Gallaudet Student Video Capture of 1968 Riots on H Street

Sophomore – Riot in DC April 1968 by deafrr

“Dear PoPville,

Whoa! A good video shot by a Gallaudet university student during the 1968 riots. The video shows fire and smoke on H Street seen from Gallaudet university. During the riots the US army came onto Gallaudet’s campus to protect students.”

55 Comment

  • Can’t wait for that Whole Foods to open.

  • Wow that is so interesting, thanks for sharing. What a tumultuous time. Does anyone think something like that would/could happen today?

    • justinbc

      Los Angeles, 1992, wasn’t all that long ago, culturally.

      • saf

        Mt Pleasant, 1991.

        • Really? I hadn’t heard of the MP riots. Details please!
          Also, I wasn’t asking for examples of riots from the last 20+ years, I was asking if you think there would be a potential for one to start TODAY or in the next five years. Ex- what would cause it, would it be a nationwide thing or just a citywide thing. What would be the tipping point to cause it? Just trying to get some interesting input here.

          • 2 things that could cause it
            -anti muslim sentiment and treatment (not such a concern in DC)
            -poverty and jobless rates in predominantly african american communities ( a major concern in DC and PG county)

          • justinbc

            kd, the point was that 1991/1992 were not that long ago culturally. The country is still very much the same as it was then, with the added accelerator of social media to stoke the flames of angst. I actually thought the George Zimmerman verdict might cause a similar reaction to the Rodney King one, but I guess it’s fortunate for the country it occurred in a pretty quiet area of Florida full of retired folks rather than the hugely diverse Los Angeles county. If anything would cause it today I think it would be economic disparities rather than social ones. I can see an area like Detroit being a hotbed of tension and just waiting to explode into the next Wild West any day.

        • Let’s not forget there were riots in College Park at Maryland University just a few years ago too, and they happen after Hockey Games in Canada all the time, also in Latin America after soccer games… Rioting is not always racially motivated. The 1968 riots happened due to the assassination of MLK and because of the condition of the civil Rights struggle, it was not a frivolous riot.

    • While it might be easy for someone to think that we as a society are beyond allowing something like that to take place again, the growing divide in places like DC these days is much more economic than racial, and it’s growing at an incredible rate.

  • This is the COOLEST thing ever posted! WOW!!! Is there a way I can get a copy of this emailed to me? I live right across from Gallaudet and would love to have access to show this when I have guests visiting to show some of the neighborhood history. I’m creating a wall of artifacts on my exposed brick wall.

  • Devastated the city. Not only was there white flight, but a lot of professional African Americans fled to the ‘burbs further ruining the business and tax community. Took DC 40-45 years to recover.

    • Yeah, and this is why it bothers me when people complain about DC, saying it has no “culture” like some other cities have. It did (and of course it still does), but these riots destroyed the city and a lot of the culture that was here. I grew up here, and I mostly hear this from people who have only moved to the city in the past few years. They just don’t get it. I don’t think they consider DC’s history at all and the effect it had on the people who live here.

  • Can anyone translate from ASL? I’d love to know what they’re saying.

    • They are saying “Man, I can’t wait for the Whole Foods to open”

    • I am Deaf. 1:45 the man was saying that they all are going to the White house. They heard that 120 military men died last night.

      3:05 the same guy said that they are at Hst NE few blocks away from Gallaudet. They were touring and that the NW part were less destroyed than Hst.

    • at 0:57, “bullshit. no filmstrip.”

  • Could someone who knows ASL please transcribe what they’re saying? I would love to know what they’re saying to one another.

    • basically, “this is happening because of the assassination of MLK,” “we’re going to the white house now! we heard that 200 soldiers were hurt last night, join us to the white house!” then “we are on H Street NE, 1968, a few blocks from our college over there, we are here to see what’s going on. fyi, NW a little (nicer? not sure, ASL changes over time) than NE.”

  • Wow. This is way cool. I know far too little about the 1968 riots. Anyone know of any good sites with the history/pictures of the riots?

  • my parents lived here then – my dad was in the DC Guard at the time and working nonstop. When they come to visit now, they can’t believe how the District is now. what an awful time for everyone.

  • brookland_rez

    Seeing all those great old buildings getting destroyed is sad. Empty lots getting replaced with garbage like the Auto Zone, H St Connection, Hechinger Mall is almost as sad. What the hell were people thinking in the 50’s and 60’s? Did everyone really think the “Leave it to Beaver” lifestyle was all that? I grew up in the burbs and hated it. I’ve never understood why people wanted that. I guess it was all racially motivated.

