Home > The Watts Uprising

The Watts Uprising

What is most commonly referred to as the “Watts riots” began on August 11, 1965 with what was a relatively minor police incident and ended five days later with thirty-four people dead and over a thousand people injured. The Governor’s Commission report on the events, "Violence in the City" (more commonly referred to as the "McCone Commission Report"), described the uprising as being “a formless, quite sudden senseless, all but hopeless, all but hopeless violent protest” (5). This reductive description of the events failed to represent, ignored, or omitted the real cause: a long history of systematic racism—segregation, redlining, and police oppression—that fueled the unemployment, abject poverty, and, thus, desperation and frustration of the people of Watts and the surrounding South Los Angeles neighborhoods.

For more on the uprising, read "The Embers of August 1965" and the Fire This Time by Gerald Horne as well as a series of 2015 Los Angeles Times articles written in response to the uprising's 50th anniversary.

To learn about the early history of African Americans in Los Angeles, read Marne L. Campbell’s Making Black Los Angeles: Class, Gender, and Community, 1850-1917.