Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Jerold Simmons
Throughout the 1960s, America witnessed one metropolis after another suffer from major civil disturbances. The first of these incidents occurred in Selma, Alabama, but it was not until Watts, California exploded that the nation began to take notice. As America was throttling towards a major race war, nobody anticipated the Midwestern town of 'Omaha, Nebraska to experience the same disturbances larger cities had. Although the life of average Omaha blacks was better than that of many of their urban counterparts, black Omahans still faced frequent job discrimination, lack of adequate educational facilities, and general disenchantment with Northern ghetto life. Between July 1966 and August 1969, these feelings were manifested physically in the streets. In this three-year period, three riots occurred, increasing in violence each time, further alienating both white and black communities. By the final riot in 1969, the motives of Omaha's disturbances had become completely rage-driven and no longer grievance-oriented. The city's reaction to these riots was fairly typical. After the first occurrence, Mayor A.V. Sorensen's administration created numerous programs to help re-establish the black community and to directly address the. rioters' complaints. After the final disturbance, local white merchants were leaving the area en masse, and the municipal government was reticent to coax anyone back into the neighborhood. Ultimately, any blighted community improvement plans were laid aside. Although the Omaha riots in the late 1960s destroyed the once vibrant Near North Side community, the disturbances served as an important expression of black grievances and rage. As demonstrated in the 1966 disturbance, the riots were an effective tactic to accomplish change in the community, but once injustices were no longer articulated, the efficacy of this tactic diminished. To many young black Americans, rioting allowed them to temporarily take back power, thus asserting themselves.
Howard, Ashley M., "Then the burning began: Omaha, riots, and the growth of black radicalism, 1966-1969" (2006). Student Work. 552.
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