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Call Number/Catalog Number MS 0769
Title 1968 Riots Oral History collection, 2002-2004. (MS 0769).
Collection 1968 Riots Oral History collection
Object Name Manuscript
Description 1968 Riots Oral History Collection, 2002-2004, is a collection of oral histories exploring six different individuals' personal histories and experiences during the 1968 riots. The collection contains each person's oral history transcription and cassette tapes for each oral history interview. Perspectives include experiences of a student, police officer, black militant group member, and business owner.
Subjects Oral history (Washington, DC)
Riots -- Washington (D.C.)
Search Terms Ben's Chili Bowl Restaurant
Date 2002-2004
Admin/Biographical History The 1968 Riots Oral History Collection, 2002-2004, includes oral history interviews and transcriptions from six individuals who offer different perspectives about their experiences during the Washington, DC, 1968 Riots, which occurred when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Virginia Ali, at the time of the interview in 2003, was a 69-year-old African American restaurateur who lived in Washington, D.C., since the 1940s. She was raised by her mother's sister in a home on Meridian Hill in Columbia Heights, a middle class African-American neighborhood. In 1958, Virginia Ali and her husband, Ben Ali, opened Ben's Chili Bowl, a restaurant near the corner of 14th and U Streets, where the riots began. Ali recalls the Chili Bowl as a community center for the neighborhood and describes the restaurant's important role during the riots. The Ali family continues to operate the restaurant to the present day.

Reuben Jackson, at the time of the interview in 2002, was a 46-year-old African American who moved to Washington, D.C., in 1959. The youngest in a middle-class family of two boys, Reuben was 12 years old at the time of the riots. The Jackson family lived at 5322 5th Streets, NW, several blocks from the riot areas. Reuben did not participate in the riots, but witnessed them with his father, from atop the roof of their home. At the time of the interview, Reuben attended Goddard College and lived in Alexandria, Virginia, working as an archivist at Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.

"John Smith" (alias), at the time of the interview in 2002, was a middle aged African American and native Washingtonian. The middle child in a large family, Smith grew up in an economically poor home, where Smith recalls a childhood of violence, drinking, and crime. Smith's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began while working in a youth programs organization, and he joined a black militant group. Smith was in his twenties at the time of the riots, and along with other members of his group, participated in the violence and looting following King's assassination. Smith left the movement shortly after the riots to start a family of his own.

Bonnie Perry, at the time of the interview in 2002, was a 47-year-old African American and native of Washington, D.C. The eldest in a family of two girls, during her childhood, she moved several times within low-income neighborhoods in the city. As a 13-year-old at the time of the riots, Bonnie lived at 7th and S Streets, NW, a few blocks away from the riot areas. She did not participate in the riots, but witnessed them from a close vantage point. Bonnie is currently a Washington resident and works as a corporate account manager for WAMU radio station.

Fath Ruffins was an African American who first moved to Washington, D.C., in 1957, at the age of 3. Her father was in the Foreign Service and their family moved around the world. Fath moved back into the DC area so she could attend high school. She was in school at the time of the riots.

John K. Jackson, at the time of the interview, was a 69-year-old African American retired Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer. Jackson lived in Washington, D.C., since the early 1950s. At the time of the riots, Jackson lived in a middle-class African-American neighborhood of Landover, Maryland, with his wife and several children, and served on the DC police force during the riots. Jackson also served as a law enforcement officer during Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963.

Archival History Gift of Dana Schaffer, 2003.128
People Ali, Virginia
Jackson, John K.
Jackson, Reuben
Perry, Bonnie
Ruffins, Fath
Dates of Accumulation 2002-2004
Dates of Creation 2002-2004
Early date 2002
Late date 2004
Extent .25 cubic ft., 6 audio tapes (2 containers)
Level of description Fonds
Related Publications Schaffer, Dana Lanier. "The 1968 Washington Riots in History and Memory," Washington History, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Fall/Winter, 2003/2004), pp. 4-33. Published by: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40073603
Finding Aids Finding aid available in repository.
Finding Aid Finding Aid