Triumph or Tragedy: Watts Riots of 1965

By Breona Blakemore


Source: Fire occurring during the Watts riots of 1965.



Source: Los Angeles Watts riots of 1965.


When researching and processing the events of the Los Angeles Watts riots of the 1960s, I was intrigued as well as shocked at how the events were covered by news sources. My initial source was of course the coverage of the riots from none other than Time Magazine. Time magazine is credible for being one of the most credible and reliable magazine because it has been around for quite some time. Most of it’s readers have been committed to reading the magazine for years at a time because they trust the source. Most Americans view Time magazine as a voice of the people sometimes.

The Los Angeles riots of 1965 were described as the riots stemmed from the racial tensions that inevitably reached a breaking point. The riots began on August 11, 1965 after two white police officers stopped a black motorist they suspected to be a drunk driver. The police began to get physical with the driver, where a crowd of spectators formed to watch the arrest, which became a racially motivated abuse by the officers. From this incident on, the riot would soon begin. In just six days of the riot, there were 34 deaths, more than 3,400 arrests and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Many people were arrested and taken into custody by interacting in the riots or just being present.

One of the few articles I discovered that was entitled “THE FIRE LAST TIME: LIFE IN WATTS, 1966.” Even the most simplified aspects of the newspapers themselves differentiated. The headlines were significantly longer than usual, and the stories seemed more focused on what the public needed to know versus now, more censorship.

I also had the chance to read the article published by The New York Times describing the Watts riots of 1965. In the article unlike others, it describes the incident of the driver being beaten as “false rumors.” When reading Time magazine and other news sources, the incident was not described directly as false. I found it very interesting that such a well-known newspaper would share some sort of bias to the incident without direct sources to prove such. However, it is very breathtaking to witness how the articles and events as crucial as the riots were publicized.

The Watts riots were labeled as one of the largest urban race riots of the 1960s, and marked a shift from the nonviolence of the civil rights movement. Depending on your upbringing, race, and political view, the riots can be viewed as a positive development or a violent tragedy. Some believed the riots may have actually been a setback for black America. For African-Americans during this time period, the riots represented “. . . an uprising leap into a future of black self-empowerment,” according to Valerie Reitman and Mitchell Landsberg of The Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Watts riots of 1965 opened up a door for blacks in America to have a voice during a time where they were invisible, and that same voice went unheard. Although it took acts of violence, many eyes were opened, and more ears were clear. Take a look at our society now, it is almost as if that same voice has faded into the background, and it has gone unheard once again. With no one to speak up for a society of their own, blacks in America have chosen to make their presence not go ignored anymore. Almost 50 years later, hello America.Live Footage of the Los Angeles Watts Riots



Source: Aggressive police arrest during the Watts riots of 1965.


Source: Police carrying major firearms while placing someone under arrest during the Watts riots of 1965.

Police carrying major firearms while placing someone under arrest during the Watts riots of 1965.



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