Witnesses to History, 1968

Where were you during the 1968 D.C. riots? If you have firsthand experiences of the disturbances or have heard stories from friends and relatives, we'd like to hear from you. Add your comments below.

By washingtonpost.com editors |  March 16, 2008; 11:05 AM ET 1968 , Metro
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I was only 9 at the time but remember the tv reports and my mother's fear. We didn't live in DC but in a community close to the DC line, Chapel Oaks, MD. We took a sheet and spray painted Black Power on it and hung it on our front porch so that the looters and rioters wouldn't bother us. There was no place to shop in Maryland at the time so we had to go into DC to shop but most of the places were burned or looted. We had nowhere to shop close to home for a long time. My mother took us to see the burned stores so that we would never forget it or take part in anything like this. It was the scariest time in my life. We couldn't go out to play and I remember my family sitting around the tv while crying not believing it was happening in places we use to go to.

Posted by: Arnita | March 16, 2008 1:36 PM

I was 14-going-on-fifteen, in the ninth grade at Kramer Jr. High. School was let out early - I don't know whether this was in response to the unrest. We had a white teacher who was afraid to go outside to her car, and our class bunched around her as a protective escort. Then most of us walked home, in little groups - kids peeling off when they got to their neighborhoods. Store owners were outside painting "Soul Brother" and such on the windows of their shops. Some people put this slogan on cardboard and placed it in their car windows. When I got to my neighborhood, there at the end of my parents' driveway on Massachusetts Ave. was a pair of National Guardsmen, just sitting in their jeep.

Posted by: Marsha Thompson | March 16, 2008 4:04 PM

I was on the verge of becoming 21, in the Air Force, returning home from Dover AFB, Delaware for the weekend. I am pretty sure I saw black clouds of smoke over Washington, DC from Annapolis. I was in uniform so my movements were really not restricted, but the devastation all over the city was incredulous. Unfortunately most of that devastation was in the predominantly black neighborhoods and shopping areas. I had not seen that kind of uniform and controlled anger until the Rodney King beatings. Let us not forget, there were few to none Black officers on the Metropolitan Police Department until after the "68 riots

Posted by: Warren | March 16, 2008 5:14 PM

My late father, owned Ed Murphy's Supper Club on Georgia Ave., which was often where members of " The Black Movement" met to address a myriad of concerns. Murph's was just a few blocks north of 7th and T which was an absolute inferno the night of April 4th. I remember having mixed feelings of worrying if my Dad's business would survive the rioting and at the same time hoping that real change would be brought about to benefit Black folks. Little did we know that it would take decades to repair the damage. As I look back some 40 years later, I would have never imagined that Black Owned Busineses would be virtually non-existent in that once thriving Mecca of black ownership.

Posted by: Keith | March 16, 2008 8:11 PM

I was a high school student at now defunct Mackin Catholic High at 14th and V st.NW in the U st corridor, we went to school the day after the MLK assasination but by ten o'clock that morning it was apparent to the principal that the situation had taken a turn for the worse, we were dismissed within the hour and ordered to go straight home!! My twin brother and I walked down to U st to catch the bus to our transfer point what we saw was "crazy" to say the least stores being looted broken glass every where police trying to gain control but to no avail we did board the bus but within minutes we had to get off because of the confusion in the streets. We then walked maybe fifteen to twenty city blocks before we caught a bus down to the H Street corridor.We finally boarded a bus that was over crowded we looked at each other and wondered aloud if we would get home any time soon H st was already ablaze with fire trucks trying to garner a handle on fires that seemed to be everywhere. We eventually made it home but what we saw that day changed our lives forever I often think how different this country would have been had Martin lived.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | March 16, 2008 8:59 PM

as a eight year old on 3rd and bryant st in dc, i will never forget seeing so much looting from so many of our neighbors. the day after mlk died seeing the army men that i use to play with became real. my family set on the porch and watched in shock.

why would be burn our own neighborhood? i wondered. the neighborhood has taken forty years to recover.

