1964 North Philadelphia race riots
Protest in north Philadelphia followed riots in other American cities including New York, where people protested against police brutality. Getty Images

Fifty years ago the black community of North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, rioted in the streets to demand the recognition of basic civil rights.

As today 28 August marks the 50<sup>th anniversary of the riots, IBTimes UK looks at the most important facts that led to the three-day-long uprising.

Why did people protest?

Several factors led to the protest. Unrest erupted after months of tensions between the blacks and the police, who were accused of excessive brutality. Local newspapers often reported of white policemen who brutally beat black civilians.

Similar episodes also occurred in other American cities. In July, for example, a 15-year-old African-American teenager in Harlem was shot dead by an off-duty policeman.

Police violence had sparked riots in several cities including Rochester and New York during the 1964's summer.

People were also discontent due to their impoverished living conditions.

The Columbia Avenue, where the rallies started, had been dubbed as "the jungle" because of the poor living conditions of thousands of people in the area. The income of many African-Americans was 30% lower than the city average and there was a high percentage of unemployment among the youths, many of whom were also illiterate.

What triggered the protest?

The rallies were sparked in the evening of 28 August, after an African-American woman, OdessaBradford, had an argument with two policemen about her car, which she could no longer drive as it had stalled at an intersection.

Bradford was arrested as she refused to leave her car. Shortly after, false rumours that a black woman had been beaten to death by the police quickly spread throughout the city.

Hundreds of people vented their outrage on the streets, with many protesters looting shops and bars.

Kenneth Salaam, a north Philadelphia's citizen who witnessed the riots, said: "To hear a white police officer hitting a black woman... that's enough to take the lid off that pot that's been boiling!"


It is estimated that at least 1,000 people took part in the three-day-long riots which caused the death of one person and left at least 341 injured. Some 700 people were arrested and more than 200 businesses were looted.

Following the riots, attempts to grant civil rights to the black community were made.

However, according to some, the factors that caused the riots are still present in north Philadelphia, where black poverty and unemployment are still rampant.