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The 1969 Race Wars of York Pennsylvania

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The 1969 Race Wars of York Pennsylvania

race warsThere is no doubt that the 1960s was a time of cultural, racial, and political turbulence. This was seen on television, read about in newspapers, and heard on the radio.

This turbulence was reflected in the culture of the time. New literary works and music lyrics were being written as in response to this new turbulence. However, often times this turbulence erupted into violence with fatal consequences. Consequences that can still be felt today.

This is definitely the case for the 1969 Race Wars of York Pennsylvania.

In 1969, the town of York, Pennsylvania was was in the midst of a race war. Racial tensions had ran high in York throughout the 1960s. White gangs had divided the town into territories. Territories where African-Americans were not allowed.

Tensions had erupted into violence on July 17, 1969. This occurred where a young (17 year-old) gang member shot and wounded an African-American man. Violence ensued. Fights broke out and buildings burned.

race wars

In an attempt to curtail the riots, city officials had police barricade African-American neighborhoods. A young white rookie police officer was shot during the riots and died days later. His name was Henry Shaad.

Three days later, on the night of July 20, 1969, a young African-American woman, Lillie Belle Allen, and her family were on their way back from a fishing trip. They were returning back to a family member’s home that they were staying with while visiting from South Carolina.

Allen and her family, while looking for a grocery store, stumbled into the “territory” of a white gang. Allen and her family were immediately fired upon. Lillie Belle Allen was shot multiple times and died. She was only 27 years old.

Both of these cases went cold and stayed cold for nearly 30 years. However, in 2003, two African-American men (now in their 50s) were convicted of the shooting and ultimately killing the young police officer. In April 2003, the last of 10 men (all of them white and in their 50s) were convicted of the Allen murder.

These cases are definite reminders of how actions of the past can steer the future and that there are no statute of limitations on murder, no matter how turbulent the times may have been.

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