Jeremy B. Landa
I. The Origins of Race Conflict in the United States
The history of race conflict does not begin with Jefferson, but his ideas are firmly entrenched in American society by 1967, 1970, and 2011. Using Jefferson in this context does not imply that the cause of race tension has been discovered. Rather it is to dramatize how an idea from history influences the world in 2011. Jefferson's ideas from
Notes on the State of Virginia
permanently became thinking processes that became structures of society – in other words, people following Jefferson built upon his ideas with more concrete theories such as Social Darwinism. Using Social Darwinism as justification, society went through a variety of phases: Slavery begat Jim Crow Laws begat "separate but equal" begat voting disenfranchisement begat housing and job discrimination begat law enforcement discrimination. Jefferson's ideas have grown over time to become structures in society and barriers for some groups of people.
Students need to be challenged to think about these structures and processes for themselves. The abstract nature of this concept makes it difficult to understand for high school students. However, as they begin to recognize how Jefferson's ideas connect to legislative and individual actions in American society over time, they will be pushed to some important conclusions. The most important revelation is the idea that race conflict almost inevitably will repeat itself. This being true, we can also conclude that race conflict is not predictable and requires the idealism of no racial conflict to be pushed aside for a more pragmatic approach.
II. Chaos Theory for Historical Methodology
Chaos theory is not an obvious part of this unit, but it is vital for helping students make the preceding conclusions. Jumping from Jefferson to the 1960s and explaining the connection clearly is not an easy task. Chaos theory will allow the space for students exploring this unit to use scientific reasoning to understand and explain the content. The first area that chaos theory impacts is that it allows a historian to create self-similarity across scale – that is things look very similar whether looking at one individuals actions or trends of all citizens in the United States. This idea is accomplished in the following way within this unit. By using macro – generalized history from a textbook - and micro history –individual stories students will begin to recognize that whether you are looking at the landscape of Detroit or New Haven from near or far, the generalizations that have the strongest historical support appear similar no matter the location. From this process, students should engage in these materials as historians do; across scales much like they are drawing a landscape of the respective cities being explored from the human terrain.
The other chaos theory that will prove to be significant towards students being able to connect difficult content is "sensitive dependence on initial conditions", also known as the butterfly effect.
This idea recognizes that little events have big consequences. Acknowledging this in the examination of Detroit and New Haven demonstrates that how crises are handled before they become too unmanageble may make the difference between violence and its absence.
III. The Battle for Racial Equality in the 1960s: Who matters?
Each movement important to the 1960s is distinct, telling a larger story about the multitude of factions battling the idealism of political equality with the reality of racial inequality. However, it takes a careful examination of the individuals and the movements involved to understand the power of race conflict. After all, racial quarrels did not begin in a large city in Michigan in 1967 or a small city in Connecticut in 1970. The events in the late 1960s and the early 1970s were a result of individual ideas gaining traction in society and creating the conditions for people to push change.
The 1960s are best known for major ideologies such as the Counterculture and Civil Rights movements, which focused on changing specific structures that were rigid in the American social and political order. In response to this shifting culture, the Conservative Reactionary movement emerged trying to retain traditional structures in American society.
Within these bigger movements lived a number of people that help historians understand the 1960s on the micro level. People like J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI who headed many programs with militaristic goals including COINTELPRO, which sabotaged black radical groups, and the police chiefs in New Haven and Detroit who used military-style policing, are representative of the Conservative Reactionary Movement. People like Yale President from 1963-1977 Kingman Brewster; Warren Kimbro, a New Haven resident and a central character in the Black Panther Trials in New Haven; and Yale student William Farley, one of the first black students at Yale who bridged the Black Panthers ideas with the Yale's conservative politics, are representative of a group felt that reform would happen most effectively by the institutions being responsive to their constituents. Last, people like Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, founders of the Black Panther Party, John Sinclair, founder of the White Panther Party, Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, founders of the Youth International Party or Yippies, felt the system of institutions should be destroyed and rebuilt anew.
These individuals forced society to ask questions about institutions, racial inequality, and hierarchies that had existed for decades. Groups like the Yippies, the Nation of Islam, The Black Panther Party, and the White Panther Party resisted the institutions and wanted change. The moderate group of Republicans realized that the forces of change were too great, but that change happens best when it is measured and reflective, not reactive. From the study of the individuals, the students will have a solid micro history understanding of characters in New Haven and Detroit. This will set the stage for macro analysis of Detroit and New Haven, where students will reflect on common patterns in the two cities as well as make bigger observations about American society during the 1960s.
