Raymond Hawk

Raymond Hawk lived in the South Ward’s Dayton Avenue project with his wife, Roberta, and their two-year-old son. The 24-year-old Hawk had worked at the J&R Clothing Company on Frelinghusyen Avenue, just down the street from their apartment, for the past eight years.

When he finished work at J&R on Friday, July 14th, Raymond Hawk picked up his wife and son and drove them out to Linden to stay with her family. Hawk wanted to get his family out of harm’s way after two nights of violence had rocked the city in the fallout from the arrest and beating of John Smith outside the Fourth Precinct Wednesday night.

The next day, Hawk left his wife and son with her parents to drive back to Newark and visit his brother-in-law, Nathan Peterson, in the Dayton Avenue project where they both lived.

Around 10:00 P.M., Saturday July 15th, Hawk went out to his car, which was parked on Frelinghuysen Avenue. As Hawk was walking past Sharpe’s Drug Store on the corner of Frelinghuysen and Dayton Avenue en route to his car, five police cars arrived on the scene and “screeched to a halt” outside Sharpe’s.

The police, responding to a report of people breaking and entering from the rear of the store, had sped past Hawk’s brother-in-law Raymond Peterson, who was walking home from another store up the block. As they drove past the 18-year-old, the police began firing into the alley way along the side of Sharpe’s. According to Peterson, ‘They opened the doors and fell out before the cars even stopped. They were just shooting away. I thought they were shooting blanks for a minute…pop, pop, pop…like that…They were shooting like they were crazy.’

Raymond Hawk was unaware of the attempted burglary going on behind Sharpe’s and was the only person in front of the store as the police arrived while he walked to his car. According to 18-year-old witness Charles Clark, Hawk was reaching into his pocket when a police officer approached and shot him in the head.  

The police officers involved later testified that Hawk was a lookout for the group breaking into the rear of the drug store. The group did not flee, however, until they heard gunfire burst through the alley alongside the store. The officers also claimed that Hawk attacked them with a tire iron when they arrived on the scene, thereby justifying the use of lethal force.

The only person apprehended at the scene was Raymond Peterson. ‘They frisked me and brought me around the building to where a body was laying on the sidewalk,’ Peterson said. ‘One of the policemen asked me who the body was. It was laying on its back with blood all around the head and there was a hole straight through from one side to the other. I found out later it was my brother-in-law but I didn’t recognize him from his face. One of the policemen frisked the body and he said, ‘He’s clean.’ There wasn’t any pipe or anything there either.’

One of the policemen again asked Peterson if he knew the victim. ‘He turned the body over with his foot as he was talking,’ Peterson said. ‘Then one of them told me to lay down on the sidewalk next to the body. I laid there for about ten minutes.’

Raymond Hawk was dead at the age of 24 after having been shot by Newark police for being Black in the vicinity of a store being burglarized. ‘He had a good job,’ Hawk’s 22-year-old wife later said. ‘We had all the things in the world to look forward to.’

The Essex County Grand Jury found “no cause for indictment” of the officers involved.

References:

Ronald Porambo, No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark

Notes of the Newark Legal Services Project on Interviews with Raymond Peterson and Charles Clark

Who’s Coming In, Who’s Going Out?

World War II kicked off the second Great Migration, as African Americans from the South sought better living conditions in Newark and other cities. Between 1940 and 1950, the African American population of Newark increased from 45,760 to 74,965—growing from 10.7% to 17.2% of the city’s total population. In many ways, this population influx marked a tipping point for recognition.

For most of Newark, the depression ended. “Help wanted “ signs went up. But African Americans could not always find a job. The New Jersey Afro-American wrote in 1941 that while contracts for nearly a billion and a half dollars in government defense orders have been placed with firms in New Jersey, the Urban League finds that these firms have steadfastly refused to hire colored workers.”

 

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“Help wanted “ signs went up. But African Americans could not always find a job.
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But some African Americans did find employment. Jobs for blacks in the Newark defense workforce improved from 4% in 1942, to 8.8% in 1943. With the overall economy booming, Newark’s downtown stores began hiring some African Americans as elevator operators and janitors. Large restaurants hired blacks as chefs, cooks and waiters—they could work, but not sit down to eat. The war years helped enhance the prospects of some, while still denying prosperity for the many.