Posted by: kwah | March 17, 2008 12:55 AM

I was in the seventh grade at Browne Junior High school, and all of a sudden we (7-109) was ordered to return to our Home Room. We had no idea that the streets we used to walk to school were quickly turning into smoked and tear gas filled infernos. They order us to go home in teams and to go straight home. I remember walking down Benning Road to the plummels of smoke forming on H street. By the time we reached Benning Road, we knew our neighborhood would change forever. There were fires on every corner of H Street with people looting and pilferging and for the first time the group I was in faced the reality of the riots. To gain control the police started throwing tear gas canisters to disburse the crowds so now we had to negotiate through the acrid and stinging sensation of tear gas along with the strong and overwhelming smoke from fires burning out of control. I made it home that day and it was a long time before I could venture out into our neighboorhood. I watched through the windows each night as the National Guard set up check-points and the blaring of sirens lasted through-out the night. The face of DC was different then. Until the riots I had barley ever seen a black police officer. The only blacks working in the Municipl Center were elevator operators or janitors. Just about all higher levels of Government with the exception of the school system was being run by white folks. The riots caused many to leave the city in droves so we were left to rebuild and it has taken over 40 years to regeain some resemblance to what was, only to have the reverse happen in 2007. White folks are returning and taking over using the power of the dollar and changing the neighborhoods again, with no real respect or feelings for the people who lived thorugh these events. If we continue on this path of desturction and racial isolation I regret to say there may be a repeat of 1968 in 2008.

Posted by: GFeen | March 17, 2008 8:32 AM

It was 1968, a few weeks after my 19th birthday, and I had already received my draft notice. I remember it was evening time, around 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm on April 4, 1968. We (me, my brothers, several friends and neighbors) were sitting and talking on the stoop of our house, the 3-story Victorian style house turned apartment building at 1510 6th Street, N.W. As the word of MLK assassination spread, several folks that we knew were walking in groups, south on 6th Street pass our house toward downtown. As they passed by we were told by some in the group that downtown stores were being broken into and people were looting. My mother emerged from the house and told us not to leave the front or get involved. As the word spread many more people were gathering in the streets and you could now smell smoke and hear sirens in the distance. There were sounds of glass breaking and the smoke was getting thicker. The streets were getting busy with many people walking with boxes of food, liquor and a other goods that were obviously stolen from some of the local businesses. Our curiosity got the best of us and we left the stoop to see for ourselves what was actually happening. We walked west on P Street pass the Kennedy playground over to 7th Street. The smoke was getting so heavy you could hardly see down the street. But you could hear the commotion and feel the tension in the air. People were running carrying their stolen goods. The liquor store on the corner of 7th and P Street had its plate glass window broken and looters were inside taking bottles of liquor off the shelves. We were headed south on 7th Street toward O Street when through the thick smoke you could hear the sound of trucks coming up 7th Street. As they emerged through the smoke you could see the military troops aboard with rifles at the ready. There seemed to be hundreds of troops, which I found out later to be returning from Vietnam. Many of them were dressed in camouflaged uniforms looking very menacing. Rather than continuing on we elected to head back home for the night.

The next day, Friday, April 5th, I caught the bus to travel to my job at the B'nai B'rith Organization, 1325 G Street, NW. All along the way I saw evidence of the violence night before. There was broken glass strewn all over the streets and sidewalks. Buildings along 7th Street were still smoldering from fires set by rioters. Around noon Mrs. Fleischman, my boss told me and the other employees to go home because the violence had again erupted and rioters were looting and burning downtown. As I emerged from the building I saw many rioters in the streets of downtown. The Hecht's and Woodward Lothrop buildings had been broken into along with many other well known clothiers, and jewelry stores. Back on 7th Street most of the stores between New York Ave and Rhode Island Ave had been burned and looted including Cavelier Men's store. As the riot continued through the day many business owners hung signs or spray painted the words "Soul Brother" on their business establishment as an obvious attempt to discourage rioters from harming them or their stores. I saw vehicles being overturned. One over turned vehicle in particular had it's driver, a white guy, pulled from it and beaten by several angry blacks. This was a very tumultuous time and one I shall never forget. The rioting went on for only a few days but the damage and effects of it lasted for 30 years.

Posted by: Kenneth Davis | March 17, 2008 8:45 AM

I WAS 4 YEARS OLD RIDING WITH MY GREATGRAND FATHER IN HIS TAXI CAB,AND I REMEMBER SEEING SO MANY MILITARY PEOPLE. PLAYING WITH SOLIDERS WAS OUR PAST TIME BACK THEN SO SEE REAL SOLIDERS WAS FASTINATING. PEOLPLE WERE LOOTING STORE IN MY COMMUNITY OF THE TRINIDAD NEIBGORHOO. H STREET NORTHEAST WAS DESTORED.

Posted by: WILLIAM JONES | March 17, 2008 8:58 AM

I did not live in DC in 1968, but a coworker who was a teenager living in Cathedral Heights at the time recounted to me that he and his friends climbed up to the top of the Alban Towers apartment building on Wisconsin Avenue and watched the blazes across town. His family quickly pulled up roots and moved to Silver Spring to get out of the city.

I think its terribly sad what happened to this city and so many others across the country. I believe a lot of our current urban ills are related to this single episode in our history. The middle class basically evacuated the cities leaving only the poor behind which sent cities into a further tailspin. The rapid surbanization that followed has resulted in the sprawl, traffic congestion, soul-less neighborhoods we are stuck with now. Only recently, as the suburbs are starting to experience "urban" ills, people are rediscovering cities and moving back in. But so much was lost during the riots, that the cities will never be the same. Sad.

Posted by: DC dad | March 17, 2008 11:17 AM

I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade at Charles Young in N.E. DC. We were let out of school early and told to run straight home and not to stop running until we reached our homes. The rioting had not started on 21st and Benning Road yet, but was well on the way. My parents and I watched television in horror as the riot progressed up the H Street corridor. At the time we had relatives that lived near the corner of 5th and H Sts. N.E. where there was a huge furniture store. We saw people breaking glass and setting the store ablaze. Shortly afterwards, the telephone rang and the back of my family's house was on fire from the flames of the furniture store, and they needed assistance. My father left, against the will of the police to retreive them to bring them to our apartment for safety. The next few days were horrible. The mixture of smoke and tear gas hung in the air. We walked to see armed National Guardsman on the street corners to prevent further damage to the neighborhood. To say the least, life had changed as we knew it.

Posted by: Clarence | March 17, 2008 1:49 PM

My husband had just left for Vietnam and I had just turned 20 years old and I lived near 8th & Kennedy Streets, N.W. and I remember watching the tanks rolling down Kennedy Street and the soldiers with rifles and riot gear. I remember stores being boarded up and glass and trash all over the place. I remember the city having a curfew, and one evening driving around and looking at everything going on, I thought I wasn't going to make it home on time and was afraid of the consequences. In my neighborhood, I was not afraid because where I lived pretty much was a middle class and a mostly Black neighborhood. However, when I visited my folks in Anacostia there was a little strip mall of stores near Alabama avenue and Stanton road. A lot of people broke into the stores and a lot of people in their neighborhood had shoes, food, and odds and ends from the 5 & dime store. My father would not allow me or my sisters and brothers to bring anything stolen into his house. Near 4th& Rhode Island streets, NE, I remember people running through the streets with cases of liquor and a guy who had watches up and down both arms. A lot of the Black owned businesses had "Soul Brother" signs in their windows and people had the same signs on their cars.

Posted by: Artis | March 17, 2008 2:40 PM

My friends and I were hanging out at John Crawford's house.We heard on the TV that DR.King had been killed.His mom told us to go home.Over the next couple of days I saw the Dee Lish Carry Out at 14th@Randolph St burned down by some guys I knew.The National Guard was everywhere and they tear gassed the apt.bldg.my family lived in.My friends and I just kinda of hung around and created civil disorder.we believed we had earned the right to create that.Dr king had been killed and we felt someone had to pay.I was 15 yrs old at the time.I went from Negro to Black in my youth,and I felt very angry.As I look back maybe that was not a very good idea.But America in 1968 was not the kind of place where 15yr olds had a lot of perspective about where your place was.

Posted by: Albert E. | March 17, 2008 5:22 PM

I was 9 years old in 1968 and I remember I was attending Turner Elementary School with my younger sister. School was dismissed early and the teachers told us to run straight home. I didn't understand what was going on but I remember feeling scared and confused as I held my sister's hand and could see all the smoke and vandalism across the street on Alabamba Avenue as the stores were burning. As we ran toward Stanton Rd S.E. we saw our father who was coming to get us out of school. He grabbed both our hands and took us safely home. He explained to us that Dr. Martin Luther King was assasinated and told us the Black community was angry. We watched the violence and terror on t.v.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 18, 2008 9:14 AM

I was about 28 years old living with my husband and baby in Brookland N.E. We could smell the smoke. Military vehicles were driving up and down the streets Several stores on 12th St. N.E. had their windows broken and were looted. When i walked down the street to talk with a neighbor (she was white and her husband was a D.C. cop) She said she was glad it happened. I was horrified by her words. She also said her husband was sitting inside their house with his shotgun waiting for anyone to come bother them. I walked to Highs to buy some milk and a young black child looked at me (I am white) and said "You killed Martin Luther King". I said "No I didnt, I loved him." That day I really understood what it meant to be judged solely by the color of your skin.....what so many in our country had experienced and still are experiencing. What a terrible, sad time in our history.
I was privleged to hear MLK at the March on Washington in 1963 and to hear him talk on a street corner on 14th St N.W.on another occasion When he finished talking we all ran up and touched him. He was truly a prophet. What must he be thinking now?

