Richard Taliaferro

Richard Taliaferro was the youngest of Harry and Elizabeth Taliaferro’s seven children. The family lived on 11th Avenue, near the corner of South 8th Street. After leaving school at the age of 16, Richard worked at Pechter’s Bakery in Harrison, and later at A&P Bakery on Frelinghuysen Avenue in Newark. According to his mother, ‘The boy worked all the time. He never did miss a day’s work.” His sister, Frances, remembered, ‘He didn’t like anything loud or rough or anything like that.’

On Friday, July 14th, Richard Taliaferro returned home around 5:00 A.M. and went to bed after finishing his shift at A&P. After sleeping through much of the day, Richard was lured outside by the commotion of the rebellion underway in the city. Around 11:00 P.M. a group of people began pulling at the window grates of the WC Liquor Store on the corner of South 8th Street and 11th Avenue, not far from his family’s apartment. It is unclear whether Richard Taliaferro was involved in breaking into the store, but he was amongst the crowd that had gathered in the vicinity when police arrived on the scene.

According to 18-year-old witness Darnell Jones, ‘There were three cars. We were on the other side of the street just looking. They came in like they were gonna blow somebody’s head off, they were shooting at everybody. They didn’t yell nothing, they just started shooting.’

As the police opened fire, Richard Taliaferro ran across 11th Avenue and started up South 8th Street. The 25-year-old had hardly made it across the street when he was hit by a shotgun blast, with two of the four slugs passing through his body. Although slowed by the shot, Taliaferro continued up the street, finally coming to rest on the front stoop of 86 South 8th Street.

‘We were watching from…a few houses down the block,’ 17-year-old witness Reggie Brown told journalist Ron Porambo. ‘He just sat there on the steps and leaned over. He leaned further and further and fell on the sidewalk. The cop who shot him stepped over the body and looked in the alley for somebody else.’

Richard Taliaferro was dead at the age of 25 after having been shot by police while running for his life from the scene of a burglary. The presentment of the Essex County Grand Jury declared, “The officers ordered the victim to halt but instead Taliaferro and his companions fired hand weapons at them.” According to witness Reggie Brown, though, ‘There wasn’t no gun, nobody had guns but the police.’

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

Presentment of the Eighth Essex County Grand Jury of the 1967 Term

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…

Grand Jury Report on Death of Richard Taliaferro

Grand Jury Report on Death of Richard Taliaferro

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Grand Jury report describing the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Richard Taliaferro on July 14, 1967, who was “shot in the back by a police officer while fleeing from a burglarized liquor store.” The Grand Jury found “no cause for indictment.” — Credit: Newark Public Library

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