    • justinbc

      Queen Vic’s building was actually one of the ones set on fire back then, but luckily it didn’t completely burn down. If you look at the brickwork they uncovered it’s all covered in black stuff now, which is the tar that melted off the roof during the flames.

    • obtuse.

    • You guess? This was not the 50s and 60s, it was 1968 when MLK was assassinated and black people felt raped. People were PISSED… PLEASE do yourself a favour and research this time in American history

      • Riots — a completely reasonable reaction to being PISSED

        • There is nothing reasonable about burning down your own neighborhoods. Nothing at all.

          • They didn’t feel like it was their neighborhood, or even their own country at that point in time. Feeling like second class citizens has that effect.

          • Ugh. The privilege in these statements. Of course you wouldn’t understand 1968 was a powderkeg for black folk. Not just in this city but all over the country. Years of being treated like second class citizens in their own country people were angry. Dr. Kings assassination caused that powderkeg to explode, It was a major reaction because people were frustrated and angry and the one hope they had was taken from them. Violently. I’m not excusing the riots in anyway shape or form, but imagine mob mentality. People got caught up in the moment and anger. They vented and vented in the wrong way. Learn your history.

          • There was nothing reasonable about MLK’s assassination either.

      • “What the hell were people thinking in the 50′s and 60′s? Did everyone really think the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ lifestyle was all that? I grew up in the burbs and hated it. I’ve never understood why people wanted that. I guess it was all racially motivated.”
        I could be wrong, but I thought Brookland_Rez was questioning the motivations behind white flight to the suburbs, not questioning the motivations behind the rioting.

  • sad part is that economic disparity was less back then.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    The riots started in the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination. I was in Geometry class at Alice Deal and they sent us home. The National Guard were called in (not the Army) and you can imagine a bunch of frightened 19 year olds who had joined the Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. For years 14th street was blighted with strip clubs and hookers. Whole Foods was very brave, and also very smart. Now I am tickled pink to be living at 14th and W.

    • brookland_rez

      I heard that it took quite a lot of convincing to get them to open there. DC gov’t officials took the WF executives there and they were like “hell no” and wouldn’t even get out of the car to look at the site.

    • The active Army was called into DC, but I don’t know if it was before, the same time as, or after the DCNG had already responded. My Dad was one of those active duty at Fort Bragg, NC, deployed to respond to the riots.

    • Army was called in.. My Dad was stationed at Ft Meade and was called in to patrol 14th… ARMY… Don’t discount

  • justinbc

    The documentary on “Cool Disco” Dan has a lot more good footage of the area during the time, as well as some more historical perspective, for anyone curious on learning more.

  • skj84

    My grandparents house is right off of H Street. My dad was a student at Howard during that time and he and my grandfather went down to H Street to watch what was happening. My Grandmother was horrifed. Even though they were not participating she was convinced they would get swept up by the police and arrested. Thankfully that was not the case.

    It has been completely fascinating for me to see H Street develop. I didn’t move here until 2005, but we used to come visit my grandmother frequently when I was growing up. As kids we were not allowed to wander a certain point from her house alone. As a little suburban kid I remember being a little afraid of her neighborhood and the corner stores with bulletproof glass. It’s amazing to me as an adult that H Street is one of the hottest hoods in the city.

    • I live in a house that was built in 1978 by noted architect Mark Kramer on the site of a corner store that once stood at 4th & G and was torched during the riot. Some of my neighbors remember the store and one (now deceased) recalled getting their weapons from WWII out to protect their property and themselves.

    • justinbc

      One of the truly unfortunate things about the riots (not to downplay any of the other actions) was that the rioters actually burned many black owned businesses in one of the few areas where there was a concentration of them. If you look at some of the photos from the time you can actually see a lot of places which are painted to indicate a black owner, in the hopes of preventing attacks against it.

  • George Pelacanos gives a really good account of the riots in Hard Revolution. It’s fiction, but he did a lot of research (and he witnessed them as a kid) for that part of the book.

  • Aleppo


  • The headline to this piece could make a historically unaware person to think the ’68 uprising was limited to H Street. It was nationwide, in response to the killing of Dr. King. The video also shows damage in several parts of the city, not just H Street.

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