Posted by: Maureen Nichols | March 18, 2008 12:32 PM

I was 8 at the time of the riots in Washington, DC and attended Sacred Heart Grade School at 16th and Park Road. The devastation in the neighborhood was real and the anger was palpable. Familiar stores were now gutted shells. My father drove through 14th Street on our way home from school and I can remember the tear gas burning my eyes and seeing National Guardsmen on every corner. For an 8 year old girl, it was a very frightening scene but my father reassured me that we would be just fine. That was the beginning of my exposure to the racial issues that exist in the United States and it's sad that to this day we have not had the proper dialogue about race in the U.S. These are real issues that require real dialogue. Those of us who are privy to the ugliness of racism every day can't try to pretend that it doesn't exist and that we live in an equal society.

Posted by: W. M. W. | March 18, 2008 12:36 PM

I was 8 years old living is SE Washington, from my street I watched the fires at the top of Wheeler Road, SE. Unfortunately, my parents did not tell us what was happening and maybe because they did not know themselves. One of the most frightening experience of my life -- as clear as yesterday. One of my sisters was almost attacked and feared leaving the house because of her light-skin complexion.

Posted by: Ava Monee | March 18, 2008 4:26 PM

I was 10 years old , living in the Brightwood section of the city , right down the street from Walter Reed. We saw jeeps full of soldiers going up and down Sheridan st going wherever.And I was thinking WOW!!! they look like the GI Joes that we played with. My Father gathered me and My Brother up to go and get my Mother who worked at Dorothy Queens Style-o-Rama as a beautician @ 14th and Spring rd, NW. My Uncle earlier had raced to my mother's shop to spray "SOUL SISTER" on the front window. !4th street was ablaze and filled with smoke a day I will never forget.

Posted by: Keith D. Allen | March 19, 2008 12:10 PM

I was a young 22 year old mother of a 3 year old and a 4 week old living in the south east section of DC off Minnesota avenue. When the news began to display the disturbances in parts of DC I decided to go to the store and stock up on grocersies. I was in the store, waiting in line at the register when chaos broke out in the store. I paid for my groceries. My baby was on my shoulder; my 3 year old by my side. I laid the baby down in my arms to put my change in my purse. Just as I did, a large can whizzed by my shoulder. If I had not moved the baby, it would have struck her in the head/face. I ran out of the store leaving the groceries. People began to throw cans and other items through the store's window. There was noice and confusion everywhere. I ran into a barbershop next door. An elderly man getting his haircut saw how upset I was and offered to drive me home.

Once I arrived home, I phoned my sister in Richmond, Va. She insisted I get the next bus to Richmond. I gathered a few things walked to the corner bus stopped; waited but no bus came. Finally a cab pulled up and asked where did I need to go. I told him I wanted to go to the Bus Station. He said he was on his way home but he agreed to take me. Once at the bus station an announcement was made that a curfew for the entire city was set and the last bus leaving for the day was going to Richmond, Virginia. I stayed in Richmond for 2 weeks.

Posted by: JRW | March 20, 2008 8:48 AM

The riot began on Friday.I was working in the JCAE Committee offices in the US Capitol preparing for some Hearings.
Since it was a Friday I left about three PM to drive back to my office in Germantown in hopes of avoiding the weekend traffic.
At no time was I aware that there were riots on 16th Street. After lunch I had walked outside for some air and heard numerous sirens and saw hugh smoke clouds toward Prince Georges County. Sirens in Washington were certainly not unusual and didn't cause any alarm.
I always listened to WMAL on my drive home. There was not mention of riots, rather the announcer advised that there was a major fire in the District and due to fire equipment blocking the roads the best route to Maryland was the GW Parkway on the Virginia side.
Leaving the Capitol the roads across the Potomac were absolutely jammed which I assumed was due to the upcoming weekend traffic and the rerouted fire traffic. Since I drove to DC everyday I had developed various alternate routes to use for just such situations. None worked which was a little unusual. I finally reached Hwy123 which was moving until I reached the Beltway. It was at a standstill in both directions.
It was not until I arrived at my home in Montgomery Village around eight that I learned of the riots.
Since that was before cell phones I had no way to let my wife know that I was tied up in traffic en route home.
She had been watching the riots on TV all afternoon and was in a state of near panic knowing that I was working downtown. After watching the scenes on TV I could understand her basis for concern.
We had houseguests who had driven to Maryland from NC for a weekend of sightseeing. They had arrived earlier in the afternoon and were wondering what was in store for them. As was I.
That "sightseeing" weekend is another story.

Posted by: Bill Bibb | March 20, 2008 7:47 PM

I was 13 years old attending McFarland Junior High. My family and I lived at 15th & Buchanan Streets, NW. I remember watching the news and seeing 14th Street, NW down in the inner city go up in flames. My family were hope and praying, the rioters wouldn't come further uptown to burn and loot.