IV. Here Comes Punctuated Equilibrium: Detroit and New Haven prior to 1967 and 1970
The 1960s illustrated a number of social, economic, and political divides that the American public had faced for years. New Haven and Detroit were both experiencing problems that were unique to the industrial North in the United States. They were cities that were ripe to experience a "punctuated equilibrium. In a historical context, this type of evolution does not happen with a slow, gradual process, but rather from one or a series of events that cause a sudden shift. This theory will be useful for explaining the "why now" of Detroit and New Haven.
Detroit and New Haven faced a number of problems with policing tactics, housing, education, and job discrimination in the 1960s. The unpredictable nature of these interactions slowly accumulated in each city and had an effect on the each city's population, especially its African-American citizens. As the nature of these problems grew, an increasing number of people were ready to commit to change and many wanted immediate reconciliation of the racial divide.
Two individuals that were emblematic of the bigger problems that Detroit and New Haven faced were Warren Kimbro and John Sinclair. They were disaffected individuals whose decisions, while not necessarily congruous, demonstrated a desire for immediate change. Kimbro was born in New Haven in 1934 and raised as a middle-class black individual in the city. He was in and out of school; he experienced the effects of "urban renewal" first-hand. He observed race and job discrimination on his community of peers. He worked hard, mostly stayed out of trouble as an adult, and eventually became heavily involved in community organizing. He was engaged in the politics of the period around Civil Rights and was a peacekeeper during major events such as the day MLK Jr. was assassinated. He was similar to his peers in many respects, except for his extraordinary decision to join the Black Panthers and murder a "supposed" informant named Alex Rackley. His individual decisions changed New Haven's history forever and nearly plunged the city into chaos.
John Sinclair was a product of the metro Detroit region. He grew up right outside of Flint, MI, then the home to General Motors. He attended high school in a mostly white high school and had little experience with the Flint inner city, which was similar to New Haven in size and similar to Detroit and New Haven with its changing demographics. He attended Albion College, a small liberal arts school in Albion, MI, and during his time there observed a speech by Malcolm X, which forced him to think about racial inequality. This speech prompted a conscious decision by Sinclair to become a white activist. He also was a member of the hippie movement and a musician. Eventually, Sinclair relocated with his friends in Detroit near 12
street, which became the ignition point of the 1967 riots. As he observed black citizens suffer from institutional and individual discrimination, he became more adamant that the system was constructed inequitably. He was responsible for starting the White Panthers, which supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers' objectives. Both men made small decisions, which proved to have serious consequences. Ironically, these two men followed paths, which were eventually mirrored by their respective cities. His decisions, while equally as small as Warren Kimbro's, eventually contribute to Detroit exploding in 1967, leaving the city's black community in ruins and the history of the city changed forever.
The introduction of the individuals that create the micro history of the 1960s eventually produces a macro history that creates self-similarity between the cities. Detroit and New Haven appeared very similar before their race conflicts. In the 1940s, American cities were faced with heightened race tension as "The Great Migration" increased the population of African Americans by unprecedented amounts. Both cities had explosive growth that mirrored the migratory patterns along racial lines. Between 1950 and 1967, the population of African-Americans in Detroit rose from 303,000 of the population to 487,000.
Similarly, New Haven saw the population of African-Americans jump from 6,235 on the 1940 census
to 36,157 on the 1970 census
. The equilibrium was changing rapidly forcing leaders in both cities to make difficult decisions about small events.
The education systems in Detroit and New Haven showed remarkable similarities as well. Sydney Fine, a professor of history from the University of Michigan, noted that Detroit in 1966 was embroiled in bitter struggles over the integration of the school system as the population of nonwhites in the schools increased from 26.7% - 34.8% of the population.
The schools citizens of Detroit attended were largely homogenous racially and economically. Teachers were ill-prepared and biased against the students they served, and largely different races from their students. Equity struggles came to a head in 1966 when Detroit Northern High School, a school of 2,300 that was 98% black, had a boycott. The boycott began in resistance to the censorship of an editorial written by 12
grader Charles Codding entitled, "Educational Camouflage", which discussed the policies of social promotion and the low quality education at his school and other local black schools. Codding controversially wondered in his editorial whether "these schools were 'being operated on the principle that Negroes aren't as capable of learning as whites, so why bother with them'".
