JULY '64

Rochester Riot Timeline



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The producers need to be commended, a great job, highlighting a problem and issue and showing what happens when it goes unresolved. It was interesting to see how some didn't even know that their was a problem. I was 7 at the time and grew up in the Nellis Park area when this happened and didn't really understand all that was going on, but as I grew older and was exposed to block busting, busing, defacto segregation, marches with F.I.G.H.T and A.B.C. and other grass roots initiatives designed to try and wake people up to the fact that despite all of the major industry and factories, there was a clear divide amongst the citizens of the city.

I returned to Rochester sevral years ago and was sad to say that it had become more of a police state than before, as I was almost arrested for merely traveling down memory lane and visiting friends. The police told me that because we had out of state tags on our vehicle we must be up to no good??? I continue to be an ambassador for my hometown, the flower city, lilac city, a stop on the under ground railroud, etc....this was a first that I was unaware the city held claim to.

Gwendolyn Flynn
Los Angeles, CA

It pleased me to see the documenting of events in Rochester, NY during July, 1964. This matter deserves not to be "white-washed" or "swept under the carpet". Rochester is my hometown. I vividly remember watching from our porch/balcony the National Guard motoring down Plymouth Avenue--deployed by Governor Rockefeller to bring order. Although pre-adolecent at the time, I knew the events were significant. I believe the riots were spontaneous and a last resort for people who felt marginalized, unheard, and powerless. This film can be instructive. However, this society doesn't seem to learn from its history. Until communities create conditions where power is truly shared and folks are treated with dignity, there will always be potential for riots.

Rochester, NY

Excellent production. It's been 4 days since I've seen it and I can't stop thinking about it.

I'm a white male. I was 4 in '64 and grew up PA. I don't remember any racism in my home nor at the Catholic grade school I attended. Two of the 25 kids in my class were black. We were all friends and treated each other equally (from my perspective).

I don't think whites understand the plight of blacks until they are exposed to films such as this.

I want to condemn the uprising but then it probably had a positive outcome by bring attention to the problems facing the black community.

As a Christian, it pains me to hear racisim exists today. I really don't see it in my circles...but I'm a white guy.

Harry Griswold
San Diego, CA

I lived in Rochester, NY (my hometown) in July, 1964. My father was deputy chief of police under Bill Lombard. My father was, I believe, the commanding officer most directly involved in the initial arrest that triggered the riot. I just saw your very disturbing film, including pictures of my late father, on my local PBS station on what would have been, coincidentally, his 89th birthday. I was absolutely stunned by footage I had never seen, by words from and about the police I had never been aware of. My father was a person who said little about his work. On the 2nd night of rioting his car was overturned and burned as Lombard's had been the 1st night. Hours before that a Molotov cocktail had bounced off the edge of his open car window instead of landing in his lap. Those details I learned from him. Beyond that he said little, either about the uprising, the true attitudes of the police, or the oppressive conditions that led to the horrible outbreak in '64. From your remarkable film I have seen for the first time how frightening it must have been for anyone to have been on the streets those nights. But I have to add, sadly, that I grew up with so much silence on the part of those who held all the power. It is sad that inner-city Rochester today remains damaged beyond recognition and seemingly beyond hope of real recovery.

Ivan Cohen
Savannah, GA

The film offers contrast as to what American society was like when it had the industry to afford its members a lifestyle and values to reinforce that image. The voice-over doing the narration of what businesses exist in Rochester like Eastman Kodak, etc sounded like the standard narration I had heard in similiar films trying to present an image. In this age of outsourcing and "knowledge-based technology" not to mention the "hospitality industry" that narrator would be a relic of the past. While the filmmakers spoke to individuals who experienced the rebellion, I cannot recall if they scratched the surface to see what industries were the driving force behind Rochester today. In Savannah the pendulum moved from companies like Union Camp now International Paper, Sugar Refinery to a tourist based economy and hotels plus various tourist guide agencies have popped up to reinforce the hospitality industry. People who live in the equivalent of a 7th ward are trying to keep their heads above water, they are in some cases working 2 and 3 jobs. I doubt any uprisings would take place today. Look at what happened after the Rodney King verdict, those policemen went home and their quality of life was undistrubed. The people who felt wronged by the verdict raised hell but for their efforts, they got no mail delivery and no services like trash collection. Too many distractions exist today for the idea of uprisings to enter into one's mind.

