Looking back at Baltimore's 1968 riots

  • A fire engulfs a store in Baltimore on April 7, 1968.
  • Fire shoots out from a store on Gay Street as looting erupted in Baltimore on April 6, 1968.
  • National Guardsmen seal off a business-residential section of Baltimore and prepare to use tear gas against looters on April 8, 1968. 
  • A man carts off a television set during looting incidents in Baltimore, Md. on April 7, 1968.
  • A child rides his tricycle past soldiers called in to keep the peace after three days of violence, in Baltimore on April 8, 1968.
  • A man is arrested by police in downtown Baltimore on April 8, 1968.
  • A man talks with National Guardsmen during riots in Baltimore in 1968.
  • Storefront and debris during the aftermath of a riot in Baltimore, Md. on April 9, 1968.
  • Baltimore City police pin down a curfew breaker as authorities clamped down on arson, looting and violence in Baltimore on April 9, 1968. 
  • The body of James Harrison, 47, lies in an alleyway where a policeman shot him after he was chased from a liquor store being looted in Baltimore on April 8, 1968.
  • Baltimore City policeman pins down a man who was caught breaking and entering a grocery store in Baltimore on April 8, 1968.
  • A suspected looter lays down during riots, in Baltimore, Md., on April 9, 1968.
  • Smoke billows from a Baltimore liquor store which was looted in the third day of violence in the city on April 8, 1968. 
  • A newspaper reporter’s head was injured by a flying rock during a demonstration in Baltimore, Md., on April 9, 1968. 
  • Firefighters battle a blaze during the Baltimore riots on April 13, 1968. 



Images of businesses in flames, storefronts looted, and the National Guard barricading streets in Baltimore early this week are eerily reminiscent of the 1968 riot that erupted in that very city. In the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, grief and anger boiled into destruction that devastated over 120 cities across the U.S. For Baltimore, the riots lasted from April 6 to April 14 and ended in six fatalities, 700 injuries, and the destruction of 1,000 businesses.

So far, this week’s upheaval has not been nearly as fatal as 1968, but still communities in Baltimore are suffering and will need to be rebuilt. 

“It’s very very painful,” Rep. Elijah Cummings told msnbc about the riots in Baltimore on Monday. “I was born in this city … and I have not seen anything like this since ‘68 or ‘69.” 

The loss of 25-year-old Freddie Gray who allegedly suffered a spinal injury while in police custody sparked peaceful protests over the weekend but that was quickly overshadowed by Monday’s maelstrom. 

“It’s all of the other killings of unarmed African American men throughout the country by police. We’ve got a series of events that has caused people to just say wait ‘we’re not going to take it anymore,” Cummings said. 

While Cummings and other members of the Gray family continued to call for peaceful demonstrations after Freddie’s funeral Monday, hundreds of youth and adults escalated police tension and vandalism to explosive levels.


For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography