What Did the Watts Riots Do for Black Power and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy?


Quick Answer

The Watts Riots helped strengthen the cooperative bond between Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson. The cooperation between the two men eventually lead further civil rights legislation. The riots also helped public officials understand the growing effects of the socio-economic divide between African Americans and Caucasians.

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Full Answer

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, many states tried to circumvent some of its provisions, which lead to unrest among many African Americans. The Watts Riots resulted when an African American man was stopped by a Caucasian police officer under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. A crowd formed as the African American man and his brother were questioned by the police officer. Tensions mounted when the two young men's mother arrived and all three were arrested. Riots broke out, lasted several days and required federal intervention.

Shortly after the incident, Martin Luther King Jr. released a statement asserting that he believed the riots to be the result of socio-economic discord. African Americans did not feel that they had equal opportunities for housing and education. Additionally, many of them were jobless and unable to support their families. King's assessment is still widely regarded as the reason for the outbreak of the riots. Shortly after the riots, King met with Lyndon B. Johnson, who vowed to continue supporting civil rights, which he did through further legislation, notably the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

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