Somewhere in the middle : rebellion, suburbia, and the story of Plainfield, New Jersey.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The primary focus of this text is the riot that upended the suburban city of Plainfield, New Jersey from July 14-18, 1967. Through a nuanced dialectic exploring the use and conditions of the terms riot and uprising to describe and explain moments of intense urban violence commonly associated with racial tensions, it is the determination of this author that the term riot, as used to describe the Plainfield incident, is a misnomer. In fact, the evidence suggests that the Plainfield episode, all those that happened in the summer of 1967 and thereafter, and those that happened since the Harlem event of 1943 are, in fact, uprisings characterized by the rebellion of a racial underclass discontent with their imposed inferior social and economic positions. The onus, then, for racial categorization is placed squarely at the feet of the oppressor class, or white establishment, for this analysis demonstrates the pivotal role violence plays when it comes to distinguishing between perpetration and reaction; thus, determining the role of violence as vengeance versus violence as protest becomes an essential conclusion of the evidence in order to fully appreciate the upheaval in July 1967 in Plainfield, NJ.