Paul Coates on the Baltimore Riots of 1968
Owner of Black Classic Press Paul Coates shares his perspective of the Baltimore riots of 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and how it influenced him to participate in political struggle
PAUL COATES: I came to Baltimore in 1967. I’d only been in Baltimore for about a year at the time of the rebellions here. It’s strange thinking back on it now. There were mixed emotions. After watching so long the struggles of black people resisting, because I’m one of those folks who came of age during the civil rights movement, watching most of it on television. Seeing King the peaceful warrior get killed, get shot down, there was almost a sense of closure that something else was going to come after this and there would be a reckoning before his death. There was some fear in there, some concern, and at the same time an anticipation of participation was there for me, but Martin Luther King had given his life. It had been taken by, we saw at the time, by white America and its inability to change. That had to be opposed in my mind. These were random thoughts. I didn’t know how to do it, how it was going to happen, but probably at that point I began looking for a way for it to happen.
The books that we’ve published over the last 40 years are directly connected to Martin’s life, Martin’s death and perhaps moreso they’re connected to what he is connected to, that whole stream of ancestral consciousness that was here before he came and continues now today. The books that I publish and have enjoyed publishing are books that hold the spirit of that consciousness up. Those books continue to share or make sure that consciousness is going to be available to be shared by people. The spirit of Martin Luther King, the spirit of the boys, the spirit even of Booker T and all of those ancestors that struggled in the way they struggled, are what’s captured in the books that Black Classic Press prints.