The Night Washington Burned Black





D.C. had its riot at last. For years, Negroes in the capital had watched as Watts, Detroit, Newark -- even Rochester, New York -- exploded in racial outrage. And though it shared the frustrations expressed in cities elsewhere, black Washington had held calm, either because its second-class citizens were intimidated by proximity to such concentrated power, or because they were too comfortable in the middle-class advantages of federal jobs.

All the way down 7th Street that night, we witnessed a righteous chaos. It was grief and lifelong frustration released in a burning, destructive fury. We saw poor people tearing up their own neighborhoods; targeting stores, but mindless of apartments above them; breaking windows and burning shops along the commercial strip long known its for exploitative merchandising. Jewelers, haberdashers and merchants of cheap furniture routinely sold at high prices to captive shoppers, often charged ruinous credit rates.

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