Posted by: Hugo Alston | March 20, 2008 11:40 PM

I was six and living with my family in my father's boyhood home in Cheverly when MLK was assassinated. I remember riding in the car with my father, who was racing out to the gas station to fill a gas can to have on hand in case we needed to leave our home quickly and drive without stopping for fuel. Because of the riots, the gas station attendant wouldn't let anyone fill a gas can. We drove up to the top of the hill where Prince George's Hospital provided a panoramic view of the city. Smoke twisted and rolled across the horizon. The fear in my father's horrified face deciphered what my six year old mind couldn't grasp. My father has never owned a weapon, and has never fired one, as far as I know. But that scary, sad day, he borrowed a hunting rifle from a neighbor, and sat quietly with it in our living room.

Posted by: jd19975 | March 21, 2008 1:55 PM

I was in the midst of the devastation in the Northeast section of Washington, DC; the burning, the looting, the fear, the greed, the shame, the police beatings, the arrests and even suffered the loss of several friends. I lived just two blocks from the "H" Street, N.E., corridor and in one day I witnessed our neighborhood go from a flourishing business district to slums. For the next 40 years it stayed that way until we, African Americans moved out or were forced to move out. For the most part I also witnessed the fear of my Caucasian co-workers who wanted to suddenly be my friend or to share with me stories of how they grew up and were friends to "black people." I just figured that I wasn't Jesus and could not physically save them, but for a moment, 40 years ago, I felt that I, a young African American woman, had some short-lived control over them, even though they quietly went back to their peaceful suburban homes and watched us as we destroyed our homeland.

Posted by: Brenda | March 21, 2008 3:33 PM

I was coming back to Washington from school in Connecticut. There was a car load of us coming to Washington DC on Spring Break and it was frightening and strange. I was from the Virginia suburbs but there were several who were from the District. I don't recall which road we came into town on, but it seemed that every liquor store was being protected by the National Guard. Our destination was an apartment in Adams Morgan. When we got there is was dark and from our vantage point we could see the fires moving up 7th Street. Everyone of us, I'm sure, had a lump in their throats because it seemed as though this now was the end, and though everyone prayed that it would end in peace, we now knew that it would end with the fire this time.

Posted by: James | April 4, 2008 6:38 AM

I was a Washington, DC toddler when Martin was killed. Obviously I had no clue about anything. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were devastated. My family made sure us kids kept the memory of Martin and what he stood for alive in our home. I continue to do so with my children.

Posted by: Jacqueline | April 4, 2008 8:54 AM


Forty years ago Carl B. Stokes was elected the first black mayor of a major American City -- Cleveland. I was the operations manager of that campaign along with my partner Geraldine Williams.

In 1965, Stokes had run and almost won in a city that was 70 percent white and 30 percent black. He had come so close to winning that there was a recount.

His victory in 1967 was hailed as one the greatest moments in the civil rights struggle, and also a triumph of the brotherhood of man. That's only partially true, however. In the 1965 campaign, there were practically no white votes for Stokes. And in 1967, he received only 15 percent of the white vote. That's not exactly a triumph for the brotherhood of man.

In fact, in 1965 I was his "white" aide and traveling companion to show not only the white community, but also just as importantly the black community, that he had white support. Many in the black community said, "It's not time," and "He's not ready." They worried that Stokes would win and bring disgrace to the community or that he would be killed by the racists.

Do these same sentiments sound familiar in 2007?

Stokes was also running against a potent political machine, one that regularly "bought off" members of the black community. There were city councilman and black pastors, all of whom had ties to the white establishment.

Sound familiar in 2007?

In both 1965 and 1967, it was the black community that turned out in large numbers and voted 97 percent for Stokes. He still lost in 1965 because some of the black vote was resentful of the councilman and pastors. But that race was so close that in 1967, with the blessing of the establishment, Stokes won, but by a very small margin. Again, it was the black turnout, and overwhelming percentage vote in his favor, that carried the day.

How does Barack Obama's campaign of 2007 differ from those two campaigns of long ago?

First, he is running against the establishment (the Clinton machine), and there are black "leaders" who are staying with this establishment. Polls show there are many in the black community who are saying the same things that were said in 1965 -- it's not time, he's not ready, he will be killed if he is elected. Are these sentiments, carried down through time, going to defeat Obama in 2007?

Here is the reason that the campaigns are not alike. The white support for Obama is huge compared to the white support for Stokes 40 years ago. Who would have dreamed then that a black man running for president could garner such white support, attract such crowds and be so close to winning?

There are more than 200 black mayors now, but here's an example of how extraordinary the idea of a black mayor was in 1965:

The last weekend before the 1967 election we had a parade through the streets of the East Side of Cleveland. It wasn't much of a parade as parades go, a handful of cars with balloons and banners on the them, horns honking, people waving and Carl and his wife sitting on the back of the last car. I was in the front seat.

