July '64

July '64

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 8:00pm

In July of 1964 a three-day race riot erupted in two African-American neighborhoods in Rochester.

July '64, the locally produced documentary that tells the story of the riot, airs Monday, June 15 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

July '64 explores what happened at a street dance in Rochester on one hot July night when a routine arrest took a turn for the worse and ended with the National Guard being called to a northern city for the first time during the era of the Civil Rights Movement. It uncovers new information about an often-overlooked episode in American civil rights history and uses this historic event to question why race remains a central issue in America today. 

What later came to be known as the Rochester Riot touched off 1964's “long, hot summer” of riots in small and mid-sized northern cities. As did the riots in many of those cities, the three days of unrest and civil disobedience in Rochester provoked actions that reverberate to this day.

Directed by Carvin Eison and produced by Chris Christopher, July '64 uses a combination of historic archive footage, contemporaneous news reports and newly collected interviews to dig deep into the causes and effects of the disturbance. Analyses by Dr. James E. Turner of Cornell University and others, including national political commentator and former Gannett News reporter Jack Germond, place the events in Rochester in a national context. Among those who appear in the documentary are musicians Chuck and Gap Mangione, State Assemblyman David Gantt (NY), Mayor William A. Johnson Jr., Rev. Dr. Arthur Whitaker of Harvard University, Minister Franklin Florence, Constance Mitchell, and others.

The narrator is distinguished actor Roscoe Lee Browne—an Emmy Award winner, a Tony nominee and narrator of two Oscar-nominated films.

July '64 features a never-before-released live recording of Duke Ellington performing “Night Creature” with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in an Arranger's Holiday Concert at the Eastman Theater in Rochester. With Ellington at the piano, “Night Creature” was recorded on August 6, 1964—less than two weeks after the events recounted in JULY '64. After learning that Ellington's 1964 summer tour schedule had included a stop in Rochester, Eison and Christopher did some digging and discovered the “Night Creature” recording in the archives of the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music Sibley Library. By working closely with David Peter Coppen, Special Collections librarian, Eison and Christopher were able to secure permission to use this special and historically unique recording as the score for July '64.

July '64 is a production of ImageWordSound, presented by Independent Television Service (ITVS), the National Black Programming Consortium and WXXI-TV, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Additional funding was provided by the legislature of the state of New York, sponsored by Assemblyman Gantt, and the Housing Education Fund of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.