1943 August 1

Harlem Race Riot Signals Rising African-American Discontent


Violence erupted in the African-American community of Harlem in New York City after a police officer shot and wounded an African-American soldier. The soldier had tried to stop a police officer from hitting an African-American woman that he was arresting. Looting and property destruction continued before the riot finally ended on August 3.

The Harlem incident was one of several outbreaks of race-related violence in the summer of 1943 that reflected rising African-American discontent with segregation and mistreatment. Most important were the week-long riot in Detroit (June 20, 1943) and the so-called “Zoot Suit” riot in Los Angeles (June 3, 1943) that involved conflict between U.S. Navy sailors, the police and the Latino community.

There had been a previous race riot in New York City on March 20,1935. That riot and the riots of the 1940s marked a historic shift in the dynamics of American urban racial violence. Previously, race riots had involved mobs of whites invading African-American communities, attacking people and destroying property. See the East St. Louis riot on July 2, 1917, and the Chicago riot of July 27, 1919. The new style of riots involved African-Americans attacking white-owned property in the African-American community.

Learn more: Ann Collins, All Hell Broke Loose: American Race Riots From the Progressive Era Through World War II (2012)

Watch a short video on the 1943 Harlem riot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4Gv7mL5xoE

And the Detroit race riot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YP9cbo5CkU

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