Remembering April 4th, 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park

Remembering April 4th, 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park

From The Walk of Honor at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in Highland Park. [All photos: David Kramer] See Remembering MLK on the 89th anniversary of his birth. And 50 years after his assassination.

April 4th, 2017, Genesee Street, Rochester, NY.  The Martin Luther King National Day of Action. [Photo: David Kramer] “On April 4th, people across America gathered for the Martin Luther King National Day of Action to support racial and economic justice. Organized by the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Metro Justice, hundreds gathered at the Wilson Foundation Academy, first to march in the neighborhood and then to reconvene back at the school for a Town Hall teach-in.” From Marching on Genesee Street for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Action

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in Highland Park is a unique historical repository with plaques on it Timeline chronicling ancient epochs — the first is 300 B.C. — through 1973. From a historiographical perspective, the plaques present a vision of history: not a linear trajectory but a series of curving movements.  As the winding path ends close to where it begins, the course of history may be circular .

I sometimes wonder how the path (history) would be altered if single events were different. One of only two America plaques from the 19th century (the other is of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox), the assassination of Lincoln seems such a pivotal plaque.

(left) Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House, April 9th, 1865. From the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument in Washington Square Park; (right) statue of Abraham Lincoln atop the monument [Photos: David Kramer, 4/2/20]

How would post-Civil War Reconstruction — and by extension the progress of Civil Rights — be different had Lincoln not been martyred and instead lived?

Of course, the United States would have no pro-southern President Andrew Johnson advocating that ex-Confederates be allowed to serve in Congress. As historian Jane Turner Censer writes, we would have had a man — Lincoln — “more humane, less racist, and more politically adept than Andrew Johnson.” Maybe Reconstruction would have been longer and more successful. Maybe Jim Crow laws would never be promulgated.

Or, as Eric Foner says (referring to W. R. Brock from An American Crisis), a President Johnson may have been a historical blessing. Johnson’s obstructionist tenure, including the failed Swing Around the Circle, fostered the impasse between him and congressional Republicans. This impasse “was the creative element in the situation, pushing moderate Republicans toward the radical position and creating something utterly unanticipated at the outset — universal male suffrage.”

If Foner’s alternative history has merit, then had Lincoln’s body guard not been negligent at Ford’s Theater — and the plaque not existing in Highland Park — the first black voter (Thomas Mundy Peterson) may not have cast his ballot on March 31, 1870.

Of course, we only have the plaques as they exist and are inscribed.

For this piece, I’ve selected 51 plaques — beginning with Lincoln — related to the American civil rights movement until 1973 when the walk ends.  Included are references and discussions of the civil rights movement in Rochester.

The central figure is Martin Luther King Jr. His name appears on eight plaques, including April 4th, 1968 when 52 years ago today, King was killed in Memphis. Coretta Scott King is mentioned in one plaque.

In 1964, King invoked his own historiographical theory about the progress of history — human and divine — saying in his Baccalaureate sermon at the commencement exercises for Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (the phrase was probably first used in 1853 by Unitarian minister and prominent American Transcendentalist Theodore  who called for the abolition of slavery):

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

As you digitally peruse the plaques or actually see them in person, determine for yourself if King was right. Or if it is too early to know.

April 2, 2020. The day I took pictures, local artist Kristin Malone was sketching the bollard memorializing her cousin Richard Elliott from Elmira, killed in Vietnam 50 years ago, 4/2/70


On the entrance to the Memorial: The Walk of Honor, containing  280 stainless steel bollards — one for each of the men killed in Vietnam in our region. These bollards form a serpentine last patrol of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. On the other side of the Walk of Honor is a Timeline that gives a snapshot, not a complete history, of the Vietnam Era as a resource for school children and citizens of the future to help understand this tumultuous time in our history.  

The 1920s and the Ku Klux Klan

The first reference to race in America in from the 1919 plaque describing the United States in the interwar period. The plaque tells of “violence at home from the turmoil cause by . . . the actions of the Ku Klux Klan.” The 1920s saw the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan whose goal was to preserve the white, Protestant civilization and instigate the re-establishment of white supremacy.

