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About this collection

     The Rochester Public Library's Local History and Genealogy Division boasts one of the premier collections of local historical and genealogical materials in western New York.  Original materials in the collection are restricted to use within the library, but for more than a decade the library and its partners have sought to improve access to unique historical resources by digitizing photographs, books, manuscripts, maps, directories, postcards, and other items held within selected local collections in Monroe County.  The items available on New York Heritage are just a small portion of the library's digital collection.  To learn more, visit www.libraryweb.org.

1964 Rochester Race Riots 

This collection of images documents Rochester’s 1964 race riots, offering a vivid and revealing glimpse into our city’s, and the nation’s, past. From the collection of the Rochester City Hall Photo Lab.

Rochester’s race riots began the night of July 24, 1964, at a dance held on Nassau Street near Joseph Avenue. City policemen with dogs arrested a young African American man, eliciting protest from onlookers. The situation escalated and by 3 o’clock the following morning the city had declared a state of emergency. While most of the violence, looting, and vandalism affected the city’s northeast neighborhood in the 7th Ward, sporadic rioting also broke out in the 3rd Ward southwest of downtown and spread to the 5th Ward around Central Park. State police and, later, the National Guard joined city and county efforts to quell the unrest. On July 26, law enforcement brought the rioting under control. By August 3, the Guard and state police had withdrawn and city police returned to normal operations.

In addition to the debris and property damage left in the wake of the riots, hundreds of people were arrested. Five people were killed; four of the deaths resulted from a helicopter crash near Clarissa Street. From this upheaval grew a broader awareness of the underlying racial tensions in our city and the desire to address persistent inequality. Community organizations such as the Urban League of Rochester and FIGHT (Freedom, Independence, God, Honor, Today) emerged, advocating for changes in hiring practices, improved relations between citizens and police, improvements in urban housing conditions, and other measures for equality.

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