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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

1968 riots oral history collection

Repository: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Kiplinger Research Library

Collection Description (CRHP): This collection includes 6 oral history interviews about the Washington, DC 1968 riots recorded in 2002-2004. These interviewees include Virginia Ali, who at the time of the interview in 2003 was a 69-year-old African American restauranteur who had lived in Washington, D.C., since the 1940s. In 1958, she and her husband, Ben Ali, opened Ben's Chili Bowl, a restaurant near the corner of 14th and U Streets, where the riots began. Ali recalls the Chili Bowl as a community center for the neighborhood and describes the restaurant's important role during the riots. Another interviewee is Reuben Jackson, who was a young boy at the time of the riots and did not participate in them but witnessed them with his father from atop the roof of their home. John Smith (an alias) at the time of the interview in 2002 was a 57-year-old African American and native Washingtonian. His involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began while working in the youth programs organization at 14th and U Streets, NW. There he became the leader of the black militant group, the Zulus. Smith was 23 years old at the time of the riots, and, along with other members of the Zulus group, participated in the violence and looting following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Smith left the movement shortly after the riots to start a family of his own. Bonnie Perry, at the time of the interview in 2002, was a 47-year-old African American and native of Washington, D.C. As a 13-year-old at the time of the riots, she lived at 7th and S Streets, NW, a few blocks away from the riot areas. She did not participate in the riots but witnessed them from a close vantage point.

Access Copy Note: Oral history contracts are available for each interviewee; access to the 'John Smith' interview requires permission of the interviewee.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): 2002-2004

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: MS 0769

Extent: 6 transcripts; 6 cassette tapes

Language: English

Interviewees: Virginia Ali, Reuben Jackson, John Smith (alias), Bonnie Perry, Fath Ruffins, John K. Jackson,

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American businesspeople
African American children
Black militant organizations
Black power
Civil rights movements--Washington (D.C.)
District of Columbia--Race relations
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968--Assassination
Riots--Washington (D.C.)
Washington (D.C.)


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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