As seen in The Eisenhower presidency (and nuclear armageddon) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park, the 1950s marked the emergence of the civil movement, first referenced in the May 17th, 1954 plaque. Mentioned in the first 1960 plaque, the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Bill was the first such bill since 1875. The landmark Brown decision led a Federal Court order desegregating school in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In September 1957, after Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block black students’ entry into Central High School, President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the “Little Rock Nine” into the school.  Afterwards, King wired the president, thanking him for his support of “Christian traditions of fair play and brotherhood.”

As seen in Reflecting on the 1960 Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins at Robert Brown High School, along with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and others, in March 2015 I attended a special event hosted by the Robert Brown School of Construction and Design Food and Nutrition class taught by Dr. Rita Gaither and Staci Feola-Elbadry. There, students celebrated Black History Month as they reflected upon the impact of the 1960 Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins.

Food and Nutrition students at the Robert Brown High School recreating the 1960 Greensboro NC Woolworth lunch counter sit ins. From Reflecting on the 1960 Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins at Robert Brown High School

From When Martin Luther King was at the home of Charles Lunsford Democrat and Chronicle, 09 Jan 1958, Thu, [First Edition], Page 23

As seen in On Dr. Charles T. Lunsford and the house where he entertained Martin Luther King Jr., during this period, on January 8, 1958 King spoke at the Rochester City Club and the Colgate Divinity School King and also attended a private reception at the home of Dr. Charles Lunsford. Rochester’s first African-American police officer, Charles Price served as King’s bodyguard and took a photo. With the passing of Letha Ridley, Price is now the last surviving witness to the event.

Dr. Lunsford was Rochester’s first licensed black physician and a prominent civil rights spokesman, especially in the 1940s and 1950s.

(left) at Dr. Charles Lunsfords’ former home on Elmwood Avenue; (right) at Lunsford’s gravesite in Mt. Hope Cemetery. From On Dr. Charles T. Lunsford and the house where he entertained Martin Luther King Jr.

May 1961 The Freedom Riders and Montgomery, Alabama

Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17. (Wikipedia)

On the evening of May 21 1961, more than 1,000 black residents and civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth attended a service at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church. The service, organized by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, was planned to support an interracial group of civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders. As the service took place, a white mob surrounded the church and vandalized parked cars. (

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square [January 13th, 2018, photo: David Kramer] From  Remembering MLK on the 89th anniversary of his birth. And 50 years after his assassination.

1962 Jackie Robinson elected to the baseball Hall of Fame

Robinson was active in politics throughout his post-baseball life. He identified himself as a political independent, although he held conservative opinions on several issues, including the Vietnam War (he once wrote to Martin Luther King, Jr. to defend the Johnson Administration’s military policy). After supporting Richard Nixon in his 1960 presidential race against John F. Kennedy, Robinson later praised Kennedy effusively for his stance on civil rights. (Wikipedia)

As seen in 70 years ago today when Jackie Robinson broke the color line at Red Wings Stadium, Robinson was the first modern black player to play professionally in Rochester. In 1946, Robinson played at Red Wings Stadium for the International League’s Montreal Royals.

David Kramer, About Time Magazine/Vol. XXXV (2007) No. 5-6 p.35 [Held and scanned courtesy of the Rochester Institute of Rochester’s Wallace Library] From 70 years ago today when Jackie Robinson broke the color line at Red Wings Stadium

1962 James Meredith and the University of Mississippi

The Ole Miss riot of 1962, or Battle of Oxford, was fought between Southern segregationists and federal and state forces beginning the night of September 30, 1962. Segregationists were protesting the enrollment of James Meredith, a black US military veteran, at the University of Mississippi (known affectionately as Ole Miss) at Oxford, Mississippi. (Wikipedia)

1963 Medgar Evers is murdered

In the driveway outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi, African American civil rights leader Medgar Evers is shot to death by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. After a funeral in Jackson, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. President John F. Kennedy and many other leaders publicly condemned the killing. (

1963 On Boston public television producer Henry Morgenthau III’s “The Negro and the American Promise,” King and Malcolm X call Kennedy’s leadership inadequate

On October 25th, 1962, King addressed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference convention at the Rochester War Memorial.