As the caravan pulled past the corner, there was a small boy, about 10-years-old, standing in the middle of a group of children. As the car with Stokes approached the corner, the boy stood, his eyes widened and he cried out, "HE'S COLORED." He started to clap his hands and jump up and down. "HE'S COLORED, HE'S COLORED," he cried out to no one in particular, and he started to skip down the street after the car.

I looked back as the cars picked up speed and left the little boy in the distance. He was still running and clapping his hands. I turned around to Carl and caught a very different expression on his face, part smile and part distant look in his eyes. "I think it's all been worthwhile," I said.

Carl offered a quick but soft-spoken reply, "Yes, I think you're right."

That's how it was back then. A little boy thought a black mayor was impossible. His parents and grandparents thought, could this possibly be? And a city and a nation wondered if history was in the making.

Now, 40 years later, I see the crowds, more white than black, cheering a man of color. I see polls showing that this man of color could likely be the next president. I see 40 years later that dreams do come true.

Will the black community support Obama as we Irish Catholics did John Kennedy in 1960, as the Mormons will do for Mitt Romney, as every ethnic group has done for their history making candidates since the country began?

It is the black vote that can ensure victory for Barack Obama. This is the year. This is the time. This is history in the making. The face of this nation is about to change.


Posted by: b kenneth mcgee | April 4, 2008 10:07 AM

I was just nine years old and in the third grade (DCPS student) at the time of King's death. I remember being at the Montgomery Ward store in Iverson Mall (PG County, MD) and while walking through the television section with my mother, a news flash came on the TV. I told my mother "They just said that Martin Luther King was dead. Someone killed him." My mother got this stange look on her face and pulled me by the arm. We left immdediately and returned to our home in SE Washington, DC. Once there we sat in front of our one black and white TV with the rest of my family and watched the news reports in shock.

When I went to school everyone was upset. Riots began and we were sent home with precautions to be careful. We lived close to the DC/MD line. While fires were burning in DC, the Maryland State troopers were standing at Marlboro Pike, just on the other side of Southern Avenue, SE , with their shotguns raised, ready to shoot any Blacks that crossed into Maryland. They had daring looks on their faces as if to say "step over this line and try to riot and we will shoot you dead just as you cross into MD." I was so afraid.

I also remember that Washington, DC had the National Guard patrol the area. We had a curfew and had to be in the house at a certain time. My uncle lived along the 14th Street, NW corridor and when I went to his house we saw all this burning and looting. Black store owners put signs in their windows that said "Soul Brother" so that looters would not come and riot there. I also remember peope riding with their carlights on while driving as a symbol of solidarity and letting people know that the people in the car were "soul bothers/sisters" and please do not harm the occupants.

I remember the devestaion of the riots of 1968 as if it were yesterday. DC is just beginning to rebuild after 40 years. I remember watching the funeral on TV. I remember so much about that period of history. That is why my favorite holiday is MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY. I feel that this is the day my people have to reflect on our past, present, and future! Keeping this legacy alive is so important.

Posted by: Stacy | April 4, 2008 10:30 AM

Those who claimed to be King's supporters were trashing his wishes and trashing my native city. In civil rights sit-ins, I learned peaceful protest, which successfully integrated facilities. Now anger was blamed for stealing luxuries (which I lacked also) and hurting innocents (which my child could become). Noticably pregnant and downtown for a contract meeting (helping the disadvantaged), I wound my car through the carnage, helped by concerned black men and women, who steered me away from trouble. How likely were these neighborhoods to be rebuilt, I wondered, after their own residents destroyed them?

Posted by: Julie Carvalho | April 4, 2008 4:36 PM

I was 16 and a ballet student at the Academy, Washington School of Ballet on Wisconsin Ave. The dorm students, which I was one of, lived at Alban Towers in Cathedral Heights, and we all went to the top of the apartment building and watched D.C burning. We watched for hours as building after building went up in a fiery billow. The next day we were escorted down the ave by tanks and the national guard and you could here gun shots ringing out all over. It was a very scary time for us, but it is history and I am fortunate that I saw it.

Posted by: Stephanie Dulgeroff | April 4, 2008 8:40 PM

They burned down my grandfathers store that had been in the family since the turn of the century. Before the fire they poured through the front door, stole half of the stock, knocked him to the ground, cursed at him, and then told him to get out. Five minutes later the store was on fire and he said the fire department was so busy that they didn't get to that block until the store was destroyed. He never set foot in that city again after May of 1968.

Posted by: Art | April 5, 2008 8:44 AM

They would do it again if they had a chance. Nothing since has given them a good reason but it will happen again.

