People took to the streets, looting and vandalizing property—similar to the Harlem Riot of 1935, which marked a new form of uprising, in that it wasn’t an interracial fight between opposing groups, but an attack on property and business, says Capeci.
Unlike previous riots of the early 20th century that typically involved violent white mobs descending onto black neighborhoods, the Harlem Riot of 1935 and 1943 marked a turning point when black people expressed their outrage over their conditions by attacking property, another representation of inequality in their community.
“There were black shoppers, but there were no blacks being employed,” says Capeci. “Blacks are basically responding to this build-up of unfairness as they see it. All of these snubs, all of these put downs, all of these mistreatments. You're feeling them in any number of ways, from the job you have, to the income you don't have.”
The amount of damages in the riot was estimated to be upwards of $5 million in today's dollars, the equivalent of hundreds of thousands in 1943, with mostly white-owned businesses destroyed.
“What do these businesses mean?” says Nikki Jones, a professor in African American Studies at University of California, Berkeley. “They could be seen as a symbol of the exploitation, both economic exploitation and social exploitation. Another place in which black people are alienated and excluded.”
New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who had already mandated riot training for city police, in response to the devastating riot that had occurred in Detroit months before, deployed 6,600 police officers to Harlem, who were joined by 8,000 National Guardsmen and some volunteers. The rioting, contained to Harlem alone, lasted for 12 hours. Six black residents were killed by the police and approximately 200 people were injured.
Harlem would experience another riot in 1964.
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