PRELUDE TO RIOT: A View of Urban America from the Bottom Up by Paul Jacobs

PRELUDE TO RIOT: A View of Urban America from the Bottom Up

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Although this book is about Watts, the author--one of the most competent higher Journalists around--makes clear its pertinence to Newark and Detroit as well. Before August 11, 1965, the greatest claim to fame of the 30,000 Watts inhabitants were the towers constructed by Simon Rodia from 1921 to 1954 out of plumbing fittings, Coke bottles, crockery, pipes and kitchen miscellany. After that date Watts became a symbol of urban disintegration and ghetto Negroes' rejection of middle-class beliefs in law, order and upward mobility. For Jacobs, Los Angeles was both cause and victim of its inadequate social engineering. His background research is meshed with an invaluable series of interviews in an effort to establish why urban ""riots"" happen and why this one happened in Watts. A central belief of Los Angeles whites is grasped and dissected--that the existence of somewhat tolerable ghettoes at a great physical and psychic distance would spare them the racial difficulties of other urban centers. Viewed with Jacobs' acute hindsight, the blowup had a certain tragic inevitability. Jacobs concludes that American Negroes, partly due to a ""shameless"" lack of white leadership from the President on down, have no alternative but taking to the street.... Jacobs' analysis may be questioned from many directions, but the book is impressive and careful studies of the ""riots"" are badly needed.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1967
Publisher: Random House