On August 11, 1965, Los Angeles’s South Central neighbourhood of Watts became a scene of the greatest example of racial tension America had seen.
A Los Angeles police officer pulled over motorist Marquette Frye (who was with his brother Ronald); he suspected Marquette of driving drunk. While officers questioned them, a crowd of onlookers had begun to form. When Rena Frye, the boys mother showed up, a struggle ensued which led to the arrest of all 3 members of the Frye family. More officers had arrived on the scene and had hit the brothers with their batons. The crowd had grown and by this point had become angry. After the police left the scene, the crowd & tension escalated and sparked the riots, which lasted 6 days. More than 34 people died, 1000 wounded, and an estimated $50 – $100 million in property damage.
Aug. 13, 1965: National Guard troops secure a stretch of 103rd Street, dubbed Charcoal Alley, in Watts to help Los Angeles authorities restore order. The riots, sparked by the arrest of a black motorist for drunk driving, lasted for six days. After the violence, 34 people, 25 of them black, were dead and more than 1,000 were injured. Photo published in the Aug. 14, 1965 Los Angeles Times.
Aug. 14, 1965: Dep. Sheriff Edward Harter stands ready to protect firemen fighting flames in building set afire during Watts Riots at Willowbrook Ave. between El Segundo Blvd. and 130th St. This photo was published in the Aug. 15, 1965 Los Angeles Times
Aug. 12, 1965: Crowd and police at Imperial Highway and Avalon Blvd., in the early morning just before violence broke out.
Aug. 16, 1965: Only women were allowed to enter the Giant Food Market at 1712 E. 103rd St. after it reopened during Watts Riots. Clerks were wearning guns. Man facing camera is manager Carl Margolis.
Aug. 16, 1965: Two women walk around the ruins of store on 103rd St. near Maie Ave. in the center of the riot area.
Aug. 17, 1965: Dept. of Water and Power lineman works among wires on poles burned and snapped apart by store fires at Central Ave. at Vernon.
Aug. 17, 1965: A. Z. Smith, left, begins the task of getting Smitty’s Barber Shop on Beach St. back in shape following the Watts Riots. This photo was published in the Aug. 18, 1965 Los Angeles Times.
Aug. 17, 1965: Mrs. Ronald E. Ludlow, widow of deputy sheriff killed in rioting, receives condolence from Rev. Lawrence Keene of Crenshaw Christian Church at Inglewood Park Cemetery as Ludlow’s fellow officers form an honor guard for fallen comrade.
Aug. 17, 1965: Charles Vance sweeps up the litter in front of stores at 45th St. and Central Ave. following the Watts Riots. This photo was published in the Aug. 18, 1965 Los Angeles Times.
Aug. 18, 1965: Dr. Martin Luther King during talk at Westminster Neighborhood Assn. meeting regarding the Watts Riots.
Aug. 20, 1965: Dept. of Public Works clean up crew at 103rd st. and Maie Ave., following the Watts Riots.
Aug. 13, 1965: Smoke rises from buildings on 103rd St. looking west from Wilmington Ave. during Watts Riots.
Aug. 13, 1965: Debis litters Avalon Blvd. near 105th St. as crowd watches smoke rise from a building at 108th St.
Aug. 13, 1965: A burned car and four others overturned by rioters clog Imperial Highway near Avalon during Watts Riots.
Aug. 13, 1965: Car burns in intersection of Avalon Blvd. during Watts Riots.
Aug. 13, 1965: Los Angeles police officers stand guard as debris of day of violence is cleared from the intersection of Avalon Blvd., and Imperial Highway, one of the worst trouble spots from which violence was spreading.