Ultimately, the community reacted to the censorship by boycotting the school and demanding changes. These demands were mostly ignored; the lone exception being only the principal being released from his job. The white community had a visceral reaction to the boycott feeling that the principal's removal signified letting the students control the school. The situation created opponents in the community . It also requires an important question to be asked: had the demands of the boycott been dealt with more effectively, could Detroit have avoided a violent explosion?
New Haven also struggled with its changing student population. Many of their young people ended up casualties of the streets, including Germano Kimbro, the son of Warren Kimbro. His involvement in the drug trade pulled him and many other young men from Wilbur Cross High School.
An important inference from the lack of community outreach for young men like Germano Kimbro was that education in New Haven struggled to negotiate for the educational rights of their young African-Americans. As a result, the city itself had African-American students who did not complete their formal education. Luckily, for New Haven, they did not have a boycott that polarized the people of the city similar to Detroit's.
Detroit and New Haven experienced urban renewal similarly as highways to connect the urban with the suburban often split black communities. Route 34 in New Haven cut directly through Kimbro's old neighborhood. "Urban renewal involved buying hundreds of low-end properties – virtually everything from Warren's childhood and adolescence – and bulldozing existing building".
Detroit built Interstate 75, which cut directly through another black community of homes. Approximately 70% of the 43,096 people displaced in Detroit by projects for urban renewal were black.
The process of renewing cities was not limited to highways. Renewal also involved building low-income housing that replaced displaced citizen's homes; however, most were shoddily constructed. Kimbro noted in New Haven that a housing project called Ethan Gardens contained plans for circuit breakers and three coats of paint in each apartment. Developers built these places with only drywall and cheaper fuses.
This is a small decision with extraordinary consequences; in this case, Kimbro increasingly felt angered by a lack of integrity in the builders and the belief that much of it was related to racial differences between the builders and the residents of the project.
Detroit and New Haven also established militaristic policing tactics, especially in areas with high concentrations of poverty. Beyond the typical verbal haranguing that black citizens anticipated from the police, the police departments developed squads well known in the black community for excessive force. Detroit police force employed a group called the "Big Four police cruisers", or the TAC-squad, which was composed of "three plainclothesmen and the uniformed driver riding in these vehicles".
This group, armed with automatic weaponry and riot gear, often abused their black targets by beating them and enforcing strict curfews. They were feared and hated. Likewise, New Haven experienced similar police abuse, even struggling to reform a military police style until 1990. Among the problems that New Haven experienced was "a vanload of cops known as the 'Beat-Down Posse'…stopped at street corners when they saw black kids hanging out, then pummeled the kids".
Each city used tactics that were meant to ensure the safety of its citizens, but each small instance of abuse eventually turning into simmering resentment. With each similarity, they all point to something analogous to loading a spring. Each separate instance loaded the spring tighter and tighter. The spring representing the cities was all too ready to experience a quick and painful social, political, or economic change – punctuated equilibrium was ready to occur and the simmering tension predicted greater challenges ahead.
Both cities also have differences that are worth noting in the comparison. Detroit, by the 1960s, had become a hot bed for revolutionary music with Motown records representing the black ghettos with acts like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder. Likewise, the suburbs of Detroit were well represented with acts like The Stooges, Alice Cooper, and Motor City Five (MC5). Each of these groups sang about the problems and conflicts in society. The artistic aspect of Detroit served the city as an outlet to raise awareness of the plight of the citizens. People like Stevie Wonder sung about the struggles in the ghettoes of Detroit and Los Angeles. John Sinclair, manager of the MC5, involved the white suburban band in the countercultural antiracist experience, helping the group join the White Panther Party, which Sinclair founded.
The struggles of the black community in Detroit were mainstream by the mid-1960s. This may serve as an important distinction between them and New Haven as this publicity may have acted as a conduit for violence.
Detroit and New Haven both had higher education institutions that were of importance. However, they were strikingly different. Wayne State University, found in the heart of midtown Detroit, was a public university meant to serve the city of Detroit. The artistic scene attracted a large population of beatnik, hippie, and activist students as well as serving the metro Detroit community at-large. The result then, and still today, is that Detroit has an eclectic group of thinkers such as Sinclair as well as professors who were part of activism. One example of professors taking part in activism was the partnership they developed with Detroit Northern High School students during the lockout in the spring of 1966. They collaborated to start the Freedom School and served over 1,000 students for nearly two weeks.
This is an example of a small decision by individuals having enormous consequences. Rather than serving as a mediator between different communities, Wayne State took sides, and further divided the communities.
