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Baltimore riot of 1968

Baltimore riot of 1968
Date April 6, 1968 (1968-04-06) – April 14, 1968 (1968-04-14)
Location Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Causes Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Methods Rioting, race riots, protests, looting, attacks
Parties to the civil conflict
Death(s) 6
Injuries 700
Arrested 5,800+

Black Baltimoreans rioted from April 6 to April 14, 1968. The uprising included crowds filling the streets, burning and looting local businesses, and confronting the police and national guard.

The immediate cause of the riot was the April 4 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, which triggered unrest in 125 cities across the United States. These events are sometimes described as the Holy Week Uprising.[1]

Spiro T. Agnew, the Governor of Maryland, called out thousands of National Guard troops and 500 Maryland State Police to quell the disturbance. When it was determined that the state forces could not control the rebellion, Agnew requested Federal troops from President Lyndon B. Johnson.


  • Background 1
  • Course of events 2
  • Military response 3
    • Organization of Task Force Baltimore 3.1
  • Outcome 4
    • Damage 4.1
    • Legacy 4.2
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Between World War II and 1968, Baltimore had changed demographically. The total population remained constant, but the racial demographic black population had grown and while other populations shrunk (both by about 200,000). These people had left the city in favor of Baltimore County. Black communities had sub-par housing, high rates of infant mortality, and more crime. They also suffered disproportionately from the decline in Baltimore's manufacturing sector. Black unemployment was more than double the national rate, and even higher in especially poor communities. Those who did have jobs were paid less and worked in unsafe condition.[1]

Course of events

With the spread of civil disturbances across the nation, Maryland National Guard troops were called up for state duty on April 5, 1968, in anticipation of disturbances in Baltimore or the suburban portions of Maryland bordering Washington, DC.[2]

Black Baltimore was quiet on April 5, despite riots in nearby Washington, D.C..[3] One white student at UMBC reported a quiet scene, with noticeable sadness, but little violence or unrest: April 5, "in many cases, was just another day".[4]

Baltimore remained peaceful into the day on April 6. Three hundred people gathered peacefully around noon for a memorial service, which lasted until 2 pm without incident. Street traffic began to increase. A crowd formed on Gay St. in East Baltimore, and by 5 pm some windows on the 400 block had been smashed. Police began to move in. People began to report fires after 6 pm. Soon after, the city declared an 10 pm curfew and called in 6000 troops from the national guard. Sales of alcohol and firearms were immediately banned.[3] At this point, some reports described about a thousand people in the crowd, which moved north on Gay St. up to Harford Rd. and Greenmount Ave. Mayor Thomas L. J. D'Alesandro III was unable to respond effectively. Around 8 pm, Governor Agnew declared a state of emergency.[1]

By the morning of April 7, reports to the White House described five deaths, 300 fires, and 404 arrests. Unrest also broke out on Pennsylvania Ave in West Baltimore.[1] At one point, a mob of white counter-rioters assembled near Patterson Park; they dispersed after National Guard troops prevented them from entering a black neighborhood.[1]

Violence decreased after April 9, and the Baltimore Orioles played their opening game the next day, though the April 12 James Brown concert remained cancelled.[1] On the afternoon of April 9, federal troops dispersed crowds at a permitted peace rally, apparently unaware that General Gelston had issued a permit for the event. The situation was diffused by Major William "Box" Harris, the highest-ranking police officer in the city.[1]

Military response

When violent protest broke out in Baltimore on April 6, nearly the entire

  • University of Baltimore 1968 Riot site, Baltimore '68: Riots and Rebirth, "", includes extensive timeline of events.
  • Maryland State Archives Document Packet, prepared by Edward C. Papenfuse and Mercer Neale, with the Assistance of the Staff of the Maryland State Archives, Is Baltimore Burning?, "". Includes original documents, news footage, and suggestions for further research.

