Menu

Harlem Riot of 1943

0 Comment

The culture of the period affected the way in which the events were reported, the tone of the media shadowed by the way in which society viewed the African American place within it. The Harlem riot of 1943 is an event that shows how the media has a great influence on the way in which public opinion is created about events and the people who are involved. The Harlem riot of 1943 occurred after an incident where a policeman had hit an African American woman that he was arresting for charges stemming from a public disturbance. As he was about to hit her again, a young African American soldier by the name of Robert Bandy moved to stop the policeman’s violence. As a result, the soldier was shot in the shoulder, but the rumor was spread that he was killed which sparked the riot. The incident occurred on August 1, 1943 and the riot was finally ended on August 3 after six people were killed with 500 African Americans arrested (Capeci 116: New York Times). In studying riots, the most common format from which to characterize the events is from the precipitating event, such as the shooting of the soldier who was defending the woman. The emotions created by this event created a climate of violent reaction in which the targets of the volatile consequences were representations of authority. Riots are almost always a result of a social injustice that becomes a part of a theater of violence in which the participants are acting out the underlying emotions of that injustice (Monti 42). The conflict was not representative of black-white confrontation as much as it was represented by confrontations with police and with symbols of oppression and authority which included local stores. According to Gold, Observers attributed the Harlem riot to the fact that blacks’ opportunities and living conditions showed few signs of improvement, despite the booming wartime economy (85). Oppression led to an outburst against that oppressive state in order to express the unequal position that was imposed upon those living in neighborhoods where hope was a limited commodity. The dynamics of the social situation was reflected in the resources that were provided by the media as the event was covered. The Kerner Commission, which was the 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, was given the task of looking at the riots that had occurred during the 20th century and at the multiple causes of difficulties that were segregating Caucasians from African Americans. Using the Harlem riot of 1943 as one example of the problems that were evolving, a report by the commission charged the nation’s media with contributing to a culture of ignorance and prejudice that imprisoned African Americans in stereotypes and helped to foster and perpetuate the poverty and discrimination that eventually led to turmoil (Henry 80). The specific recommendation to thwart this problem was a call to the news media to include black voices so that a more equitable balance of information could be heard (Henry 80). The mainstream press covered the events through perspectives that have not held up historically. According to Lubin, the mainstream press repeatedly insisted that it was not a race riot, but rather the work of gangs of hoodlums. Some white critics argued that it was the result of racial ‘