Yale University found in the center of New Haven was a private institution, meant to serve the political, economic, and social elite of New England. The Yale has long been a place where influential men resided during their academic careers. Yale has also characteristically been slow to change. They were one of the last schools to accept women and African-Americans onto their campuses. Kingman Brewster approached the Black Panther Trials in a measured way, viewing all the competing perspectives as the only way that healthy democratic reform happened. With his measured approach, he served the city and the radical black community admirably, perhaps even heroically, as violence was averted.
Ultimately, the comparison of the two cities is not to suggest that they are same, but to suggest that the conditions of citizens had many similarities and differences. Before the riot and protest, social and political conditions were tense – quick change was possible if the pressure was not relieved. Likewise, the conditions also differed in small ways that it is possible to ask "what if" Brewster had resided in Detroit.
V. Punctuated Equilibrium: The 1967 Detroit Riots and the 1970 New Haven May Day Protests
The loaded spring snapped in Detroit on Sunday, July 23, 1967 at a blind pig. Blind pigs were after-hours bars that served middle class blacks segregated from downtown establishments. The pig at at the corner of 12
Street and Clairmount was raided; inside were 85 people celebrating the return of two African-American Vietnam veterans. The Sergeant Arthur Howison decided to arrest everyone at the celebration. He made this decision without enough paddy wagons available. As a result, the arrests took a few hours, and with 12
Street being a thorough-fare for the black community, the crowd swelled to over 200 people. The crowd was not hostile until the police were perceived to be treating their prisoners with excessive force. Two young African-American men began agitating the crowd and the police began to feel threatened. By 4:40 AM, the police pulled out of the area and the crowd proclaimed victory.
"The crowd that gathered at the scene of the precipitating incident [was] an indispensable precondition for a riot".
The crowd continued to grow to 3,000 by 7:50 AM and it being Sunday in the summer meant that mobilizing the police force became difficult. Bottle and rock throwing intensified and police presence coupled with a growing mob caused the police sweep to fail. Reports went around on the streets that a black man was bayoneted to death. At this point, it is clear the riot was going to happen and it could never have been predicted. The second statement is particularly important because it recognizes how a "series of chance events – an unusually large number of people in the blind pig, the decision to arrest them all, a steel door, the physical shape of the alley behind the pig, and a lost paddy wagon" could not have been avoided.
The butterfly effect would be a useful tool for students to explain how something like this happens in one swift blow.
The damage to Detroit was viscerally frightening. 2,509 stores were "looted and/or burned".
Street area, which was mostly black and Chaldean, owned had 20% of its storefronts damaged to the point of no return.
43 people died, at least 30 at the hands of law enforcement, and 17 at the hands of the Detroit police.
The economic cost of the riot was estimated at $11.6 million just for city personnel with another $11 million lost in personal and real property.
The cost of the decisions of a number of individuals in the city of Detroit created far worse conditions than originally existed. It should prompt someone to consider the small events, of which there are many, that contributed to a wave of violence that destroyed a city. Had these different events, like the Detroit Northern boycott been dealt with differently, would the tension have been so great to precipitate violence? And, why did the violence explode on this given day and not another? Regardless of the answers, the product of the riot was a worsened outcome for the city of Detroit.
New Haven, with Yale as its epicenter, was not known for its radical elements until the Black Panther party found a home in the 1960s. The Black Panthers found a home in New Haven after the murder of John Huggins, a New Haven resident. Huggins, like many young African-Americans in the 1960s, felt disillusioned with the gradual social change happening in the United States. After serving in Vietnam, he met Ericka Jenkins at a teacher's college and they relocated to UCLA. Huggins was the Black Panther UCLA campus leader; FBI informants from another black radical group, United Slaves, murdered him. Huggins' sudden death prompted his wife, Ericka Huggins relocation to New Haven. The Panthers capitalized on this death as Huggins and Kimbro became friends, then lovers. The result of this relationship changed the historical path for the city of New Haven; luckily, this change did not result in the same type of destruction that Detroit saw in 1967.
"On the night of Tuesday, May 20, 1969, four men sped north from New Haven, Connecticut, in a borrowed Buick Riviera."
All were members of the Panthers and their trip to the Coginchaug River in Middlefield, Connecticut would result in the trip home being one man lighter. Alex Rackley was the man whose life was about to end abruptly. He was a 19-year-old member of the Panthers who was originally from Florida and had spent time with the chapter in Harlem. He also was being accused of being an FBI informant, unsurprising considering J. Edgar Hoover's FBI had embarked on a directive called COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program). The mission was to infiltrate the black revolutionary groups and then utilize tactics to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" these groups trying to change the social conditions of the country.