External links

  • Levy, Peter B. "The Dream Deferred: The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Holy Week Uprisings of 1968," Maryland Historical Magazine (2013) 108#1 pp 57–78.
  • Minami, Wayde R. Baltimore Riot Was Maryland Air Guard's Largest Mobilization, Online
  • Nix, Elizabeth, and Jessica Elfenbein, eds., Baltimore '68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City (2011), excerpt
  • Peterson, John J. Into the Cauldron, Clavier House, 1973
  • Scheips, Paul J. The role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992. United States Army Center of Military History.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Levy, Peter B. (2011). "The Dream Deferred: The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Holy Week Uprisings of 1968". In Jessica I. Elfenbein; Thomas L. Hollowak; Elizabeth M. Nix. Baltimore '68 : riots and rebirth in an American city. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.  
  2. ^ Risen, Clay (2009). "April 5: 'The Occupation of Washington'". A nation on fire : America in the wake of the King assassination. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.  
  3. ^ a b Feinstein, Barbara. "Baltimore '68 Events Timeline". Baltimore 68: Riot & Rebirth. University of Baltimore. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Carney, Thomas (2011). "6. Thomas Carney: Oral History; edited by Linda Shopes". In Jessica I. Elfenbein; Thomas L. Hollowak; Elizabeth M. Nix. Baltimore '68 : riots and rebirth in an American city. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.  
  5. ^ Scheips, Paul J. The role of Federal Military Foces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992. United States Army Center of Military History. p. 318. 
  6. ^ Minami, Wayde R. "Baltimore Riot Was Maryland Air Guard's Largest Mobilization". 
  7. ^ a b c Scheips, Paul J. The role of Federal Military Foces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992.  
  8. ^ Scheips, Paul J. The role of Federal Military Foces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992. United States Army Center of Military History. p. 333. 
  9. ^ Harriss, Margery (3 April 1998). "Recalling Baltimore's 1968 Riots". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Elfeinbein, Jessica I. (2011). "Preface". In Jessica I. Elfenbein; Thomas L. Hollowak; Elizabeth M. Nix. Baltimore '68: riots and rebirth in an American city. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.  


See also

The uprising is mentioned on Baltimore based police dramas Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. On Homicide it is mentioned as one of Lt. Al Giardello and Detective Stuart Gharty's first assignments on the episodes "Black and Blue" and "Shades of Gray." On The Wire, it is mentioned on "Boys of Summer" as an event that proved problematic for a former Baltimore Mayor that at the same time enabled Maryland's Governor to become a vice presidential nominee.

In popular culture

Media and academic coverage of the events has been thin, partly because the event remains emotional for those involved.[11]

The uprising had broken out mainly in the black neighborhoods of East and West Baltimore[10] in which extensive property damage and looting occurred. Many of the businesses destroyed in the uprising were located along the main commercial avenues of the neighborhoods and were often owned by people of a Jewish background.

One of the major outcomes of the uprising was the attention American Independent Party, third party campaign. Agnew became Nixon’s vice presidential running mate in 1968.


Of the arrests, 3,488 were for curfew violations, 955 for burglary, 665 for looting, 391 for assault, and 5 for arson.[7]

In addition, an active Army soldier died in a traffic accident while redeploying from the city. Rioters set more than 1,200 fires during the disturbance. Damage was estimated at over $12 million (equivalent to $77.5 million today).

In the next few days, six people died, 700 were injured, and 5,800 were arrested. 1000 small businesses were damaged or robbed.[9] Property damages, assessed financially, were more severe in DC ($15 million) and Baltimore ($12 million) than in any other cities.[1] Most damage was done within the rioters' own neighborhoods.



Organization of Task Force Baltimore

A total of 10,956 troops had been deployed.[1]

After action reports credited both the National Guard and active Army forces for being extremely disciplined and restrained in dealing with the disturbance, with only four shots fired by National Guard troops and two by active Army troops.[8] These forces had received orders to avoid firing their weapons, as part of an intentional strategy to decrease fatalities.[1]

Unrest continued for several days as the Task Force sought to reassert control. Early on April 12, federal troops began to depart and by 6 pm that evening responsibility for riot control returned to the National Guard. At midnight Task Force Baltimore ceased to exist and the remainder of federal troops were withdrawn. Maryland National Guard troops remained on duty in the city until April 14, when Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew declared the emergency over and sent them home.[7]

[7] Task Force Baltimore peaked at 11,570 Army and National Guard troops on April 9, of which all but about 500 were committed to riot control duties.[6] The combined National Guard and police force proved unable to contain the uprising and on Sunday, April 7, federal troops were requested. Late that evening, elements of the


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