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Understanding Civic Unrest in Baltimore: From the '68 Riots to the Uprising of 2015 and Present Day

Unrest is part of United States history. The goal of this resource is to help folks investigate the history of it, with a particular focus on Baltimore City,

CONTENT WARNING: This guide references topics such as police brutality and anti-Black racism. 


Freddie Gray memorial mural by artist Nether. Image by the artist and from Street Art NYC.

About This Guide

Please note the core resources on this guide were added in 2015. 

The purpose of this guide is for students, faculty, and interested parties to use the resources found here to investigate and understand civic unrest, with a particular focus in Baltimore, from 1968 through present day using books, articles, images, art, archives, and more. 

Last updated: June 2020 in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and private citizens, all taking place during a global pandemic (COVID-19) that has proven to disproportionately Black communities, as well as Indigenous, Latinx communities, and other people of color. 

About the History of Civic Unrest in Baltimore

Civil Rights protests took place in Baltimore City well before the better-known and violent sit-ins of the south during the 1960s. The city suffered under Jim Crow laws, where segregation was legal in housing, education, and employment. We can find documentation of organized protests of these discriminations and racism beginning around 1935, which was when Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson, president of a National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) Baltimore chapter was elected president of this branch, becoming the first woman in the country to hold this position. 

Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, Baltimore faced devastating civic unrest that left six people dead, dozens injured, and hundreds of properties (private and public) burned and shattered. The National Guard was deployed under orders of Governor Spiro Agnew and Army troops were deployed under President Lyndon Johnson.

About the Baltimore Uprising

On April 12, 2015, 25 year old Freddie Gray was arrested in West Baltimore after making eye contact with an officer and running in the opposite direction. While in police custody, Gray suffered a spinal cord injury that caused his death on April 19th. The police report indicates a knife was found clipped to the inside pocket of his pants after being arrested and that "The defendant was arrested without force or incident." The report continued, "during transport to Western District via wagon transport the defendant suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic." A video shot by a bystander as well as a separate surveillance video shows Gray being dragged to the police van. According to official accounts, he was placed face down on the floor with no seatbelt or other restraint. Unrest in the wake of Gray's death took place and on April 27th (day of Gray's funeral), when violence erupted at Mondawmin Mall. A large group of officers converged on the parking lot of the mall as students arrived. Unrest spread to other areas of the city and a city-wide curfew was set as well as a declared state of emergency. Six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray were charged formally for his death by Baltimore's State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby on May 1st. On May 21st, a grand jury brought charges against all six officers officers involved. The result was all charges were dropped against the officers. 

About Searching for Resources

Consider using synonyms for your search terms. Some refer to the Baltimore Uprising as just that, some refer to it as "Baltimore Riots," "Unrest," "Protests," etc. 

Guides on How To Cite Your Work
Whether you're writing a paper or creating a work of art, everyone needs to cite their work. Below are links to formatting and style guides. 

Academic Citation Resource Guide

This guide is a great place to start if you're unsure about which citation style to use.

APA Format and Citation Style

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences.

Chicago Manual of Style

Chicago Manual of Style is commonly used by those in literature, history, and the arts.

MLA Formatting and Style Guide

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities.

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