What Caused the Baltimore Riot of 1968

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., was tragically assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in early April 1968. Following this brutal murder, riots broke out across the United States
in more than 100 cities. One of those was Baltimore, Maryland, and this city’s outrage became known as the Riot of 1968.

The Riot of 1968 started in Baltimore on April 6, and it was not completely stopped until April 14. During this time, great destruction and violence occurred. The monetary damage alone was estimated to be around 12 million dollars at that time, which was a tremendous amount.

The fights and fires that occurred during this time mark a dark spot on the history of the city of Maryland. Thousands of people protested through the destruction of property around them.

Arsonists set fires to building after building, leaving a trail of devastation. The rules that were normally in place to keep a city safe were disregarded, as the rioters acted out to express their outrage at King’s assassination.

At the time, the governor of Maryland
was Spiro Agnew. He had called in National Guard members in anticipation of trouble, but the rioting that broke out was extremely difficult to contain.

Thousands of National Guard members and policemen tried to bring order back into the city. Eventually, federal troops had to be brought in from Fort Bragg, as more force was needed.

Thousands of people were arrested, and several died amidst the chaos. These riots marked a great amount of racial tension and unrest, and they were not soon to be forgotten in Baltimore.

More importantly, these riots still signify a chapter in American history in which race relations were extremely tense, and in which anger was at a boiling point.

Let’s hope that just over 40 years later, Americans can learn from their past and that there will continue to be more civil ways to deal with unrest and misunderstanding between races. While the current President of the United States is black, there are still countless issues between races.

As the Baltimore Riot of 1968 illustrates, outbreaks of violence can, and will occur, when various factors come into play. While riots quickly get out of hand and are difficult to understand, they certainly show human emotions in their rawest form.

Looking back on history, the Baltimore Riot of 1968 provides a clear example of civil disobedience in action. Let’s hope that future generations will strive to solve problems more peacefully, and that the race divide will continue to diminish.

And, let’s learn some lessons from events such as these riots. As history often repeats itself, let’s hope that sobering events such as this one are avoided if at all possible.