A Look Back at the Deadly ‘68 Riots

Local Events Look Back at Kansas City After the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and Ask, Where Are We Now?

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

Fifty years ago this April, Kansas City experienced deadly riots that put the national spotlight on our city. They left six people dead, hundreds arrested and multiple blocks of the city in flames.

Frustrated with the slow pace of civil rights reforms and outraged at the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., protesters in Kansas City took to the streets on April 9, 1968.

The four subsequent days of civil unrest shocked many in a city known for its lack of racial violence despite deep, underlying tensions. Six people — all African- Americans — died, some 20 more were hospitalized, and arrests totaled nearly 300. A three-block area of Prospect Avenue was bombed out and burned down.

These images from the 1968 Riot Collection at UMKC depict the tension, protests and police brutality in Kansas City:

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

(LaBudde | 1968 Riot Collection, UMKC)

Last fall, KSHB news anchor and reporter Dia Wall approached KCPT’s Nick Haines to co-produce ’68: The Kansas City Race Riots Then and Now, featuring the stories of those who were there during that “season of strife,” along with the perspectives of political and businesses leaders, police officers and historians.

The 30-minute documentary will premiere first at at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9, on KSHB Channel 41, and air at 8 p.m. on KCPT that night.

Before the television debut, KCPT and KSHB, in conjunction with the Plaza Library, will host Strife in the Streets: Kansas City Remember 1968 at 6 p.m. on March 26 at the Plaza Library (4801 Main St.).

The event includes a screening of the documentary and a panel discussion moderated by Haines that’ll include Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, Mayor Sly James and former city council member and community activist Alvin Brooks. Clarence Gibson, a current Kansas City police officer who was on the force during the unrest; Linda Spence, a Central High School student in 1968; and Joel Rhodes, a Southeast Missouri State University historian, will also join the panel.

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