Dr. Martin Luther King addressing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference convention at the Rochester War Memorial, Democrat and Chronicle Oct 26th, 1962 From Remembering MLK on the 89th anniversary of his birth. And 50 years after his assassination.

The Guest Essay discusses the friendship between Malcolm X and Constance Mitchell, the first African-American lawmaker in Monroe County.

1963 King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C.

As seen in Nazareth College’s President Daan Braveman on defining moments and his own March on Washington, August 1963, Nazareth College’s President Daan Braveman — then a student at Brighton High School — was at the demonstration. Braveman calls the speech a “defining moment” that was added motivation for his desire to become a civil rights lawyer.

Brighton High School Yearbook, Crossroads, 1965 [Courtesy of Brighton Memorial Library] From Nazareth College’s President Daan Braveman on defining moments and his own March on Washington, August 1963

1963 the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address

(Left) The battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863) From the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument in Washington Square Park; (Right) statue of Abraham Lincoln atop the monument [Photos: David Kramer, 4/2/20]

see On Abraham Lincoln in Rochester from Michael Nighan

1964 Nelson Mandela sentenced to life in prison

The Rivonia Trial took place in South Africa between 9 October 1963 and 12 June 1964. The Rivonia Trial led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the others among the accused who were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life at the Palace of Justice, Pretoria.

Considered by many to be the Father of South Africa, Mandela was an anti-Apartheid activist, which means that fought for those who were disadvantaged by the system of racial segregation. Mandela became a civil rightsleader, leading many against the Apartheid government.

February 11, 1964

1964 Sidney Poitier wins an Oscar

Poitier is perhaps best known for his role in the 1967 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light, as interracial marriage historically had been illegal in most states of the United States.

1964 the Civil Rights Bill prohibiting racial discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. (Wikipedia)

Referring to the act, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told an aide; “We have lost the South for a generation.” While historian Steven J. Allen claims Johnson never made the statement, the prophesy was accurate.

1964 riots in Rochester and Harlem 

Note: the Rochester riots have been given various names. Some black activists prefer the term “urban insurrection.” “Race riot” has also been used, although the term connotes violence by whites against blacks, such as the the New York City draft riots (July 13–16, 1863) or the the Tulsa Race Riot (or the Greenwood Massacre), May 31 and June 1, 1921. As seen in 121 years ago when the Rochester press condemned the Wilmington, North Carolina race riots. And the Douglass Monument, the 1898 Wilmington riots were designated as a “coup” in a new plaque.

The creators of the memorial chose “black riots.”

As seen in Looking at “1964″ across the generations at World of Inquiry, in Spring 2012, World of Inquiry 8th grade students created What makes us, US? Conflict and Community, worked with local community members to learn about Rochester during the Great Migration, the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights movement, and in one powerful segment, the 1964 riots themselves as told through the eyes of participants. Pictured is Dr. Walter Cooper.

Looking at “1964″ across the generations at World of Inquiry

1964 King wins the Nobel Peace Prize

See An MLK Day of symphonies, service and Sneetches at Hillel Community Day School

1965 Assassination of Malcolm X

On February 16th, five days before his assassination, Malcolm X spoke at Corn Hill Methodist Church in Rochester.


Malcolm X speaking at the Corn Hill Methodist Church, 2/16/65, Courtesy Franklin Florence Papers, Department of Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Rochester Library. From Malcolm X, Self-Respect, and Growing up Racist

See Malcolm X, Self-Respect, and Growing up Racist

1965 walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama

Selma March, also called Selma to Montgomery March, political march from Selma, Alabama, to the state’s capital, Montgomery, that occurred March 21–25, 1965. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the march was the culminating event of several tumultuous weeks during which demonstrators twice attempted to march but were stopped, once violently, by local police. As many as 25,000 people participated in the roughly 50-mile (80-km) march. Together, these events became a landmark in the American civil rights movement and directly led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (

1965 King calls for a negotiated peace in Vietnam

During this period, King becomes increasingly outspoken about his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Park at Manhattan Square [January 14th, 2017, Photo: David Kramer] From  Remembering MLK on the 89th anniversary of his birth. And 50 years after his assassination.

