Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 2Topic 8: Lincoln and the Civil War
Focusing on Urban Rioting
Draw It Out
For four long and hot days -- from July 13 to 17, 1863 -- New York City was rocked by rioting, looting, burning, torture, and murder. By the time Civil War troops had returned calm to the city, over 100 persons were dead and much of the city lay in ashes. While the worst in American history, the New York City riots were not the first of their kind. And, as we all know, they would not be the last.

From the Boston Massacre of 1770 to the 1992 explosion over the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles, urban rioting has been as much a part of American history as war itself.

Would you like to learn more about the history of urban rioting? In this activity, you will research one famous urban riot and then tell the story of what happened--in words and pictures. To help get you started, here are a list of some famous 20th-century urban riots: Chicago: 1919; Detroit: 1943; Los Angeles: 1943 (Zoot Suit riots); Watts (Los Angeles): 1965; Detroit: 1967; Newark, New Jersey: 1967; Numerous cities: 1968 (Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. riots); Chicago: 1968 (Democratic Convention riots); Miami: 1980; Los Angeles: 1992.

Or maybe, you want to look into your own community's history. Perhaps, it too experienced rioting at some time in its past.

Researching Urban Rioting
Now that you have decided which urban riot you want to study, it's time to do a little research. The best place to start is the library. Talk to a librarian. Tell them what you are studying. They can help you find books, magazine articles, newspaper accounts, and videos.
Take notes and focus on four critical questions:
1 what caused the riots;
2 what happened during the riots;
3 how they ended;
4 what happened afterward

Taking the draft riots as an example, some answers to the four questions are:
1 an unfair system that allowed rich people to get out of the civil war draft;
2 the burning of the city and the killing of many free blacks;
3 the arrival of federal troops;
4 changes in the draft laws.

Telling The Story In Words And Pictures
A picture, people say, is worth a thousand words. Why not use pictures as well as words to tell the complicated story of an urban riot? You might think of a comic strip. (Remember, not all comics are meant to be funny.)

Comic Strip
Try dividing your strip into four panels; each panel answering the four questions of what started the riot; what happened during the riot; how the riot ended; and what happened afterward.

Then you might want to add words. You can do this in two ways. First, you can have characters in your panels talk. Second, you can add captions underneath or above to explain the background and story behind the panel.

If you feel comfortable drawing, do it. If not, try making a collage, using pictures from the books or magazines you used in your research. (Note: never cut pictures out of library materials; make photocopies instead.)

You might also want to think about an alternative story. Could the riot have been avoided? Try drawing a panel where the situation is resolved peacefully.

To learn about solving conflicts peacefully, check out this Web site:

Peacemaking Resources for Kids
A Web page that lists multiple sources for methods of peacemaking and non-violent resolution.