How the Police Shooting of a Black Soldier Triggered the 1943 Harlem Riots

How the Police Shooting of a Black Soldier Triggered the 1943 Harlem Riots

In 1943, the United States, strongly engaged in the fight against Nazism and Fascism during the Second World War, also faced a serious conflict at home. Black Americans across the country have faced segregation, discrimination and economic hardship. Although the struggle for equality was strongly concentrated in the Great South, blacks in the North were also faced with debilitating racial oppression.

Harlem, a neighborhood famous for its conclave of black artists and scholars, had undergone dramatic demographic change in the decades before World War II. According to census data, in 1910, blacks made up 10% of the population of Central Harlem, while whites made up 90%. In 1940, after millions of blacks migrated from the South for a better life in the North, the numbers were reversed.

On the evening of August 1, 1943, years of racial oppression in Harlem broke out in the lobby of the Braddock Hotel on 126 West Street. Once a popular destination for celebrities and black musicians in the 1920s, the hotel had declined in stature and developed a reputation for prostitution.

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