Remembering the Rochester 1964 Uprising

In the early evening of Friday July 24, 1964, in Rochester, N.Y. the Rochester Police Department attempted to arrest a 19 year-old Black male at a street block party and dance. 

The police response to the call included a K-9 Corps dog. Accusations of  police brutality against African-Americans spread quickly, and an angry crowd formed on Joseph Avenue and became violent. The riot broke out in two of Rochester’s predominantly African-American wards, near the location of the intersection of Nassau Street and Joseph Avenue, as well as downtown. Peace was restored after three days, but only after Governor Nelson Rockefeller called out the New York National Guard, the first such use of the Guard in a northern city. By the time the disturbance was over, four were dead (three in a helicopter crash) and 350 injured. Almost a thousand people were arrested and 204 stores were either looted or damaged.

Although the riot was initially blamed on “outside agitators,”  almost all the rioters arrested were from the local area, with only 14 people arrested tripling  of the African-American population in the previous 10 years. At that time, most African-Americans held low-pay and low-skill jobs and lived in substandard housing. Rochester was the last city in the State of New York to implement a public housing program.

One of the first housing projects built after the riots was the Chatham Gardens Apartments, which opened in 1965.

The riot was the first of a wave of deadly riots across the United States (all focusing around the same common theme of police brutality and disenfranchisement towards African-Americans), which lasted until 1969.