LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection


Interview Transcripts (Select)

- Anonymous Student Participants
- Harry Ross
- Keith Hinch
- Sergeant Wilson


Related Audio (Walt Bodine Collection)

- Walt Bodine's April 11 Riot Coverage

Related Collections By Topic

- Culture
- Kansas City

Scope and Content of Collection

The 1968 Riot Collection was a gift of Dr. Joseph Hughey in January 2013. Contained in the collection is an extensive assortment of documentation from a large, grant-funded research project on the social history of the riots in Kansas City after the death of Martin Luther King. A complete manuscript of The Social History of a Riot: Kansas City, Missouri, April 9-13, 1968 by Robert Bechtel and Charles Wilkinson is in this collection, as well as transcripts from 51 of the interviews conducted for that book-length study. This collection contains a wonderful collection of slides and photos, many of which document the events of the riots themselves. Audio recordings of Police Dispatches, Interviews, and Radio Broadcasts round out this collection, along with a few unknown recordings and miscellaneous items.

Historical Sketch

On April 9, 1968, students in the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools (KCPS) had planned to hold a march in honor of the recently assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. Public schools in Kansas City, Kansas, cancelled classes that day so students could participate in the remembrance, but Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools decided not to do so. When students learned of this decision, their grief and dismay at the loss of King was compounded by frustration with and anger at the KCPS Board. Students from Manual, Lincoln, Central, and Paseo High Schools as well as Central Junior High marched out of school that Tuesday morning, and the procession was marred by vandalism and minor assaults. At different points during the march both Mayor Ilus Davis and Jackson County Circuit Clerk Bruce R. Watkins led the procession, and eventually the marchers converged on City Hall, where they were met by a police line-up blocking 12th Street at Oak. The tense situation finally exploded when tear gas was released in the area – a subsequent Mayor’s Commission never determined who threw the first canister – and chaos ensued. The police followed the initial teargas canister with six more, and the crowds bolted to the east and scattered with the officers in pursuit. The longstanding tension between the African American community and the Kansas City Police Department was a contributing factor in the destructive events that emerged from this initial protest, with riot activity taking place on Kansas City’s east side between Woodland and Indiana, the most destructive violence occurring along Prospect near 27th. After four days of unrest, the damages to the city neared four million dollars, and six people had been killed.


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