The 1965-Watts Revolt grew out of a crowd who witnessed the perpetual dynamics between law enforcement and a black family in South Los Angeles. On August 11, 1965, Marquette Frye was driving with his brother, Ronald, who had just gotten home from the military. Marquette was pulled over for drunk driving at the intersection of Avalon and 116th Street. A crowd, who witnessed the stop, gathered and continued to witness how the incident escalated. Many media outlets and books offer summaries and portrayals of this incident and are easily accessible. We encourage you to learn more about the incident, Marquette and his family’s life after the six days of revolt. Think about how this impacted the family.
The curfew zone set in place included a 45 square mile radius, but the days that followed highlight the Charcoal Alley in Watts, a 2.5 square mile neighborhood. Why was the focus on Watts? What was going on at the time that led a community to engage in revolt? The answer can be found in the endless obstacles that stood in the way of a high quality of life for residents of Watts. At that period of time, many Watts community members lacked the basic means for human dignity and were left with under-performing schools, lack of access to quality health care, substandard housing, high unemployment rates, and constant violent encounters with law enforcement.
The revolt intensified on Friday, August 13, 1965 (exactly 50 years ago today) and about 2,300 National Guardsmen joined the local police; the number increased by August 14.
The incident with Marquette could be perceived in many ways, but at the time many used it to perpetuate an interpretation of Watts as a violent community. Of course the unjust living conditions of its residents was left out of this narrative.
As we continue to remember 1965 Watts, please take the time to reflect and learn more about U.S race relations, community development and advocacy, and policing over the last 50 years. Think about what we can learn from 1965 Watts and how we can move forward as a people advocating for basic human dignity and quality of life. Are we repeating history or have we progressed?
We also invite you to join the many events over the next half of the year and the rest of this week. Come to Watts and witness, first hand, our resilient life, culture, and identity!