Kimbro killed Rackley. His death was the beginning of a trial that would engage the city of New Haven and the nation about the possibility of race conflict.
Following the capture of Kimbro and colleague, George Sams, the case became national news. Sams revealed to police that Bobby Seale, then the chairperson of the Black Panther Party, was responsible for ordering the hit on Rackley.
The trial was set for New Haven a year following the murder. Nineteen seventy proved to be a tumultuous year, especially as college campuses across the country united against the war in Vietnam. Yale was different. It took the Black Panther Trials to create an uproar on campus.
Kingman Brewster was the Yale President in 1970 and determined to prevent the violence that was occurring on college campuses across the nation from reaching the gates of Yale University. In early April, the Black Panthers began a concerted effort to agitate universities on the Eastern Seaboard. Yale hosted Elbert Howard, a speaker and editor of the Black Panther newspaper, which was attended by 1,700 white Yale students. April 15
, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) with the help of the Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman organized a protest outside of Harvard University beginning in Harvard Square. Harvard officials chose to close the gates to Harvard Yard and the protestors erupted injuring 214 people and causing over $100,000 in damage. Hoffman vowed to burn down Yale on May 1. The May Day Protests on New Haven Green was expected to be as bloody a race riot as there had ever been. Brewster sprang into action.
Brewster and his assistant, Sam Chauncey, met with Harvard officials to discuss their incident. They advised the Yale leaders to leave their gates open for the black revolutionaries.
Following that meeting, Brewster met with the Mayor of New Haven, Bart Guida, and the Chief of Police, Jim Ahern. Here, another turning point in the lead up to the protests occurred as Guida attempted to shut Yale out of the process of securing the safety of the city. Ahern thought otherwise, letting Chauncey know that "he, not Guida, would make the decisions on May Day".
The differences between Detroit and New Haven, at this point are numerous. Detroit, which had an outraged black community, had seen resistance from their attempts to be heard. Complaints about the school systems, police forces, and housing conditions were largely ignored. Demands were disregarded. New Haven had welcomed the Black Panthers and thanks to Brewster, had created conditions that welcomed a change in the system, with hopes that it would not become violent. Major leaders in New Haven were proactively looking for ways to reform a broken system without destroying it.
The confrontation grew as Yale's involvement in the matter grew. Doug Miranda, the Black Panther chair following Seale's imprisonment, was already on Yale's campus a few weeks before the scheduled protests. Speaking to a group of Yale students, including blacks, he insisted, "if you really want to do something, you ought to get some guns, and go get Chairman Bobby out of jail!"
This statement attracted William Farley, one of the young black Yale students, who later spoke to Miranda and realized that his intentions were to encourage Yale students to strike in protest of the trials in New Haven. The plan worked as Yale's students protested and shut down the college. The Yale Daily News, on April 16, 1970, published an article titled "Group Votes Moratorium In Support of Panthers" discussing the students' decision to take a three-day attendance stoppage of their classes as well as a demand that the Yale Corporation donate $500,000 from their coffers in support of the Panther Legal Defense Fund.
Eventually, the pressure from the students forced Brewster to negotiate a compromise allowing students to complete work during the summer break. Following this compromise, Brewster made a stunning admission to the faculty, which made its way into the media. During a speech to the faculty and student leaders, Brewster said the following: "I personally want to say that I am appalled and ashamed that things should have come to such a pass in this country that I am skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States. In large part this atmosphere has been created by police actions and prosecutions against the Panthers in many parts of the country".
The involvement of Brewster was meaningful towards the release of tensions and the support of the black community.
May Day came and passed rather quickly with only small incidents provoked by people not involved with the hippie or black revolutionary groups. The National Guard, while tense, did not provoke incidents. The police served as a liaison with Yale to prevent escalation of tensions. Yale's involvement, while seemingly small, was indispensible towards creating a valve that released tensions in the city and the country. The expectation of a close to 100,000 people only amounted to 15,000, mostly white students protesting the oppression of a black revolutionary. Seale was not convicted; Yale and New Haven had avoided a catastrophe that many campuses did not. This story deserves a deeper look than Detroit's because of the outcome of a bleak situation. Brewster while heroic was also fortuitous that many events contributed to a peaceful resolution. However,
VI. The Future of Race Conflict
Forty years after the height of the tension in Detroit and New Haven, the two cities are in resoundingly different places. New Haven has struggled as the industrial base of the country has shrunk, but it has recently seen its population. It struggles with common urban problems that most American cities see with cycles of violence, poverty, and drug abuse. However, it also has a strong creative community, multiple universities with considerable power including Yale, and a diverse population. Detroit has similar problems compounded with economic isolation, a mostly homogenous population compromised of either African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans, and the continued shrinking of a once proud industrial base.