The uprising of July 1964 ushered in the community organizations, job opportunities and a greater role in civic life plus the city fathers of Rochester realize the adverse publicity Rochester got on account of the uprising.

Professor Turner is valid in his assessment because race is the quickest tool to get at in terms of defining advantage and social status. Race does not have to be the only thing but those who tend to conduct these kinds of studies seem to have no gumption to do the extra legwork.

Rochester, New York

Your film really grabbed my attention. As a Rochester resident since 1987, I have only heard vague comments about the "race riots" in Rochester. Your film was a shocking slap in the face to the "Smugtown" attitude which is only just starting to be questioned, as the corporate elitism which Rochester so enjoyed for so many years is dicinterating. I have always been proud of Rochester and it's heritage. I never knew that minorities could not get jobs at corporations, etc. It certainly feels like the ingredients which created the summer of '64 are becoming reality once again. Only now there is a much larger distribution of more destructive weaponry. Every Rochesterian should view this film and decide what needs to happen.

Thank you for refreshing everyone's memory of a relatively recent reality.

Treelee MacAnn
Myrtle Beach, SC

This documentary brought back a flood of memories. I was born and raised in Rochester and was 10 years old at the time of the riots. I remember it well, as my grandmother lived in the heart of the riot area between Clinton and Joseph Avenues. I lived in affluent Brighton, a suburb of Rochester, but I vividly remember my weekend visits to my grandmother's little home. The neighborhood was predominantly African American, but there were many older poor European immigrants, like my grandmother, who still lived in the neighborhood. This ward had served as a ghetto for the city�s poor for decades. The stark contrast between the two parts of the city gave me a broader understanding of an unequal and unfair social structure at a young age. I was always visually shocked at the change as we drove down Joseph Avenue; we had entered a different country. My grandmother and her home weathered the riots. When the curfew was finally lifted, we drove in to check on her. It was like driving through a war zone, but I understood why this happened.

Mark Richard
Columbus, Ohio

Why did the 'rebellion' occur while conditions were improving, rather than when they were worsening?

Compare and contrast: the change in status of African-Americans from 1925-1965, basically the pre-urban riot, pre-affirmative action era, and from 1965-2005, the post-civil rights era. I suspect you will find things have opened up for the black elite and (relative to the larger society) worsened or stayed about the same for the rest, including the people who rioted in Rochester in July, 1964. Political action is almost always used for the advantage of the few citing the masses as their client.

Michael Dispenza
White Plains, NY

Having been born and raised in Rochester (I was 7 at the time of the riots), I watched with great interest last nite. The film brought back much memories, and was very well-done. My father was part of the local government at the time, so I remember Frank Lamb, and others interviewed. It is hard to believe that the riots could have happened in Rochester, but to be honest, not much good has come out of it for the local African-American community. Hopefully, the City can work with local activists, and try to improve the quality of life for those in the poorer areas of the city.

Charles Tuscher
Phoenix Az

In 1964 I was 14 years old and living in a suburb of Rochester. While the "riot" was happening me and my family were on "vacation". I had little idea, until seeing this film, what caused this to happen in July, 1964. The inclusion of the narrative about the "good things" of Rochester and the dialogue about the "harsh reality" of being poor and black in Rochester was excellent. An eye opening film for me! The more things change, the more they remain the same....... until we open our minds and hearts.

David F. Petrano, Esq.
Clearwater, Florida

In law school, I recall raising my hand in Constitutional Law class and stating the '64 riots in my home town of Rochester N.Y. (in addition to similar events throughout our country)was the main force behind the equal protection jurisprudence that followed. Our poor misguided professor was advocating the shallow belief the Supreme Court of the 1970s onward was somehow "enlightened" with a new hightened moral approach toward equal protection issues rather than riot prevention. I believe this film proves me correct. While watching footage of the riots,I was hoping to re-hear those brave Rochesterians yelling "burn baby burn."

