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By Nichols, Casey (University of Washington, Seattle)
Following World War II, over 500,000 African Americans migrated to West Coast cities in hopes of escaping racism and discrimination. However they found both in the west. For many black Los Angeles, California residents who lived in Watts, their isolation in that community was evidence that racial equality remained a distant goal as they experienced housing, education, employment, and political discrimination. These racial injustices caused Watts’ African American population to explode on August 11, 1965 in what would become the Watts Rebellion.
The rebellion began on August 11th when the Los Angeles Highway Patrol stopped black Watts resident Marquette Frye and his brother, alleging that they were speeding. Back-up was called from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) as a crowd of African Americans gathered to watch the scene. Since the incident was close to Frye’s home, his mother emerged to find her son resisting arrest. Fearful that his arrest may ignite a riot, one LAPD officer drew his firearm. Catching a glimpse of the gun, Mrs. Frye jumped onto the officer’s back, causing the crowd to begin cheering. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers arrested all three of the Fryes. Enraged by the family’s arrests, Watts’ residents protested as the police cars drove away. Less than an hour later, black Angelenos took to the streets.