Posted by: David | April 5, 2008 6:04 PM

I was 19 years old and was watching Walter Cronkite on Channel 9 when he said that Dr. King had been shot. Later there was that now 'normal' but then frightening "we now interupt" ugly CBS logo with the disembodied voice announcing Dr. King's death. I cannot begin to explain the still palpable anguish and rage I felt as I sat there in that living room.

When my father came in from work, I told him that non-violence had just been killed in Memphis; that white folks would not be satisfied until all of us were dead and gone; that we would never be "free."

My parents and I did not spend the next three days huddled in the house in fear. My mother insisted that we go out and bear witness. So we drove down 7th street with flames everywhere. We drove to the corner of 14th and Park Road and were so overcome by tear gas that a guardsman had to get into the car and drive us to fresh air.

So much of those days is still the blur that it was then. I cried continuously until Dr. King's burial. And I hated white people with every fiber in my being.

Stores were not just looted where the post timeline graphic indicates. The Safeway at Georgia and Piney Branch and most of the stores on the north bound path of Georgia Avenue were sported broken glass..all the way to Walter Reed.

We didn't loot. We didn't buy any stolen items. We just sat on the front porch and watched the army drive up our middle-class neighborhood street in weapons carriers. All the faces under the helmets were as white as that of the man who had killed Martin Luther King Jr.

Any innocence and most of the hope I had in reasonableness died with Dr. King.

40 years later, I sit here and think that the "progress" touted by so many is merely cosmetic. Poor people are still poor. We are engaged in another Viet Nam - still hating our youth enough to sacrifice them before the altar of greed. And the citizens of this country are far more uneducated and ignorant than they were then.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2008 1:15 PM

In April of 1968, I was in my first year of teaching first grade at a Mount Pleasant elementary school. I was a young white woman at a school with a predominantly black staff and students. Teamed with an experienced black woman, we were struggling to teach a large class of energetic kids in very difficult circumstances. The day the riots began, rumors were circulating about a rapidly developing, dangerous and frightening situation nearby. We could hear the sirens. The neighborhood became unusually quiet and tense. The lunchtime playground recess was cut short and we remained inside the school for safety. Before driving home across town, I received lots of advice about a safe route. The following day many children were absent, but those who came were anxious and excited and wanted to talk. At our usual "show and tell" time, a few brought in loot and several wore new clothes. We talked about what had happened, trying to be calm and reassuring. The children wanted to know what we, the teachers, thought. They asked why people were rioting, burning and looting. Our lead teacher struggled with what to say. I wondered if she would reveal the anger I felt was in her and whether she agreed with the rioter's expression of their anger. She asked the children to talk with their parents and grandparents. She didn't condemn those with loot but asked them to think about right and wrong. A group of children turned to me and asked my thoughts. As I remember, I said that it was wrong to take or destroy something that was not theirs and that it was unwise to join a mob in doing harm to someone or something. The teacher and I exchanged glances. I sensed she was thinking "Easy for you to say". Sadly this gulf remained between us despite our similar goals. I've wondered since then if the rage fueled by injustice that I witnessed is still the force it was in 1968. I don't think so,
but then, it is easy for me to say.

Posted by: Laura Woodworth | April 6, 2008 7:44 PM

40 years ago I was a young, white, idealistic VISTA volunteer assigned to a HeadStart school at 17th and Kalorama, NW. I had been working there for almost a year and the experience was both humbling and inspiring. I was the one being taught...and the lessons have stayed with me. Dr. King represented hope, he embodied all of the values and vision that I was privileged to come to know and embrace. Those of us who were involved in grassroots organizing did believe that together we could change the world. His assassination and the wrenching pain and loss of leadership and hope forever changed my life. The memories are vivid - you read about the tear gas and the looting...what you don't read is that in most poor neighborhoods there was NO access to any food for a long time. We were part of a brigade that ferried food into distribution points in the city from churches often outside of the city. The troops were threatening - my camera was smashed, we were often prevented from taking supplies to areas that needed food.

There is an excellent book called "Ten Blocks from the White House" for those who would like more information.

In this 40th anniversary year, I find myself wanting more than ever to recommit to the "cause" - of challenging and overcoming poverty and racial and social injustice - and yearn for an org. like VISTA that would bring together people with similar interests...the old and the young...to take up the cause once again.

I am interested, too, in finding a way to connect with people who were active in VISTA and HeadStart in DC in '67 and '68.

