Revisiting the riots of 2011 through previously unseen footage and accounts from all those involved in the dramatic and destructive events.
Runtime: 60 minutes
The Riots: In Their Own Words - Hough riots - Netflix
The Hough riots were riots in the predominantly African-American community of Hough (pronounced “Huff”) in Cleveland, Ohio, which took place from July 18 to July 23, 1966. During the riots, four African Americans were killed and 50 people were injured. There were 275 arrests and numerous incidents of arson and firebombings. City officials at first blamed black nationalist and communist organizations for the riots. But historians generally dismiss these claims today, arguing that the cause of the Hough Riots were primarily poverty and racism. The riots caused rapid population loss and economic decline in the area, which lasted at least five decades after the riots.
The Riots: In Their Own Words - Purported cause: Black nationalism and communism - Netflix
During the event as well as immediately after, some individuals asserted (in what one scholar has called the “official narrative”) that the Hough Riots had been caused by black nationalists or communists. During the riots, Mayor Richard Locher, Police Chief Richard Wagner, Safety Director John N. McCormick, Cleveland City Council President James V. Stanton, and The Plain Dealer newspaper all claimed that, while the initial violence on the night of July 23 may have been spontaneous, the riot had long been planned by violent, black nationalist or communist organizations, and had been sustained by them for several days. The “official narrative” was reinforced when Cleveland law enforcement officials formed a grand jury on July 25 to investigate the causes of the riot. The jury foreman was Louis B. Seltzer, an editor of the Cleveland Press who had retired early in 1966. On August 9, 1966, the grand jury issued its 17-page report, blaming the riots on black nationalists and communist organizations. The grand jury reported that “This jury finds that the outbreak of lawlessness and disorder was both organized, precipitated, and exploited by a relatively small group of trained and disciplined professionals of this business. They were aided and abetted willingly or otherwise by misguided people of all ages and colors, many of whom are avowed believers in violence and extremism, and some of whom are either members of, or officers in the Communist Party.” At a press conference on July 26, Seltzer stated, “The grand jury saw enough to realize the violence was organized and planned because of specific targets singled out for burning and looting.” The report strongly praised the Cleveland Police for their courage and restraint during the crisis. Although it issued no indictments, the grand jury specifically named Lewis G. Robinson, director of JFK House and organizer of the Medgar Evers Rifle Club; Harllel Jones, a city sewer department employee; and Albert D. Ware-Bey, a member of several clubs to which Robinson and Jones belonged. Chief Wagner said he was not surprised that no indictments were forthcoming, since Ohio lacked an anti-criminal syndicate law. In addition to the focus on black nationalists and communist groups, the report listed a number of social ills which it said was the “uneasy backdrop” to the riots. The report also made several recommendations, including stronger enforcement of gambling, liquor, and prostitution laws; more frequent housing code inspections; improved garbage collection; and much greater and swifter efforts at urban renewal. The report also listed too-dense housing, substandard housing, overly high rents, a lack of neighborhood recreational facilities, excessive food prices, substandard educational facilities, a lack of jobs, welfare (which encouraged excessive pregnancies), and common-law marriage (which allowed men to escape their marital and child-rearing duties) as social evils which allowed frustration and bitterness to arise among African Americans. This, in turn (the report said), allowed communist and black nationalist groups to find support and foment riot. The grand jury report pointedly declined to discuss allegations of police brutality. The grand jury report also called for new laws defining and providing for harsh penalties for incitement to riot, arson or attempted arson during a riot, and assault against a police officer or firefighter while engaged in official duties. The report also called for the state to redefine “riot” under the law, to make it easier for law enforcement to arrest rioters. The grand jury report was embraced by city officials and local law enforcement. Mayor Locher praised the grand jury for “the guts to fix the approximate cause which has been hinted at for a long time, that subversive and Communist elements in our community were behind the rioting.” The “official narrative” also received support in other quarters. On June 22, during the riot, five members of a local W.E.B. Du Bois Club—including staff members Steve Shreefter and Mike Bayer—were riding in a car. Stopped by a National Guardsmen, posters were found in their vehicle which The Plain Dealer characterized as inflammatory. The United States Department of Justice had attempted to have the group declared a Communist front organization in March 1966 under the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950. In 1967, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a report characterizing the literature as “communist” In 1967, Phillip Abbott Luce, a former member of the Communist Party USA, asserted in his book Road to Revolution that the Communist Party played a significant role in causing and sustaining the Hough and other riots in the United States in the 1960s.
The Riots: In Their Own Words - References - Netflix