JULY '64

Rochester Riot Timeline


Rochester Riot Timeline

Over the course of three days and two nights in July 1964, thousands of Rochester’s African American residents rioted in the streets of the city’s low-income neighborhoods. In the stifling summer heat, rioters smashed storefront windows, looted neighborhood merchants and clashed with police, exposing the city’s long-simmering racial tensions. In the seven years following the Rochester riots, more than 750 race riots erupted in numerous American cities, leaving over 200 dead, injuring nearly 13,000 and leaving many African American urban neighborhoods in ruins.

Read the timeline below to trace key moments in the Rochester Riots and other race riots that erupted in African American neighborhoods during the 1960s.
Click on the images to get a larger view.

A group of men in suits stand around the President as he sits at a large desk and signs the Civil Right Act
Signing in the East Room of the
White House
Photo: L.B.J. Library

July 2, 1964

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion or national origin. The Act also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation.

Harlem: July 18, 1964

Riots erupt in Harlem, New York after the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old African American male by a white police officer. One person is killed, more than 100 are injured and hundreds more are arrested.

Rochester: Friday, July 24, 1964

10:00 PM

Action shot of three Caucasian policemen in riot gear holding a bare-chested African American man spread eagle over the hood of a police car

Police arrest a 19-year-old male for public intoxication at a block party of about 200 people, on Nassau Street near Joseph Avenue in Rochester’s Seventh Ward. Rumors spread, such as: a child attacked by a police dog and a pregnant woman slapped by an officer, leading the crowd to become violent.

11:30 PM

About 400 people riot on Joseph Avenue; all available police officers are called to the scene. Bricks are thrown at police cars.

Rochester: Saturday, July 25, 1964

A uniformed police officer lit by camera flash, stands next to an overturned car with opened doors and smashed windows

A group of seven uniformed police officers and a man in a white shirt face away from the camera watching as some of them turn a hose on a riot-torn street

Looted storefront of Arthur’s Pharmacy, sidewalk littered with debris: Three African American men and an African American are on the street; she steps around a large overturned machine that blocks the sidewalk

12:30 AM

Police Chief William Lombard urges crowd to disperse. Rioters throw stones, spit on Lombard and overturn his car.

2:00 AM

Police Chief William Lombard instructs officers on use of riot weapons.

3:30 AM

Crowd swells to more than 2,000; looting spreads down Joseph and Clinton Avenues; city police, state troopers and sheriff's deputies are called in.

4:24 AM

State of emergency declared.


City Manager Porter Homer orders 8:00 PM curfew in the city of Rochester; closes the downtown and all liquor stores in Rochester and adjoining towns.

African American leaders go to the Public Safety Building, and volunteer to help quell disturbances planned in the Third Ward.


Violence breaks out in the Third Ward; angry mobs swarm the streets; rioters toss Molotov cocktails, rocks and bottles from rooftops and store windows.

10 PM

A white man is attacked and killed on Clarissa and Atkinson Streets.

A large crowd of mostly African Americans are gathered on the street watching as hoses spray a large house on fire, sending clouds of smoke into the air

Riot-ravaged street covered with piles of debris: the street is deserted except for two people on foot and three cars driving toward the camera

Rochester: Sunday, July 26, 1964

3 PM

Helicopter surveying riot damage crashes into a Clarissa Street home, killing three.

National Guard called in to help “weary local and state police” control riot, marking the first time the National Guard is called out in a northern city.


The Rochester riots end. Nearly 1,000 people are arrested; the majority, between 20 and 40 years old, employed, with no prior record. Fifteen percent are white.

North Philadelphia: August 28–30, 1964

Allegations of police brutality spark Columbia Avenue race riots in a predominantly African American neighborhood in North Philadelphia: 341 injured, 774 arrested, 225 stores damaged or destroyed.

Two uniformed national guardsmen carrying guns with bayonets walk down a deserted, riot-damaged street toward the camera; a mangled building is visible behind them; three figures follow far behind
Troops patrol L.A.
Courtesy: National Archives

Watts: August 11–17, 1965

Approximately 35,000 African Americans riot in Watts, a black section of Los Angeles, after the arrest of a 21-year-old black male. 34 reported dead, 1,100 injured and 4,000 arrested. Estimated damage: $100 million.

Newark: July 14–17, 1967

Racial tensions between the black community and a mostly white police force lead to riots in Newark, New Jersey. 26 dead, 1,100 wounded, more than $10 million in damage.

Two uniformed police officers stand guard with rifles near a truck while other uniformed men turn a fire hose on still-smoldering, charred storefronts

Detroit: July 23–27, 1967

Riots begin in Detroit after police raid an illegal drinking establishment and attempt to arrest patrons. 43 killed, 1,189 injured, more than 7,000 arrested; estimated damage $45 million.

Find out about the city of Rochester, before and after the riots >>

Rochester Riot photos courtesy of the University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections
and the Democrat & Chronicle

Rochester Riot photos for July 25: 3:30 a.m. and Nightfall, courtesy of the City of Rochester, New York


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