TBT: April 12, 1968, protests following MLK assassination

TBT: April 12, 1968, protests following MLK assassination

This week’s racially-charged protests in Baltimore mirror events that occurred more than 47 years ago throughout the country – in one instance just 15 miles north of Newark.

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After Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered April 4, 1968 at a motel in Memphis, Tenn., riots broke out across the country in cities like Chicago, Baltimore and Wilmington. At least 45 people were injured during firebombing, looting and sniping from April 8 and April 9 in West Wilmington, though no deaths were attributed to disturbances. More than 3,500 Delaware National Guardsmen were called into the Wilmington area on April 9, remaining in the area for several days to assist municipal and state police. During these two days, curfews were imposed in Wilmington and all of New Castle County.

Similarly, 2,000 National Guards were deployed to Baltimore on Tuesday.

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Of the 160 arrests made on charges including violation of the Wilmington riot ordinance and carrying a concealed weapon, almost 85 were on curfew violations. In Newark, fire bombs were thrown at Deer Park, windows were smashed on Main Street at the Newark Country Club. Two services were held April 8 on campus to honor King.

The university held a ‘Day of Conscience” following Wilmington riots, with classes canceled so the campus community could have time to reflect on “moral issues facing America.” An editorial written by then student Nan Nutwell expressed disappointment with low attendance at memorial events and general disinterest.

In the editorial, he writes, “in the process of burying a beloved leader, the advocates of non-violent protest have found within themselves the strength to issue a final, despairing plea: that the mass indifference of white America to the suffering of black America be translated into an objective and a complete commitment to reform.”

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