MAPPING THE BALTIMORE '68 RIOTS
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The mapping of the 1968 riots that struck Baltimore in the aftermath of Martin Luther King's assassination is the result of a collaborative effort by Dr. Peter B. Levy, professor of History, York College and scholar in residence, University of Baltimore, and katherine Kulbicki, GIS specialist, Johns Hopkins University.
Drawing on insurance and liquor board records (cross-referenced against newspaper reports), Levy compiled an inventory of incidents of looting, arson, and vandalism that took place in Baltimore during the week of April 4-11, 1968.1 Kulbicki analyzed this data and transformed it into maps using GIS technology and 1970 census data. While Levy and Kulbicki will leave it o the viewer to determine the significance of their findings, obviously several stand out. First, the incidents were highly concentrated in those neighborhoods of the city that had the highest concentration of African Americans, with one notable exception. The Cherry Hill neighborhood had relatively few reported incidents, even though it was and remains almost an all-black neighborhood. Somewhat along the same lines, predominantly white neighborhoods and the downtown business section experienced few incidences of looting, arson, or vandalism. Second, not surprisingly, high incident rates correlated with education levels (most likely because of the strong correlation between education and race during the mid-1960s). Lastly, main thoroughfares in black neighborhoods, such as Pennsylvania and North Avenues, where there were large concentration of businesses, experienced the highest degree of incidents. Arson, looting, and vandalism, in general, did not spread to private dwellings, churches, and schools.
While the geo-coding of data was very reliable, the maps are not a perfect representation fo the events of the week. Only incidents that were reported to local insurance companies and/or to the liquor board were included. Since not all businesses were insured, not all incidents of looting, arson, and vandalism are recorded. (Some of these were picked up by using the records of the liquor board). In many cases, business suffered from looting and arson and/or looting, arson, and vandalism, sometimes at the same time and other times over a course of several days. For these purposes, the incidences were recorded only once. Since the census is taken every ten years, the population, education, and other data used, is slightly inaccurate. Yet it is reasonable to conclude that the 1970 census provides a fair apprimate of the situation in the spring of 1968l. In addition, for mapping purposes current (2006-2007) maps were utilized. Int he nearly forty years since the riots, new roads and schools have been built and/or closed. Yet again, the changes have not been, by in large, dramtic.
1. Thomas D'Alessandro, III Papers, Baltimore City Archives.