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Riot cases

Identifier: 0700.020

Scope and Contents note

This series contains a wide variety of documents relating to both the 1967 and 1968 riots, including but not limited to: fire reports, auditor reports, case law, police journals, and damage claims. All files are created and organized by the original creator, Theodore R. Stanley, who acted as Assistant Corporation Counsel. Mr. Stanley represented several businesses in the Blue Hill Avenue of Roxbury, many of whom still exist, who were bringing a suit to the city for damage compensation following the riots. The files within the folder are organized alphabetically; files inside the folders however are kept in their original order. No attempt was made to organize individual documents by date or alphabetically in order to preserve the creator’s original intent. Folders are also labelled as they were originally, unless unlabeled, in which they are described by general content inside. The majority of files within the series are related to the 1967 riots, with only one dedicated folder to the 1968 riots titled "Riot Cases - Martin Luther King Alleged Riots". The two cases from the 1968 riots are found in the same court documents that also include the 1967 riots. A large portion of the documents contained in this series are copies of law journals with court decisions related to riot cases.


  • Creation: 1967-1972


Historical note

The Blue Hill Avenue neighborhood of Roxbury, Boston, experienced two separate riots in the years 1967 and 1968. This first riot, beginning on June 2, 1967, followed a sit-in at the welfare office by the Mothers for Adequate Welfare (MAW). The MAW arrived at the welfare offices in the late afternoon on June 2 with a group of 25 black and white mothers, and a few college student supporters. Once there, the group chained the doors shut, trapping welfare workers inside. Police and fireman arrived shortly after and a crowd began to form outside of the building. Shortly after arriving, police received a report that one of the welfare workers was gravely ill and must be removed from the building. Officers attempted to move into the building but were blocked off by newly arrived supporters from the outside. The fire department arrived shortly after this incident, and began placing ladders underneath windows in the back of the building. Officers rushed in through the back and retrieved the injured woman. They then began arresting members of MAW inside the building, who started shouting out the windows towards the onlookers. The onlookers began reacting violently towards the officers and started throwing bottles, bricks, and rocks towards at them while they exited the building. Though violence was quickly subdued in the welfare office, a full scale riot began in over 15 blocks of Blue Hill Ave. The riot would go into the early morning of June 3 and cause tens of thousands of dollars in damages to neighborhood businesses. A total of 44 people were arrested in the two days of rioting and 45 people were injured, many of whom were officers.

The second riot occurred on the evening of June 4, 1968 into the evening of April 19 following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Though a larger timeframe than the previous riot, it was of much smaller scale. Most events were isolated and perpetrated by a small group of individuals. The damage was contained to an area of less than 10 blocks, with many officers on the scene veterans of the previous 1967 riot. By the end of the riot, 5 officers were injured, 29 civilians injured, and 16 fires were started (though not all could be directly connected to the riots). There are numerous reasons why Boston did not experience the widespread damage other cities saw during the 1968 riots. The first reason was the experience of the police officers that responded to the scene. Many of them had subdued the previous year’s riots and therefore knew how to lock down the neighborhood. The second reason, and considered by many to be the most important, was a James Brown concert that was occurring that night. Following the assassination, the mayor of Boston, Kevin White, considered cancelling the concert for fear of violence. After numerous members of the community advised him that cancelling would create more violence, Mayor White changed his mind. He spoke with James Brown, asking him to plead with the community to steer away from rioting. Additionally, he asked James Brown if the concert could be televised, in which James Brown agreed. Many families either attended or watched the concert that night which kept many from going into the streets. Politicians in Boston and many leaders from the African-American community consider this to be the major reason Boston stayed relatively violence free.


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Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury MA 02132 United States
617-635-1194 (Fax)