40 years later, riot wounds remain in NJ city

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This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the riots that ripped through Plainfield's working-class West End, when black civil unrest erupted in violence from July 14 to 20, leaving one white police officer dead and businesses burned. More than 100 National Guardsmen were sent in to quiet the streets.

The riot's effect left a deep gash in Plainfield that some say has not completely healed....

More than an explosion of anger, the riots were a rebellion by a disenfranchised portion of the population, said Thomas Sugrue, professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author of "Plainfield Burning: Black Rebellion in the Suburban North," which appeared in the May issue of "Journal of Urban History," a scholarly periodical about the history of cities and urban societies throughout the world.

The riot thrust Plainfield into national prominence, Sugrue said. The overwhelmingly white power structure that existed "tried to brush the problems of blacks under the rug. They couldn't do that in the aftermath," he said.

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