America on fire after King assassination: 1968
Washington, D.C. is in flames April 5, 1968 after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The flags are on the roof of the Machinists’ Building on Connecticut Avenue.
The burning and looting that followed King’s death were almost universally condemned by authorities and a number of black leaders.
However a significant portion of the black population differed from the mainstream in their analysis of the events in the District of Columbia and elsewhere.
D.C. black activist leader Reginald Booker testified after the disturbances before the D.C. City Council.
Booker started off calling the disturbances a “revolution” and defended the property destruction and looting.
“The burning, the devastation, you can call it riots, you can call it looting. I know what black people call it and I know what I call it.”
“Any time oppressed people are so denied, and so oppressed, and the channels of the so-called usual mechanisms of dealing with these ills, if they cannot solve the problems, then black people and all other people have the right to burn and bring destruction if that alleviates their misery.”
“Does it take burning? Does it take looting? Of course, I know the people who were looting, they were only taking back what was theirs all the time.”
“I know they were taking back what was theirs because when the rebellion broke out, I was right out there in the street with my people.”
“Now, a whole lot of those hypocritical white folks, they said, ‘well, look they even burned down some of their own people so it couldn’t have been racial. They were just out to steal something.’”
“How can you steal from a crook?”
“It was pointed out recently, for example, that Safeway, on the day that welfare recipients receive checks, raise their prices.”
“Recently the Washington Post ran a series of stories on certain credit merchants on 7th Street, on how they exploit black people. How can you buy a TV that is worth $50 and end up paying $300-plus for it, and then if you don’t make all the payments it is repossessed and the man sells it over about 10 times again?”
The city experienced among the greatest property damage of the more than 110 cities that erupted April 4-7, 1968 and set a then U.S. record for mass arrests when more than 6,100 were detained.
Twelve died, mostly due to becoming entrapped in burning buildings and over 1,100 were injured. Property damage was extensive as corridors and 14th Street NW, 7th Street NW, U Street NW, H Street NE and Nichols Ave SE (later Martin Luther King Jr. Ave) were set afire. 1,200 buildings were burned.
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsk4zGPDw
The photographer is unknown. The image is an Associated Press photograph housed in the D.c. Library Washington Star Collection.