¡Venceremos! Harambee!: A Black & Puerto Rican Union?


  • Lauren O'Brien




In November of 1969, 2,700 members of Newark’s African American and Puerto Rican community assembled at the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention to mobilize and strategize a plan to gain socio-political power. Unified through their discrimination in housing, employment, and police brutality, Newark’s communities of color resolved that the election of the city’s first Black mayor would provide a solution to many of their problems. Accordingly, the election of Kenneth Gibson validated the communities’ unified efforts and symbolized one of the most successful multiracial coalitions in Newark’s history. Although a monumental milestone, not all Newarkers remembered the convention as a symbol of hope and unity amongst Newark’s marginalized. For many Puerto Ricans, Gibson’s victory was the impetus for a major rift between Puerto Ricans and African Americans. While the history of the Black and Puerto Rican coalition is quite rich, it is largely unexamined within dominant narratives about the 1967 Newark Rebellion. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to excavate the details of the Black and Puerto Rican coalition in order to weave together a more complete, multiracial narrative about the Newark Rebellion that both includes and necessitates the legacy of Puerto Ricans within the long history of Newark community activism.