Segments in this Video

Langston Hughes & Introduction to Rochester Riot (02:01)


A selection from Langston Hughes' poem, "The South," describes in personification and graphic imagery the feelings of a black southerner migrating north. Those who remember the Rochester riot attempt to identify the inciting incident.

Migration to Rochester from the South (03:04)

Black residents of Rochester tell their migration stories. Rochester, New York's history of social justice drew people to the city. The black population tripled in the 1950s, with families moving there to raise children amidst opportunity and liberty.

Smugtown, U.S.A.: Don't Rock the Boat in Rochester (03:10)

Writer Curt Gerling coined the nickname, "Smugtown, U.S.A." to describe the complacent attitude of prosperous, Republican Rochester residents. A strong economy and workforce kept people largely unaware of any need for change.

Segregation by Neighborhood (01:34)

Black newcomers in Rochester settled in the Third and Seventh Wards. They didn't experience a welcome into mainstream society.

Diversity on Joseph Avenue (02:19)

Joseph Avenue became a cultural melting pot where immigrants and black residents developed community bonds.

Segregation of Workforce (02:30)

Though Rochester featured a robust economy with a high number of open jobs, newcomers in the 1960s found that most unfilled jobs weren't open to minorities.

Inhumane Living Conditions & Immobility for Minorities (03:09)

In 1964, a third of the housing in Rochester was classified as "deteriorating" and "dilapidating." The Third and Seventh Wards featured poor living conditions, and black people were generally refused housing outside the typical boundaries.

Rochester: Police State (02:26)

Rochester city officials and prominent civilians discuss the "quiet rage" which was slowly building in the 1960s. Black residents felt they lived in a police state, though white policemen denied brutality. Fear was used as a mechanism of control.

Police Dogs & National Epidemic of Police Brutality (03:06)

Black residents lived in fear of police dogs, which many people believed were an unnecessary and race-based measure of control. They knew that police brutality was a national pattern and that they would experience similar struggles in other cities.

Outbreak of Riot: July 24, 1964 (02:43)

Rochester residents describe where they were on the Friday evening in July, 1964, when the riot began.

Escalation of Conflict (03:02)

The riot escalated as arrests were made and rumors were spread. The story of a police dog biting a child helped fuel the outrage.

Events of Friday's Riot (02:06)

People attacked the police chief's car, and looting turned neighborhoods into crime scenes.

Reactions to First Night of Riot (01:36)

Footage from the police briefing room shows Chief Lombard issuing orders. Black Rochesterians not involved in the riots felt the sting of name-calling and blame. Former Mayor Frank Lamb remembers his incredulity the night the riot broke out.

The Morning After (03:18)

The following morning, Rochesterians awoke to find Joseph Avenue destroyed. Businesses were looted and vandalized. Rochesterians from the Third and Seventh Wards mourned the disrepair of their neighborhood.

Race-Based Blame (01:27)

Church leaders and other peace-seekers recall overhearing death threats to any black people found outside their "boundaries." Mayor Lamb denies the reality of that policy.

Saturday's Events: Violence From Both Sides (03:08)

Despite the curfew instituted the Saturday after Friday's riots, violence broke out in the Third Ward. Both the black community and the police force exhibited hate and aggression.

More Than a Riot (03:04)

Police and Rochester civilians both felt victimized. Eventually, the police arrested nearly 1,000 people, the majority of whom had no prior records. The length and nature of the conflict led people to classify the conflict not as a riot but as a rebellion against deep social injustice.

Calling on the National Guard & Governor (02:35)

After a helicopter crashed on Clarissa Street and conflict looked to continue through Sunday, Rochester called on the National Guard. Governor Nelson Rockefeller took a stand against violence of any kind.

Legacy of Rochester Riots (02:17)

Attitudes and stigmata from the riots lingered in Rochester after 1964. The riot brought a crude awakening to complacent America and introduced dialogue about race relations and social justice.

Post-Riot Deepening of the Social Divide (02:29)

After the July '64 riots, certain areas of society saw improvement. However, home ownership and graduation rates declined in historically black neighborhoods. Poverty grew; public health declined, and black people in positions of authority found themselves without inner-city revenue or power.

"It Could Happen Again" (00:60)

White supremacy still permeates American society, despite widespread denial, and seems to set the scene for future uprising.

"A Dream Deferred" (00:29)

Langston Hughes wonders about the explosiveness of unfulfilled dreams in his poem, "A Dream Deferred"

Credits: July ‘64 (00:58)

Credits: July ‘64

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July ‘64

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The night of July 24th, 1964 started off normally enough in Rochester, New York, but by the next morning no one would look at race relations in the North the same way again. This program takes a penetrating look at the underlying causes of the urban insurrections that swept through African-American communities in the 1960s, beginning with the 1964 Rochester race riot. Interviews with several participants reveal regret mixed with a continued frustrated about the discriminatory practices and poor living conditions that led to the civil unrest. (54 minutes)

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL49780

Copyright date: ©2006

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Gold Winner, 2006 Aurora Award    

“The strength of the film lies in its ability to capture the voices of witnesses to these events and display the vastly different perceptions of whites and blacks in 1964. These elements alone make this video eminently suitable for classroom use.”   —Educational Media Reviews Online    

“A moving and often harrowing look at a lesser-known event in American history, July ‘64 is highly recommended.”  —Video Librarian (Editor’s Choice)    

“Presents, with remarkable images and striking words from the people who were there, a dramatic moment in the history of Rochester.”  —Howard Zinn     

“Those who made this film deserve ample credit for portraying such complexities with honesty and grace....I enthusiastically recommend this film to sociologists, political scientists, historians, and those in professional fields dealing with social justice and problems of the cities. Students, in particular, could benefit from viewing this film.”  —Prof. Dennis E. Gale, Rutgers University         

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