1965 riots in Watts, California

Watts Riots of 1965, series of violent confrontations between Los Angeles police and residents of Watts and other predominantly African American neighborhoods of South-Central Los Angeles that began August 11, 1965, and lasted for six days.

King spoke two days after the riots. King said the the riots were partly a response to Proposition 14, a constitutional amendment sponsored by the California Real Estate Association and passed that had in effect repealed the Rumford Fair Housing Act. In 1966, the California Supreme Court reinstated the Rumford Fair Housing Act in the Reitman v. Mulkey case (a decision affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court the following year), declaring the amendment to violate the US constitution and laws. (Wikipedia)

NOTE: The term “race riot” is used instead of “black riot” inscribed on the 1964 plaque.

1965 Coretta Scott King speaks in Washington at an antiwar demonstration

Note that Coretta Scott King is referred to as Mrs. Martin Luther King

Coretta Scott King, November 27, 1965, Washington, D.C.  ( See Women (not many) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Timeline in Highland Park

1965 Captain Henry B. Tucker is asked about racial tensions in Vietnam

1966 Mohammed Ali

In March 1966, Muhammad Ali [formerly Cassius Clay] refused to be inducted into the armed forces. Ali was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. As a result, he did not fight from March 1967 to October 1970—from ages 25 to almost 29—as his case worked its way through the appeals process before his conviction was overturned in 1971. During this time of inactivity, as opposition to the Vietnam War began to grow and Ali’s stance gained sympathy, he spoke at colleges across the nation, criticizing the Vietnam War and advocating African-American pride and racial justice.  (Wikipedia)

Rochester Times Union, December 20, 1967 From In 1967 when Muhammad Ali was at Madison and Franklin

As seen in In 1967 when Muhammad Ali was at Madison and Franklin, on December 20th, 1967 then-deposed heavyweight boxing champion, Ali toured and spoke with students at Franklin and Madison High Schools and the George Mather Forbes (#4) Elementary School. Ali also addressed a large crowd at the Shabazz restaurant at 349 Joseph Avenue, preached at Muhammad’s Mosque on 416 North Clinton, and later that evening for two hours to 450 Muslim followers at a private ceremony at the War Memorial.

Democrat and Chronicle 12/21/67. From  In 1967 when Muhammad Ali was at Madison and Franklin

1966 election of Senator Edward Brooke

The plaque is somewhat misleading. Brooke was the first popularly elected African-American senator. In the 1870s, when senators were chosen by state legislatures, Hiram Rhodes Revels and Blanche Bruce served.

1966 black comedian, civil rights activist and 1968 presidential candidate Dick Gregory visits Vietnam

missing word is “Vietnam”

In 1969, Gregory visited Rochester, speaking at the City Club. In 1968, running for president as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate Gregory received 24,517 votes in New York. Democrat and Chronicle, Mar 09, 1969. From Racism on the Gridiron: Protest and Tear Gas at Syracuse University

1967 King leads anti-war demonstration in Chicago 

See When Obama invokes Martin Luther King from George Cassidy Payne

1967 King speaks at anti-war demonstration in New York

King continues his outspoken critique of the war in Vietnam. Reader Jack Bradigan Spula writes: “In his last years MLK was a fervent opponent of the war against Vietnam, outlandish Pentagon spending, and militarism in general.

See When Obama invokes Martin Luther King from George Cassidy Payne

1967 riots in Detroit, Michigan and across the United States.

Detroit Riot of 1967, series of violent confrontations between residents of predominantly African American neighbourhoods of Detroit and the city’s police department that began on July 23, 1967, and lasted five days. The riot resulted in the deaths of 43 people, including 33 African Americans and 10 whites. Many other people were injured, more than 7,000 people were arrested, and more than 1,000 buildings were burned in the uprising. The riot is considered one of the catalysts of the militant Black Power movement. (

NOTE: The term “race riot” is used instead of “black riot” inscribed on the 1964 plaque.