Glouster Ohio

I found this film fascinating because I lived with my family in Rochester at that time, and was in fact peripherally involved in the riots. My boyfriend and I had been to the movies that night and when we got home my mother said she had heard about something going on down on Joseph Avenue. She wanted to go see what was happening but we talked her out of it and just myself, then 17 and 4 months pregnant, my boyfriend, 18, and my sister,16, went. He had recently bought a new, 1964 Pontiac GTO with bucket seats so I wedged in the middle while he drove and my sister rode in the passenger seat. As we drove down a street leading to Joseph Avenue, my boyfriend called out to a black guy he knew from work and asked what was going on. As I remember, the guy didn't seem to act hostile at all and said it was over on Joseph Ave., so we continued and then !!! as we turned on to the street, our car was pelted with bricks and short 2X4's. I crouched way low in the space between the seats and screamed to get out of there; my boyfriend tried to back up but couldn't because the car was surrounded by people. I really don't remember how, but we got out of there and went to the hospital because my boyfriend had a gash in his head and my sister had glass shards in her face. None of their injuries were serious but I distinctly remember the tension at the hospital as both blacks and whites were being treated as a result of the riots.

Kingsport, TN

I live in Kingsport, TN, home of Eastman Chemical, which was started in 1920 by George Eastman, founder of Eastman-Kodak. I cannot believe the similarities of what happened in Rochester and what happens here in Kingsport. Homes shown on this program remind me of homes here. The idea of the "benevolent" corporations is also used here. We have a city manager type of government here, which ensured that the corporations would have more control over the city. Now I understand why kingsport is the way it is. Would love to talk to some Rochesterians privately about this. Blacks also had a hard time getting decent jobs here, as well, with a few exceptions. Blacks with college degrees were janitors and/or cooks at Eastman well into the 60's.

Chris Nickel
Norfolk, VA - originally

I was pleasantly surprised to find this program on our local PBS station. I was not born until 1971, but had heard about the riots while growing up near Rochester. This program has been enlightening. I always asked what the riots were all about, but never received a good answer. Growing up, I thought "We don't have a problem with racism in Rochester - that's only in the south". Now having lived in the north and south, I believe racism occurs in all areas, it just rears it's ugly head in different ways.

Pittsburgh PA

I grew up in Chicago in the 1950's and 1960's. The city was basically segregated between whites and blacks. A cultural milieu of racism pervaded the entire city. Thankfully, I was able to move away from the Chicago area and shed this cultural racism.


i think that there still is a big racial problem today i deal with it all the time at school but when white people use the "n" word it pisses me of how they're disrespecting my race and culture i think that we should all come together as one culture and fight against racism.

robert powell
st. paul, mn

no. Race is a definition invented by European barbarians, and this subject will always cause barbarism just as the theft, exploitation, rape, and murderous signature that the European has left on people outside of Europe that look and think differently than he and his family.

Linda Flannery Stritof
Rochester, New York

Being a five year old at the time this occured, I didn't understand why it was happening. Now, as an adult I have seen things with my own eyes that make me understand a little better. I think there should be more brought out in the open, so we ALL get a the chance to see things in a better light. I hope I get to see the show again. We would like to see it longer and more of the news reels too. I hope it comes out on video so we can watch it more to see the backround too. To see how the neighborhoods have changed.

Rochester, New York

We would like to purchase a copy of July '64, but have not been able to find any information on how to do so. It was shown on Rochester's WXXI tonight and we were unfortunately not able to tape it ourselves. As city employees and former city residents, we were struck by the old footage and the explanations of what the attitudes were like back when this place was called Smugtown. Does anyone know if this will be sold on videotape or DVD? We're quite certain there will be many requests of this nature. Thanks.

Rochester, NY

I viewed this film on WXXI tonight and hope it will be available for purchase. This community urgently needs to acknowledge and deal with the fact that the problems highlighted in the film--lack of health care, education and jobs--still plague our city.


I was 15 years old in 1964 when the race riots broke out in Rochester. Living in Grand View Heights on Lake Ontario and far removed from the downtown center of crisis. I had never been exposed to racism there were no blacks in our remote community.

When the riots got to Charlotte, that was close enough to invoke some fear. I had seen black people who came to fish in the ponds but even that was only from the car. Being brought up Catholic with the philosophy that we are all God's children I was always facinated by anyone of a different race and wanted to know them...anyone different that would open a new world to our three streets where everyone knew each other and even went camping together for vacation. I was never taught racism, with no exposure it wasn't a topic of conversation and my parents had never used the "N" word until the riots when my mother used it.

I was shocked and scared by the venom of her expression as it went against all I knew and felt in my heart.

Even though I was not an eye witness to these events, it was the start of my own political conscienousness.

I am glad to see that you are doing a documentary on this subject and look forward to seeing it on Public Television some day.

I too have completed one documentary and have 2 in pre-production

and am submitting to itvs this February 15th.

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