Tears of America: The Riots of 1968

Today’s post was written by Greg Foster, a second year graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, who is a summer intern in the Textual Processing Division at the National Archives at College Park.

When I began my summer internship at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland, my first assignment was to create an exhibit on the 1968 riots using photographs from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) record group. The project took nearly two months to complete. I have learned many things during the time I spent creating this exhibit, including identifying photographs I wanted to use and digitizing them. As I completed these tasks, I made detailed notes about each of the photographs. I also learned  how to add those detailed notes and metadata about the photographs into the Google Arts and Culture’s database, the Google Cultural Institute (GCI).

The title of my exhibit is  Tears of America: the Riots of 1968, which concentrates on six cities that experienced the uprisings after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. These cities are Baltimore (Maryland), Boston (Massachusetts), Cleveland (Ohio), Detroit (Michigan), Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), and Washington, D. C. Although each city shared the loss of property, residency and businesses, the uprisings caused many Americans (including its leaders) to look into the issues that African Americans faced within the urban regions of the country. The challenges of poverty, school segregation, employment inequality, unemployment, housing, police brutality and racial profiling were among the factors that triggered the riots, along with Dr. King’s assassination. The paragraphs in each section of the exhibit provide detailed accounts on what each city experienced, but the photographs are the key elements within the display, and complement the passages to tell a story of a troubling moment in American History.






Tears of America: the Riots of 1968 is currently featured on the Google Arts & Culture Black History  and Culture theme page which has collected many stories around the theme of the year 1968.

All photographs are part of Photographs Relating to Housing Used in the Optical Disk Project (207-OD, NAID 535506) from RG 207, General Records of the Department Housing and Urban Development.

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