1967 Thurgood Marshall 

Following Thurgood Marshall’s nomination by President Johnson and senate confirmation, on October 2nd, 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren swears in Marshall, the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

As seen in Thumbs up for Geva’s Thurgood, on November 3rd, 2018, Geva theatergoers were treated to a masterful one man performance by Lester Purry of Thurgood, a dramatized memoir — hilariously comic and serious by turns — presenting Marshall’s life from his early days as a lawyer to his tenure as Supreme Court justice.

(l) Outside Geva; (r) Thurgood display case inside Geva, 11/03/18. From Thumbs up for Geva’s Thurgood

1967 Vietcong release American prisoners to “help in the black struggle within the United States”

1968 Civil Rights Act 

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex. Intended as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the bill was the subject of a contentious debate in the Senate, but was passed quickly by the House of Representatives in the days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The Fair Housing Act stands as the final great legislative achievement of the civil rights era. (

1968 Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As seen in When Baltimore burned 47 years ago and described on the plaque, the assassination sparked riots throughout the north. The Guest Essay discusses how Rochester reacted.

Democrat and Chronicle, Sun, May 3, 2015 – Page A35 From When Baltimore burned 47 years ago

From the Rochester Public Library exhibit: Move on up: Civil Rights in Rochester, Martin Luther King Jr. silent protest march on Clarissa Street, Rochester Times-Union, April 9, 1968

From Thumbs up for Geva’s Thurgood PHOTO BY KEN HUTH – Joniece Abbott-Pratt and Royce-Johnson in a scene from The Mountaintop, a drama about Martin Luther King  Jr.’s last night. From Theater Review: “The Mountaintop” at GeVa (4/17/15)

As seen in Thumbs up for Geva’s Thurgood, in April, 2015 Geva produced The Mountaintop, a fictionalized representation of King’s last night at the Lorraine Hotel with a supernatural twist. Of the powerful drama, I wrote:

Although it was 3 and 1/2 years ago [since I had seen The Mountaintop], I can still vividly recall scenes from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr. spends the last night of his life conversing with a fictional, seemingly inconsequential hotel maid.  Some of the dialogue is taken directly from King’s actual words, but the play is at best a quasi-historical journey. Mountaintop moves into the realm of fantastical realism with a possible supernatural element: the maid reveals she is an angel come to prepare King for his soon-to-be-coming afterlife. . . .By using imaginative and dramatic devices — rather than a more historical narrative hewing to the facts —  Mountaintop allows the rapt viewer to see King in a new, more inner, light.  I don’t expect a historical drama to necessarily be a history lesson but a lens for seeing the porous boundaries between the imagination and “reality.”

See Reflections on the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination from George Cassidy Payne

Display case at the Nazareth College Center for Spirituality [Photo: George Cassidy Payne] From Reflections on the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination from George Cassidy Payne

1968 Conviction of Huey Newton

Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989) was a revolutionary African-American political activist who, along with fellow Merritt College student Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. In 1967, he was involved in a shootout which led to the death of a police officer and in 1974 was accused of shooting a woman, leading to her death. During this time, he continued to pursue an academic career, eventually earning a Ph.D. in social philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness program in 1980. In 1989, he was murdered in Oakland, California by Tyrone Robinson, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. (Wikipedia)

1968 Shirley Chisholm is elected the first black Congresswoman

The Chicago Eight and Chicago Seven (1969 – 1972)

The eight defendants were charged under the Title X anti-riot provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which made it a federal crime to cross state lines with the intent to incite a riot. In a historical irony, Title X was initially considered a protection for civil rights demonstrators. In the case of the Chicago Eight, the charges was related to anti-Vietnam War and counter cultural protests that took place on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. As inscribed in the plaque, seven Chicago were also charged with assaulting demonstrators.

One of the defendants is Bobby Seale, co-founder the Black Panther Party

While proceedings against the Chicago Eight were ongoing, Vietnam announced that prisoners were to returned in the custody one of the defendants, Rennie Davis.

