With the glaring disparities and reports of police brutality, the stage was set for the inevitable clash that took place on July 12, 1967.

Cabbie John Smith was flagged down by officers for allegedly tailgating, but instead zoomed past the officers and double parked. Within sight of a nearby housing project, the officers beat and arrested Smith. Witnesses to the ordeal were angered, and a local civil rights leader, Bob Curvin, urged a peaceful protest of the precinct.

Growing tired of taking the high road, the angry crowd began throwing stones and other objects, including a pair of Molotov cocktails, in the direction of officers. By the second day, the clashes escalated and burning and looting began.

The National Guard was called in by the third day, but the violence continued. By the end of the fracas, the city was almost destroyed. A reported 26 people, most of them Black, were killed, and over 750 were injured. Approximately 1,000 people were jailed.

In the nearly 50 years since the Newark riots, relationships between police and Black residents has improved slightly, although remnants of the times echoes in the current tensions between Black communities and the police.

(Photo: Life magazine cover)

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