1968 riots through a Baltimore photographer's lens

Photographer reflects on riots 50 years later
Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-06 18:19:41-04

50 years ago, Irv Phillips Jr. was out on the streets of Baltimore, recording history. 

"We had gone out to start driving around and there were bits and pieces," Phillips said. 

In the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on April 4, 1968, grief and anger turned into destruction in cities across the country, including Baltimore.

"It was all over the city, everywhere someone was upset," Phillips said. 

Phillips and his father were out on the front lines, day and night, as photographers for the Afro-American Newspaper. The riots in Baltimore lasted from April 6 to April 14. 6 people died, 700 were injured and 1,000 businesses were destroyed. He described the scene at the beginning of the riots, on Gay Street. 

"They started looting and stealing and stuff. And that's just the way it was," Phillips said. "You would just say, 'When is it going to stop?'"

He traveled from east to west, Pennsylvania Avenue to Old Town Mall. 50 years later, a lot of businesses still haven't come back. Phillips thought it would be different. 

"You get together, get a loan, open a store and it really upset me that those things didn't happen like that because I thought they would learn their lessons," Phillips said. 

Lessons from 1968, and again in 2015; Phillips hoping someday those pictures will finally change.