According to Wikipedia, “Davis was one of the principal organizers of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam to plan anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He negotiated unsuccessfully to gain a permit with Chicago city counsel Tom Foran. At a “police riot” in Grant Park, Davis was among protesters beaten by Chicago police officers, and he suffered a concussion. Unlike some other leaders, Davis was committed to nonviolence. His injury by police shook the protesters’ remaining belief in pacifism.”

As seen in the November 11th, 1967 plaque, Vietnam turned over prisoners to another member of the Chicago 8, Thomas Hayden.

While proceedings against the Chicago Eight were ongoing, Seales was arrested for the murder of former Panther Alex Rackey.

In “The Trial of Bobby Seale” (June 11, 1970, The Harvard Crimson) Garrett Epps offers a contemporary perspective on the murder and trial:

SOMETIME in the afternoon of May 21, 1969, a farmer in Middlefield County, Connecticut, found the body of Alex Rackley, a member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party, floating in the murky waters of the Cochinchaug River, about 25 miles from New Haven, Rackley had been shot once in the head and once in the chest with a 24-caliber pistol.

The Weathermen faction of a splintered Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) launched its “Days of Rage” protest in Chicago on this date in 1969, based on John Gregory Jacobs’ call to “bring the [Vietnam] war home.”

Three days of “direct action” against businesses, homes, cars, and cops grew out of a resolution written by Jacobs and adopted at the previous year’s SDS National Council meeting in Boulder, Colorado: “The Elections Don’t Mean Shit—Vote Where the Power Is—Our Power Is In The Street.” The Days of Rage were attended by some 800 Weathermen supporters, of whom less than half were willing to face 2,000 Chicago police who had barricaded the streets. By the end of three days, 287 had been arrested. The Black Panthers’ Fred Hampton, who would be murdered two months later by the Chicago police, denounced the Days of Rage as “anarchistic, opportunistic, individualistic, chauvinistic, Custeristic . . .  It’s nothing but child’s play — it’s folly.”   (

The Chicago 8 trial continues

“October 29, 1969: Judge Julius Hoffman Ordered Bobby Seales Gagged And Bound To His Chair In Court” (

According to The Chicago Tribune, “[b]eginning as the Chicago Eight Trial, it quickly became the Chicago Seven when Seale, after loudly disrupting the trial when he could not have the lawyer of his choice, was at first bound and gagged in the courtroom and then severed from the case for a later trial, which never occurred.” Seale requested that the trial be postponed so that his attorney Charles Garry could represent him (as Garry was about to undergo gallbladder surgery). The Judge denied the postponement, and refused to allow Seale to represent himself. Seale vehemently protested the judge’s illegal and unconstitutional actions, and arguing that they were not only illegal, but also racist. The judge in turn accused Seale of disrupting the court, and on October 29, Judge Hoffman ordered Bobby Seale to be bound, gagged, and chained to a chair, citing a precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court case Illinois v. Allen. For several days, Seale appeared in court bound and gagged before the jury, struggling to get free and managing to make muffled sounds. Defense attorney Kunstler declared, “This is no longer a court of order, Your Honor, this is a medieval torture chamber.” (This was alluded to in Graham Nash’s song, “Chicago”, which opened with: “So your brother’s bound and gagged, and they’ve chained him to a chair”). Ultimately, Judge Hoffman severed Seale from the case, sentencing him to four years in prison for contempt of court, one of the longest sentences ever handed down for that offense in the U.S. up to that time. Due to the judge’s unconstitutional actions, the contempt charges against Seale were soon overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals. (Wikipedia)

November, demonstrations supporting the Chicago Eight defendants continue in Washington, D.C.

