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Florida: Race Riots (1980)

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Looking back over his shoulder, a city fire fighter prepares to fight yet another blaze during the Miami race riots, May 1980.

Miami, Florida, though southern, was not of the American South. However, like New York, Boston, Detroit and Los Angeles, racial tensions had simmered in the city for years. Local NAACP leader Harry Moore protested segregation in Florida and was killed when his home was bombed on Christmas, 1951. Overtown, the neighborhood of Miami originally called Colored Town, was the cultural center for blacks in south Florida, and a tourist destination where African Americans could see popular black entertainers, similar to the black-owned Moulin Rouge Casino in Las Vegas. Since its heyday in the 1950s, however, local, state and federal government projects built sports arenas, highways and administrative offices in Overtown, effectively destroying the community.

In late December of 1979, Miami police brutally beat a black insurance salesman named Arthur McDuffie to death; the black community of Miami waited calmly for justice. But on May 17, 1980, when an all-white jury acquitted the policemen of all charges, five days of rioting broke out.

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