The year 1968 was a tumultuous time in America’s history, and Washington, D.C. was often in the middle of controversy. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968, six days of race riots erupted in the Nation’s capital. Dr. Darrell Clayton Crain Jr. captured parts of the event and put them on Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides. Thanks to technology, these were scanned in to the computer and digitized. They’re now featured on the Flickr account Posthumous DCC, along with other pictures throughout the years.
If you aren’t familiar with the riots, they started as news spread about King’s death. Crowds began to gather at 14th street and U. Stokely Carmichael, an activist who had parted ways with King in 1966 and removed as head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1967, lead members of the SNCC to different neighborhoods. At first, they politely demanded that stores close out of respect. Eventually, the crowd became out of control and were breaking windows. Widespread looting started by 11PM (as well as in 30th other cities).
Things got worse in the following days. Anger was still evident and it resulted in violent confrontations with the DC police. Buildings were set on fire. Police unsuccessfully tried to control the crowds with tear gas, and eventually the National Guard was brought in. Marines mounted machine guns on the steps of the Capitol and army troops guarded the White House. It was the largest military occupation of any American city since the Civil War.
These vintage images showcase just how bad some of the destruction was. By the time the city was considered calmed down, 12 were killed (mostly in burning homes), 1,097 were injured, and over 6,100 were arrested. The devastation to property was $27 million (over $175 million today). Some neighborhoods in DC didn’t start to economically recover until the 1990’s.
See more of these powerful images on Flickr.