Noting anniversaries of events society would rather not remember

Where does one start with a 40th anniversary? Not our marriage. That was two years ago. How about: Paris student demonstrations. Tet offensive. LBJ refuses to run for reelection. Chicago police ri

Where does one start with a 40th anniversary? Not our marriage. That was two years ago.

How about: Paris student demonstrations. Tet offensive. LBJ refuses to run for reelection. Chicago police riot at Democratic national convention. Black Power salute at Olympic games. Congress passes anti-discrimination fair housing law. Sirhan Sirhan kills Bobby Kennedy.

James Earl Ray kills Martin Luther King Jr. Cincinnati faces second race riot in two years.

It's that last anniversary that local news media are overlooking — not PC in this era of utopian racial amity.

Ashes from the 1967 riot still smoldered in popular imagination when we arrived in Cincinnati. Harriet found work at the nascent Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) in the Avondale office it shared with the NAACP. I was a weekend reporter for The Enquirer.

The night King was killed, I was at a McCarthy for President rally at Quebec Gardens on the West Side when Judy Shapiro came in and told everyone about King's assassination.

Cincinnati didn't erupt. Rather, it simmered with unresolved antipathies and there were violent incidents in some black neighborhoods.

Four days after King was shot, James Smith was protecting his apartment next to the HOME/NAACP office from looters. His 20-gauge shotgun accidentally discharged when someone grabbed it. The blast killed his wife, Hattie Mae Johnson Smith.

Someone said a white cop killed a black woman. That was the spark. Rioting broke out and spread into nearby African-American communities. That evening, young black men dragged Noel Wright, a white graduate student, from his car and stabbed him fatally in Mount Auburn. Teenage girls in their mob assaulted Wright's wife, Lois, who survived.

Harriet was at our edge-of-Avondale apartment that night. She took a call from a young man she knew from the HOME/NAACP office. There was trouble, he said. Don't come to work tomorrow. She didn't.

National Guardsmen returned to Cincinnati, and the mayor declared a curfew. Buses were rerouted from Avondale, and educators declared a school holiday. Opening Day was postponed.

Not all black communities were hit by riot and arson. In the West End's historic African-American community, young men calling themselves Black Turks turned away marauding rioters.

Before long, the riot if not the resentments burned out. The most obvious casualty was middle class confidence in the city.


Curmudgeon Notes