Two cities that once followed converging paths continue to diverge from each other. Yet, they also have race conflict today that they must continue to deal with. Each community must use the history that they have to build strong cases for recognizing a number of important points: 1) race conflict is not going away anytime soon 2) small decisions can have enormous consequences 3) Race tension escalating to race violence should be avoided at all costs. If politicians, institutions, and individuals recognize these three ideas, our country and its cities have an opportunity to work hard to prevent future race riots.
Overarching Class Essential Question
1. Is it possible to use the past to prevent race conflict from becoming violent conflict in the present and the future?
Unit Specific Essential Questions
1. Are urban riots preventable and/or predictable by examining the events themselves or does it require a greater examination of the structures of society and deeper-seated changes in the beliefs that individuals hold? What indicators make them preventable and/or predicatable?
2. What do urban riots tell us about our American identity?
Objectives of the Unit
It is important to note that classes meet three times a week at Coop, twice for approximately 90-minutes and once for 45-minutes. Therefore, all lessons are written in a way that fits the block schedule – the single period days are modified wherever they fall.
Facing History and Ourselves
is an ethical and moral curriculum that asks students to address historical issues by understanding individuals involved in the particular events, on both micro and macro scales. This unit, which lends itself to US History survey or Sociology-based, will use the Facing History scope and sequence as a guide starting with Jefferson, his contradiction and the power of acceptance and membership. The comparative case study will resume these membership and acceptance questions by examining the lives of Warren Kimbro and John Sinclair. Those two individuals will drive a larger examination of the riots, the people involved, and the legacy of both cities conflicts. Last, and most important, students will determine how to mitigate future race tension, with the hopes that their deep understanding of the riot and the protest can result in more protests in the future and less riots.
The beginning of the unit will probe identity issues by examining Thomas Jefferson, utilizing excerpts from his book published in 1785. It will ask students to evaluate the origins of race conflict in the United States. While this work by Jefferson may not be the first instance of racism in the country, it is surely is one of the first recorded instances by a member of the political elite. However, Jefferson is more complex than his 1785 writings suggest. He wrote the
Declaration of Independence
and yet he fathered children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. Jefferson's actions seem to be directly in conflict with his written beliefs. Regardless, his ideas have been perpetuated and entrenched beliefs of both white and black Americans.
Following this, we will jump into examining the 1960s. In particular, students will think critically about how individual citizens, many who are law-abiding, get caught up in passive or violent resistance to laws. What caused Warren Kimbro, a law-abiding civil servant, to join the New Haven chapter of the Black Panthers and then kill a man? How did a man like this, by all accounts, a peaceful and a positive civil servant, transform? Likewise, what caused a man like John Sinclair, a white hippie and supporter of the militant black movement, to advocate the dismantling of the institutions and laws that governed the country? How did this man, by all accounts peaceful, come to be a symbol of the struggles of the counterculture and of the black communities? As Kimbro is black and Sinclair is white, we will spend time examining how race blurs with ideas like acceptance and membership. In this discourse, students should begin probing the questions that revolve around marginalization and the best ways to create an inclusive society.
Following this, will be the case studies of Detroit and New Haven, with glimpses into the before, during, and after phases of each event in history. At this point, students will be asked to determine whether race riots are predictable and preventable. They will also be asked to demonstrate an understanding of chaos theories such as the butterfly effect and punctuated equilibrium, and synthesize an understanding of how Jefferson's work connects with Detroit and New Haven. This will take us through approximately half of the unit.
Finally, the unit will finish with a contemporary event that focuses on the current New Haven community. Students will devote the final two weeks towards the creation of an urban crisis plan that will develop a systematic manual with a checklist for an average citizen, an embedded institution, and the leaders of local municipalities. This will be modeled after a document that some credit for leading the uprisings in the Arab Spring of 2011 called
From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation
written by Gene Sharp, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
In the process, students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize how racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic tensions may rise and what the roles different citizens can play to "pop the bubble" that exists without this tension manifesting itself in a riot.