Whites Begin to Leave

Around 1947, the white middle class started deserting Newark for the suburbs, along with the businesses that sustained them. The post World-War II boom was good for businesses for a while, but factories, schools, and streets had been neglected during the war. Overcrowding was a problem, especially in the ghettos. These conditions made the suburbs very attractive as alternatives to Newark.

The G.I. Bill of Rights and FHA loans made it easier for whites to buy a house, and brand new highways built by the federal government with taxpayers’ dollars made it easier to drive those new automobiles to the suburbs, in Essex County and further west. These same mortgages were unavailable to most African Americans; and most suburbs were off limits.

 

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These same mortgages were unavailable to most African Americans; and most suburbs were off limits.
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But Newark’s heterogeneous ethnic character remained intact in the early and mid-1950s. Newark was described as follows by writer Joseph Conforti:

The Germans had given way to the Irish who in 1950 shared political power with an Italian and a Jew. The ethnic division of the city could also be observed less directly. Many occupations were ethnically identifiable: the police and fire departments were overwhelmingly Irish; the construction trades were Italian; the merchants were largely Jewish, the small luncheonettes were Greek, the large businesses were owned and operated by WASPs, skilled craftsmen were likely to be German, and the factory operatives were Irish, Polish and Italian. Even the city’s taxicabs had ethnic identifications…yellow cabs were operated by the Irish, 20th Century cabs by Jews, Brown and White cabs by Italians, and Green cabs by blacks.

Newark’s Changing Demographics

Ghettoization continued in Newark. By 1940, the Third Ward (today’s Central Ward) alone contained more than 16,000 black residents. By 1944 nearly one third of the apartments and housing in the black areas were below the standards of minimum decency. Some houses still had outside bathrooms.

The slums were among the worst in the nation. The situation was particularly grim for African Americans, clustered on “the hill” just west of the Essex County Court House. Public Housing did not help a lot. There were 7 low-income projects finished before the war, but by 1946, there were 2,110 white families and only 623 black families in the buildings. Four of the projects housed no black people. The best low-rise public housing, such as Bradley Court, was reserved for whites; while the poorest units, such as F.D.R. Homes, were reserved for blacks. Ultimately, the majority of African Americans were steered into the growing number of high rise public housing which just happened to be built in the center city where black people had been confined beginning at the turn of the 20th century.

 

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Four of the projects housed no black people.
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The 1950 Census showed the trend in population increases for blacks, and decrease by whites. Newark’s total population rose only slightly from 429,760 in 1940 to 438,776 in 1950. Black residents had increased from 45,760 to 74,965—more than a 60% increase. When newspapers took a look at the faces of misery, increasingly they were black.

Even though the city began hemorrhaging jobs (250 manufacturers left between 1950-60; 1,300 manufactures left during the 1960s), the more dramatic change in the city’s socioeconomic structure was the rapidly changing composition of the city’s population.

African Americans were rapidly become politically and economically obsolete in a city where they would soon be in the majority. Segregation and discrimination by race and class defined Newark’s offering to the city’s newest immigrants.

Listen to the people speak about their experiences as newcomers to Newark below…

Notes on Raymond Hawk Witness Statements

Notes on Raymond Hawk Witness Statements

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Notes of Newark Legal Services Project on interviews conducted with witnesses to the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Raymond Hawk on July 15, 1967. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection

Grand Jury Report on Death of Raymond Hawk

Grand Jury Report on Death of Raymond Hawk

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Grand Jury report describing fatal shooting of 24-year-old Raymond Hawk on July 15, 1967, who “died of a gunshot wound of the head” after allegedly running towards Newark police with “a section of a pipe or a cable.” The Grand Jury found “no cause for indictment.” — Credit: Newark Public Library

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African American Repairman

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Photograph from the PSEG archives of an African American repairman at work. — Credit: PSEG

22 Clayton Street Stove

22 Clayton Street Stove

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A look inside the apartment of an African American family at 22 Clayton Street in Newark. — Credit: WPA Photographs, NJ State Archives

22 Clayton Street Bathroom

22 Clayton Street Bathroom

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A look inside the apartment of an African American family at 22 Clayton Street in Newark. — Credit: WPA Photographs, NJ State Archives

African American Stoker

African American Stoker

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Photograph from the PSEG archives of an African American stoker at work. — Credit: PSEG