The shocking images that defined Newark's 1967 uprising

The shocking images that defined Newark's 1967 uprising
A new book takes an in-depth look at the work of Bud Lee, a photographer whose work provides a disturbing record of racial injustice and police brutality in the city.

On July 12, 1967, Newark police arrested and jailed Black cab driver John Smith, beating him so brutally that people believed he had been killed. In response, 400 people descended on the Fourth Precinct station, throwing rocks and bottles and setting a squad car aflame.

The protests sparked a five-day uprising on the streets, fuelled by decades of corruption, systemic racism and poverty. After two nights of civil unrest, New Jersey governor Richard Hughes deployed the nine battalions of the National Guard and 500 state troopers to quell the revolt just before dawn on July 14.

With 1,300 cops already on the street, Newark police director Dominick Spina gave the call for lethal force. Twenty-six people were killed by police gunfire, with hundreds more injured and thousands arrested. Rose Abraham, a 45-year-old mother of five, was the first of eight people to die that day; the last was 10-year-old Eddie Moss, who was killed when National Guardsmen opened fire on his family without warning.

In the swirl of violence, Life magazine dispatched 26-year-old, self-taught photographer Bud Lee (1941–2015) and reporter Dale Wittner. It was Lee’s first major assignment for Life, and the story he returned with changed his life forever.

Top to bottom: Billy Furr (right) and friends emerging from Mack Liquors on Avon Avenue, Newark. Photo: Estate of Bud Lee. H. Rap Brown, chairman of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, at the first national Black Power Conference. Photo: Estate of Bud Lee.

“To be featured in Life, as a photographer, was to be elevated into the highest ranks of the photography world in an instant. This is what happened to Bud Lee,” says journalist Chris Campion, who edited and contributed an essay to the new book, The War Is Here: Newark 1967 (ZE Books), which provides a harrowing record of the events that unfolded in their presence.

On Saturday, July 15, Lee and Wittner happened upon a group of young Black men lifting a couple of cases of beer from a liquor store. Among them was 24-year-old Billy Furr, who was stuck in the city due to curfew. Lee was a first-hand witness as two police officers fatally shot Furr in the back, taking a photo of the killing that would run in Life

The same hail of gunfire hit 12-year-old Joe Bass Jr., who was shot in the neck and the thigh. Lee's stark and shocking photograph of Bass, lying wounded on the ground, would run on the cover of Life's July 28 edition under the headline 'Newark: The Predictable Insurrection.'

It became the defining image of the summer of 1967, prompting a national dialogue about racial injustice and catapulting Lee to minor celebrity, which he found unsettling. For the remainder of his life, Lee was haunted by what he had witnessed and conflicted about what he had done.

Although he later learned a police informant called the cops, Campion notes, “Lee would subsequently blame himself and bear the guilt for the shooting of Joe Bass and the killing of Billy Furr, because he had not just been there strictly as an impartial observer but photographed the looting of the store – a prelude to the tragedy that followed.”

Newark Police officers fire at a fleeing Billy Furr. Photo: Estate of Bud Lee.

The War is Here: Newark 1967 is available now via ZE Books.

Follow Miss Rosen on Twitter.

Enjoyed this article? Follow Huck on Twitter and Instagram.

Latest on Huck

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor
Activism

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor

Groups and artists have been campaigning for Live Nation to drop the bank as a sponsor for Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight over alleged ties to the arms trade.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East
Outdoors

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East

New photo book ‘Football كرة القدم’ draws together pictures from over a dozen photographers to explore the region’s vibrant football culture.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes
Election 2024

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes

East London legend Crystal talks to Huck about her new campaign, Vote, Babes! which brings together over 20 drag artists to encourage young people to use their vote.

Written by: Ben Smoke

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why
Election 2024

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why

One of Starmer’s constituents, Alice tried every way to talk to her then MP about the crisis facing her generation, but he did not listen she writes exclusively for Huck.

Written by: Alice, Green New Deal Rising

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”
Culture

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”

In our latest Daddy Issues column, award winning actor and MC Ashley “Bashy” Thomas talks traditional masculinity, learning survival skills from his Dad and ‘making it’.

Written by: Robert Kazandjian

How communities of colour fought back
Election 2024

How communities of colour fought back

Micha Frazer-Carroll examines the challenges that the UK’s minoritised communities have faced over the last five years, and reports on the ways that they have come together to organise, support and uplift one another.

Written by: Micha Frazer-Carroll

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now