The 7th Ward had been predominately an immigrant community in Rochester, New York, since the late 1800s. Just within blocks of the train station, German, Irish, and Jewish Immigrants made the neighborhood into a walking community with schools, businesses, religious institutions, entertainment facilities, and homes. Beginning in the 1940s, Rochester witnessed a great migration in which an influx of Southern African-Americans became the newest migrant population settling largely in the 7th ward competing with white residents for employment, education, and housing. Fleeing the Jim Crow South, the new Rochesterians experienced the Jim Crow North.
Combined with urban renewal and suburban flight, years of employment and housing discrimination created a concentrated area of poverty where overt racism, denied equity, and conflicts with authorities served as kindling awaiting a spark in the midst of a national Civil Rights Movement.
Within weeks of Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many northern cities experienced racial uprisings including Harlem, Patterson (NJ), Philadelphia, Chicago, and Rochester clearly signifying that the act did not address the racial discrimination and inequalities nationally as intended. For Rochester, the spark that ignited the uprising came on Friday July 24, 1964, lasting for three days until authorities with the aid of the National Guard put it down by arresting a thousand curfew breakers and maintaining a strong enforcement presence. The effect was immediate, widespread, and long-lasting.
In this interactive presentation, our goal is to virtually tour, relive, and retell the historical transformation of an old 7th Ward and to study the effects of racism and discriminatory policies and practices, which is argued to have caused the uprisings. With this understanding, we can gain insight in the recent uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore in addition to understanding urban uprisings in general to inform anti-violence and anti-poverty efforts in New York State.