On November 21, 1972, all of the convictions were reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on the basis that the judge was biased in his refusal to permit defense attorneys to screen prospective jurors for cultural and racial bias, and the FBI surveillance of the defense lawyers’ offices. The Justice Department decided against retrying the case. During the trial, all of the defendants and both defense attorneys had been cited for contempt and sentenced to jail, but those convictions were also overturned on appeal. (Wikipedia)

1970 Angela Davis

On October 13, 1970, Angela Davis was arrested at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in Midtown Manhattan. Her 18-month incarceration, which ultimately resulted in an acquittal, set off the nationwide “Free Angela Davis” movement among activists and artists. John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote “Angela” to raise awareness about her plight and the Rolling Stones penned their song, “Sweet Black Angel,” celebrating the radical feminist, activist and Black Panther Party associate. Despite the enthusiastic support from the counterculture, Davis was a polarizing figure to many Americans. Following her 1972 trial where a jury cleared her of all the charges, Davis has remained a leading figure in social justice movements across the globe. In America, she has been a vocal proponent for prison reform. (

See Women (not many) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Timeline in Highland Park

On November 9th, 2016, political activist and author Angela Davis addressed a crowd of over 1,200 people during an event titled “An Evening of Empowerment” at East High School in Rochester, NY.

Video from local photographer Erica Jae

1971 Desegregation and Busing

On April 20, 1971, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case, allowing for school desegregation by busing.

In 1965, attorney Julius L. Chambers filed suit on behalf of 10 pairs of African American parents who contended that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education’s assignment plan did not sufficiently eliminate the inequalities of the formerly segregated system. The board tried to redo the assignment plan, but the plaintiffs argued decades of discrimination could only be undone through extensive busing. Federal district court judge James B. McMillan agreed.

Disagreements between the board and McMillan on the specifics of the plan landed the case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reaffirmed McMillian’s decision with qualifications. The school board and plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously reaffirmed the ruling in April 1971. (

As seen in 45 years ago when President Nixon visited Rochester. And 3 days later when East High School erupted in racial violence, on June 18, 1971 Nixon spoke in Rochester. His talk touched upon the 1964 Rochester riots. Nixon also said his administration would enforce the Supreme Court decision.

1971 was the only year compulsory busing was used in Rochester City School

1971 Louis Armstrong 

Armstrong roles in the civil rights is a topic of debate for activists and historians.  The NPR Music News segment, “Revisiting Louis Armstrong in the Context of Civil Rights,” 11/22/06 looks at how the first African-American crossover artist — appealing to both black and white audiences — helped set the stage for the civil rights movement.

While Armstrong was not prominent in the movement, he spoke out at several points:

Armstrong did lay his career on the line during the civil rights movement. In 1957 he criticized President Eisenhower for his initial refusal to enforce school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas.

As noted by Eisenhower biographer William Hitchcock, Armstrong told the press he would cancel a government-sponsored tour of Europe because the president “lacked guts” and had failed to end the standoff.

1947. (Center) Louis Armstrong with Eugene Kramer (first row, last, rear) at the Commodore Music Shop in Manhattan. [From Eugene Kramer’s collection] From NY Times asks for help with “A Jackie Robinson Mystery.” Well, Eugene Kramer was there. (Almost)

1971 Attica

The Attica Prison uprising, also known as the Attica Prison rebellion or Attica Prison riot, occurred at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, United States, in 1971. Based upon prisoners’ demands for better living conditions and political rights, the uprising was one of the most well-known and significant uprisings of the Prisoners’ Rights Movement. (Wikipedia) The uprising raised awareness on racial disparities in American prisons. In a population of 2,243 prisoners — in a facility designed for 1,200 — 54% of these were Black American, 9% Puerto Rican, and 37% white.

The third to last plaque describes the contributions of Native and black Americans in Vietnam

April 8, 1974

SEE Henry Aaron’s connections to Rochester: 1974, 1977, 1982 and 1986 and In search of the missing 19 granite timepieces at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: 1973 – September 11th, 2001

August 9, 1989

SEE In search of the missing 19 granite timepieces at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: 1973 – September 11th, 2001


Women (not many) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Timeline in Highland Park

Revisiting Rochester black history

Remembering MLK on the 89th anniversary of his birth. And 50 years after his assassination.

The Eisenhower presidency (and nuclear armageddon) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park

Talker’s foreign correspondent in Cambodia and the plaques in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Highland Park.

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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