Comparing the Uprisings of 1968 and Today – Greater Greater Washington

This June people took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to protest police brutality against Black Americans in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Comparisons to the uprisings of 1968 were unavoidable. Washingtonians’ response to the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was similarly a response to racism, inequality, and uncertainty in American life.

But how similar are these events? What has changed, locally and nationally, since 1968? What has not? Are there lessons we can learn from the uprisings of more than 50 years ago to achieve real and lasting change in the future?

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. presents Historian Kyla Sommers, author of the dissertation “‘I Believe in the City:’ The Black Freedom Struggle and the 1968 Civil Disturbances in Washington, D.C.,” in conversation with Tony Gittens, director of the Washington, DC International Film Festival, who was a student at Howard University in 1968.

These Streets is the latest installment in our Context for Today series of online conversations with thoughtful and thought-provoking historians.

Participation instructions and the Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to the event.

Kyla Sommers is the digital engagement editor at American Oversight. Previously, Sommers was editor-in-chief of the History News Network, a website dedicated to historically contextualizing breaking news. She earned a Ph.D. in American history from George Washington University after writing her dissertation, “‘I Believe in the City:’ The Black Freedom Struggle and the 1968 Civil Disturbances in Washington, D.C.” She received the 2016 Curt C. and Else Silberman Foundation Fellowship from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Tony Gittens is founder and director of the Washington, DC International Film Festival. He served three mayors as executive director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities from September 1996 to July 2008. Among the recognitions he has received for his contributions to the arts are Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters, French Ministry of Culture and Communications; the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts; and Public Humanist of the Year from HumanitiesDC. Gittens serves on the boards of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the Capital Fringe Festival, the Washington Literacy Center, and the Kennedy Center Community Advisory Committee.

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization that makes local history available to the public to promote a sense of identity, place, and pride in Washington and to preserve this heritage for future generations. Visit us at and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @dchistory.

Funding for this program was provided from the Kiplinger Foundation, as well as HumanitiesDC and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of NEH.

This event is free, but if you are able, please sign up using the Donation Registration to make a $20 contribution.

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