Text Analysis – Newark 1967

  • What racial language appears among the most frequent words in your collection and most distinctive words in each of your documents (eg Negro, Colored, White)? Is this language what you expected it to be based on the lectures?

The racial language that appears the most in the collection is “negro” and “white”. Based on the lectures, I’m not surprised by these words because given the time period that the riot took place and the articles were written, these were common words used to describe both white people and black people. 


  • Create a table of the 5 most frequent words in your collection of documents and 5 most distinctive words in each of your documents (excluding the racial language). Are the most frequent words what you expected them to be? Are there any OCR errors among the results?


5 most frequent words  5 most distinctive words (NY Times) 5 most distinctive words (Amsterdam) 5 most distinctive words (report)
police policemen brother programs
community station theodore training
negro house schwartz interview
mayor bottle citya id
commission crowd brothers country


I expected most of the frequent words to be in this list, especially police. The others wouldn’t have been the first words to come to mind when thinking of the most frequent, but I’m not surprised that words like community and commission were included. There is one OCR error among the results, “citya” from the black newspaper New York Amsterdam.

  • Choose one word from the list of frequent words and one word from the list of distinctive words (excluding the racial language) and explain why it is so frequent or so distinctive? (for an example of how to approach these questions, refer back to the reading “Analyzing text analysis of sources on the 1935 Harlem riot” in the February 27 Lecture folder)
  • Use the Contexts, Word Tree, Collocates, and Links tools available in Voyant to look at where in the documents the words appear, their context and the words that appear around them
  • Does the word have the same meaning everywhere it is used?


One word from the list of frequent words that I decided to look more into was “community”. It was so frequent in the documents because the documents were often using the word to describe the group of people in the riots or addressing the city as one entity–a community. It is one of the largest words in the word cloud, and when looking at the links graph, it was connected to at least 9 other common words, some examples being “negro”, “police”, “programs”, and “action”. This shows me that the documents were referring to “the negro community” in their writing–which was also a phrase highlighted from the word tree. Most of the words around “community” in the documents talked about community programs led by the city government, or the group of people that fit into one community(the documents said negro community and white community in the content). From this, I conclude the word didn’t have the same meaning everywhere it was used, and the connotations for it differed depending on the context it was used in.

The distinctive word I decided to research more was “policemen”. Although it’s not the same word, the word “police ” was one of the biggest words on the word cloud and was one of the most frequent words in all of the documents. What was distinctive about policemen was that it was used to describe specific police officers and what they were doing during the riot. The document that was using the word more than the other documents was the new york times article, aka the white newspaper. I think this could be because that article had a bias towards the law enforcement when they wrote about the events and mentioned many times what the policemen were doing. According to the microsearch tool, in the NY times article the word appeared more at the end of the article. I also noticed that the context changed in the documents if they were typing “white policemen” or “negro policemen”. I think this further proves the bias towards the law enforcement and against the rioters. 


  • Using the racial language, and the most frequent and distinctive words, compare the white newspaper and the black newspaper – what does the comparison suggest about the perspective of each source?


After using the racial language and the most frequent and distinctive words, it looks like the white newspaper used the word “police” really frequently, and even used “policemen” more than the other documents, while the black newspaper barely even mentions the words. Also, the white newspaper uses the word negro far more than the black newspaper, which shows the white newspaper was written with the perspective of someone who dind’t hold a lot of respect or sympathy for the black people involved in the riot and in the city.

  • Using the racial language, and the most frequent and distinctive words, compare the newspapers and the report – what does the comparison suggest about the perspective of each source?


Using all of the language, it looks like the report had the least amount of bias between all three documents. It didn’t use any distinctive or frequent word more than the newspapers, but it also has to be taken into account that the report was much longer than the newspapers and so it may seem like the words appear more often in the text but the way they were used is what is important. There didn’t seem to be a clear agenda or bad perspective in the report, and it mostly was a recollection of the events of the riot.

  • How well does the text analysis fit with what you identified as the key feature of your riot and the label you applied to it in the first assignment? Does knowing details of the language used in accounts of the riot change or not change what you think is the key feature and label of your riot? Explain why.

The label I used to identify the riot in the first assignment was an uprising. The definition for an uprising is “a spontaneous upsurge of protest or violent expression of discontent, something with political content, but short of a full-fledged revolutionary act”. I also said the key feature of the riot was the number of people injured and killed, but that information was not really present in my text analysis as I was looking at distinctive words and their context across the documents, while the number of those killed and injured is a statistic where the perspective cannot be changed. However, the text analysis does support my label of an uprising because the most frequent word in all of the documents was “police” and the context of the word most often talked about policemen fighting back civilians and rioters that started fighting as a result of one trigger. After knowing details of the language used in the accounts, I think I wouldn’t change my label of the riot, but I would change the key feature to the level of law enforcement present at the riot because of how frequently the law enforcement was mentioned in the accounts and how the different accounts talked about the law enforcement and their part in the riot. 


Analyzing A Race Riot – Newark 1967

Dimension of Disorder Newark 1967
Trigger The mistreatment and abuse of a Black cab driver by city police
Crowd Size Unknown
Duration July 12 through July 17
Number & Identity of Those Killed & Injured 23 people dead (2 white) and 750 injured (identities unknown)
Number & Identity of Those Arrested Around 1500 people arrested (identities unknown)
Levels of Government Involved Local and state police involved as well as National Guard
Amount & Kind of Property Damage Looting and fires in several businesses in Downtown
Asymmetry 2 white men killed out of the total 23, the other 21 presumably being black
Geographical Spread over 137 blocks across Newark

Reflection Questions:

  1. The dimension most defining of this event would be the number and identity of those killed and injured. There were 23 deaths, but only two of those deaths were white, the rest being black. There was also over 750 people injured, their identities unknown. These numbers help gain a clearer perspective on the destructiveness of the riot and provides data about those who were hurt in the process. Even so, a riot doesn’t need to have a high death toll to be classified as super disruptive or impactful. The Newark riot lasted five whole days and left a lasting effect on the city in terms of relations between the different communities and the reputation of the city as a whole. It also put more emphasis on racial rights and the interaction of police and Black Americans during this time period.
  2. If I had to classify the Newark riot using labels used in the lecture, I would say that it was an uprising. The definition of an uprising is “a spontaneous upsurge of protest or violent expression of discontent, something with political content, but short of a full-fledged revolutionary act”. Based on the given information about the riot and the trigger for the event, the classification of it as an uprising seems about right. The residents of Newark were angry and frustrated with the treatment of John Smith by the local police, and formed a crowd outside the station to protest. They weren’t satisfied with just that, however, and their actions escalated into violence that resulted in multiple lootings of business and many fires. There wasn’t anything premeditated about their actions because of the trigger. However, the purpose of their riot was to express their discontent, which is characteristic of an uprising.