By Marylou Bongiorno and Jerome Bongiorno
On July 12, 1967, a rumor spread through Newark, New Jersey’s black neighborhoods that taxi driver John Smith had been fatally beaten by police, sparking what became known as “The Newark Riots.” National Guard and N.J. State Troopers were summoned to reinforce local police to quell the rebellion. Eloise Spellman, a mother of 11, looking out of the window of her housing project, was shot by the police. Acclaimed New York Times journalist Bob Herbert was shocked by LIFE Magazine’s image of his friend, Billy Furr, who was also killed by the police. In all, 26 people died as a result of the riots, which lasted nearly a week.
Throughout REVOLUTION '67, commentators, including renowned activist and former senator Tom Hayden, highlight inequalities in policies concerning mortgage lending, redlining, urban renewal, and the expansion of highways. Combined, these conditions led to white flight and suburban expansion, leaving behind municipalities in Newark and across the U.S. with massive concentrations of poverty. The film provides a historical framework to contextualize recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland.
Focusing on the six-day Newark outbreak, REVOLUTION '67 reveals how a spontaneous revolt against poverty and police brutality ended as a fateful milestone in urban America's struggles over race and economic justice.