Posted by: Suzanne Brace | April 6, 2008 11:42 PM

I was stationed at the Marine Barracks in SE. My wife, who worked at the Court of Military Appeals called me and told me she had been shopping in Hecht's downtown when people started throwing bricks through the windows. She had quickly returned to the court. I told her to go home as quickly as possible to our home in Charles County. I ran up onto the roof of the barracks and could easily see smoke from numerous fires downtown. I ran down to the SgtMajor's office and told him and we reported it to the Colonel. The Barracks and Guard Company, which was billetted in the Navy Yard will put on full alert and the gates were sealed. Marines who had cars parked outside in the streets were ferried to them in step vans and they then drove them to the Navy Yard for safe keeping. About 4:00 pm while at the front gate of the Barracks I saw the glass doors of a furniture store across the street broken out. A large console TV had been thrown through it which wa then pushed away down the sidewalk on it's top. Then people charged in and began looting. One lady was protecting a living room set of furniture when a flat bed truck from a plumbing company pulled up. Men jumped down and began loading that furniture on the truck while the woman tried to fight them over it. At this point the police only had one shift on duty and were ordered not to make arrests except in cases of physical violence. The cruisers were racing up and down the street with sirens blaring and attempting to keep the rioters on the run. Around 6:00pm the looters attacked a uniform shop also across the street from the Barracks. The shop did all our alterations and had many uniforms belonging to us in it. It was set on fire but no DCFD units were available to respond. After a while the Oxon Hill VFD arrived on the scene with a pumper and put the fire out, but lost the building anyway. Many of us wanted to clear the streets but we were under strict orders to remain within our bases until ordered otherwise.

Around 11:00 pm that evening the police finally got all their off duty officers back and on duty. At that point they began to make arrests. Many officers were carrying baseball bats. At 11:30 the Barracks riot control units were ordered deployed to the Capitol Building and it's Power Plant. When they came out the gates of the Barracks and the Navy Yard down the street with fixed bayonets the streets were instantly cleared of people as everybody shouted "The Marines Are Coming!" The troops who were sent to the power plant reported many residents bringing them cookies and cake they were so glad to see them there. The Marines sent to the Capitol Building joined a Battalion of Marines who had driven up from the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. All were billeted in the very lower basements of the Capitol Building. They were told that the area hadn't been used since the Civil War.

The next day the Colonel discovered that the police and firemen had no place to eat. He put out the word that our mess hall would remain open 24 hours a day and feed them. Police were coming and going continually after that and we got news from all over the city via them.

On Palm Sunday the streets around the Barracks were filled with people who all had on brand new outfits.

I remember thinking at the time that this wasn't supposed to happen in America. Else where - Yes! But not in America

Posted by: David Wright | April 7, 2008 11:45 AM

As I look back...apparently I either was watching, running, marching or standing... Case in point my parents have a picture of me as a child watching the chaos that broke out during the city-title game against Eastern and St. Johns...I was about 3 years old...then they have another picture of me running around the national guards' jeeps that were stationed on my elementary school's playground during the MLK riots I was about 8 years old...then they have a picture of me marching down MLK Ave in SE in January for the infamous MLK Birthday Parade I was about 17 years old...then they have a picture of me holding my recent attained Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity confirmation letter standing in front of a portrait of MLK I was about 20 years old...Now I am taking pictures of my children celebrating MLK "Living the Dream" Celebration on this past Saturday and the youngest is 3 years old... The cycle continues in more ways than one.

Posted by: MLR | April 7, 2008 12:28 PM

I remembered it was a misty overcast day on April 4, 1968, while both an employee at Pepco and a student at Strayer College, when I heard about King's assassination. Later on that evening I was on the 14th Street Corridor when the first part of the fires and the looting began. However, that Friday was something entirely different because while I was at work at Pepco on 11th Street then, schools let out early, and the next thing I remembered was seeing smoke coming in from a lot of directions especially along 14th and Park Road. I remember many of us getting off early from work, and having to make it past Rhode Island Avenue North West,and seeing more of the same thing. One funny thing about it was seeing an elderly lady with a cane conducting some of the looters from one of the burned out stores. Seeing this was something else.
Joseph

Posted by: Joseph Evans | April 7, 2008 12:35 PM

I can remember having my second grade teacher tell us to get gather our belongings and go home now! Well, my friends and I use to get picked up by one of the parents but we were dismissed before any parents arrived. I was so confused not knowing whether to go home or wait for someone to pick me up. In all the chaos, I decided to run home as fast as my legs would take me. When I got home, the door was locked and I had to use the bathroom. We use to collect soda bottles for the .5 cent refund and several were lined up in our vestibule (area between storm door and front
door) where I sat terrified waiting for my mother to arrive. I decided that I could use the bottle to go to the bathroom so that I did not wet my clothes. Bad idea...when my mother came home frantic from looking for me all over the school, she opened the door and found me crying, shaking, and sitting in a pool of urine holding that RC Cola bottle. I will never forget this day or the days that followed watching the buildings burn, soldiers marching down our block, and trying to figure out why our Black brothes and sisters were tearing up our neighborhood.

Posted by: Cathy Baylor | April 7, 2008 5:59 PM

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