BLACK VOICES

50 Years Later, These 8 Photos Of The Watts Riots Speak Volumes

One black man's arrest was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Los Angeles reached its boiling point on August 11, 1965.

Racial tensions in the predominantly black and economically downtrodden neighborhood of Watts were already high when spectators witnessed two white police officers arresting Marquette Frye, a 21-year-old black man. He was pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. Many black community members revolted in opposition to what was viewed at the time as another racially motivated arrest by the Los Angeles Police Department.  

The rebellion lasted six days and spread throughout South Central Los Angeles, according to the Civil Rights Digital Library. It ended on Aug. 17, after 14,000 National Guard troops arrived. The toll of the violence and destruction left 34 dead, 1,032 injured, almost 4,000 arrested and $40 million worth of property destroyed, according to History.com. Despite the national attention the riots warranted to the neighborhood’s issues, conditions didn’t change much for the residents of Watts. 

Check out these 8 compelling photos of the Watts Riots that took place 50 years ago.

  • Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, Californi
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • With his .22 hunting rifle on his lap and a revolver in his belt, heavyweight boxer Amos Lincoln, aka Big Train, guards the f
    Express via Getty Images
    With his .22 hunting rifle on his lap and a revolver in his belt, heavyweight boxer Amos Lincoln, aka Big Train, guards the family drug store during rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles, August 1965. (Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
  • Armed National Guardsmen force a line of Black men to stand against the wall of a building during the Watts race riots, Los A
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    Armed National Guardsmen force a line of Black men to stand against the wall of a building during the Watts race riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • UNITED STATES - AUGUST 21:  Race Riots Of Los Angeles, In 1965  (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
    Keystone-France via Getty Images
    UNITED STATES - AUGUST 21: Race Riots Of Los Angeles, In 1965 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
  • UNITED STATES - APRIL 22:  Approach A Ghetto Black In The South Central Los Angeles, a sign indicated ': Turn Left If You Wan
    Keystone-France via Getty Images
    UNITED STATES - APRIL 22: Approach A Ghetto Black In The South Central Los Angeles, a sign indicated ': Turn Left If You Want to avoid being killed,' On August 21, 1965 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
  • State troopers take aim during rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles, August 1965. (Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty
    Express via Getty Images
    State troopers take aim during rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles, August 1965. (Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
  • 16th August 1965:  Two African-American men hold their hands up against the wall of a dry cleaners while being arrested by Ca
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    16th August 1965: Two African-American men hold their hands up against the wall of a dry cleaners while being arrested by Caucasian state troopers during the Watts race riots, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • National guardsman in a jeep patrol a rubble-strewn street in the Watts neighborhood after a several-day long riot, Los Angel
    PhotoQuest via Getty Images
    National guardsman in a jeep patrol a rubble-strewn street in the Watts neighborhood after a several-day long riot, Los Angeles, California, mid August, 1965. The riot left 34 people dead, more than a thousand injured, thousands of arrests, and hundreds of building burned, damaged, or destroyed at a cost of more that $40 million. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

 

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