Tony's Shoeshine Stand, South Los Angeles, August 1965. Man gets his shoes shined amidst the rubble of the Watts riots. Image appeared in book "Imagining Los Angeles: Photographs of a 20th Century City," published by Los Angeles Times, 2000.
Garfield Senior High School

Watts Revisited: 50 years later, what has changed?

A young African American male gets pulled over to the side of the road for reckless driving. An officer administers a field sobriety test and determines that the young man needs to be arrested and his vehicle impounded.  However, the young man’s brother interjects, the situation turns violent, and rumors start to spread. What starts as a routine arrest escalates into an event that sparks six days of rioting.

Does this sound like something that could happen today?

It actually did in Los Angeles 50 years ago, on Aug. 11, 1965. While most people alive today didn’t experience the Watts Uprising first hand, it’s important we reflect on these events which marked an influential moment in the history of Los Angeles

Compiling old photographs, radio archives, and interviews from those who experienced the event first hand, HS Insider produced a short documentary to highlight not only the immediate impact but also the lingering influence it had on today’s society.

Events such as the 1992 L.A. civil unrest and recent happenings in the last few years in places such as Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and St. Louis exhibit similar systemic issues that fueled the Watts Riots.

With the bombardment of seemingly continual announcements of arrests of African Americans at the hands of police officers, some of today’s generation work their frustration and fears through the arts. Hip-hop artist, Karl “Dice Raw” Jenkins, speaks on issues of race, police brutality, and mass incarceration through his musical The Last Jimmy.

While not all express their thoughts and feelings through art, those simply walking down the street are willing to voice their thoughts to others willing to listen. We went on the street to listen to what people had to say about the past and present racial standings of society.

All this leaving us with the question: Are we better off now than we were fifty years ago?