Several racially charged urban uprisings rocked the United States half a century ago, drawing attention to the substantive injustices unresolved by the gains of the modern Civil Rights movement. Among the most traumatic was the rebellion in the Watts district of Los Angeles, where six days of violence caused thirty- four deaths, over a thousand injuries, more than 3,000 arrests, and 40 million dollars in property damage. Catalyzed by an incident of questionable police conduct, the underlying causes reflected the glaring poverty, lack of economic opportunity, police brutality, and intractable racism that African Americans faced in the Los Angeles area.

Fifty years later, many of the same problems endure. Despite the symbolically meaningful election of President Barack Obama and other high- profile gains, widespread economic disparities persist, and the incarceration rate of African Americans remains scandalously high. The glaring problem of police misconduct, especially...

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