I remember when I began to realize the severity of the pandemic. I was sitting on a bench in LOVE Park at 5:45 am, reading all of the articles about the spread of the disease in the United States. I was about to start my 6:00 shift at a restaurant I had just started working for. I remember feeling uneasy, that day was the day that the president announced a travel ban from Europe. As I walked into the restaurant and began my shift, I noticed a sign on the breakroom wall. It was a message from the corporate headquarters, informing us that we were not allowed to wear masks during our shifts because “it gives the appearance that you are sick” which would make customers “uneasy”. Despite that this was before the mask mandates and the CDC had advised against getting masks due to the shortage at the time, I remember feeling that this was ridiculous and how this was an example of corporate greed being put above the lives of low-wage workers. The company wanted to put the opinions of customers above the well-being of their employees. This was my first week working at this company and it would be my last. After I had finished what would be my last shift, I asked the supervisor questions about the situation. Major cities on the west coast like Los Angeles and Seattle had begun to go into lockdown. The national guard had been deployed to New Rochelle. I asked my supervisor what “the plan” was. She simply replied “I don’t know”, which I feel was a perfect representation of what the country was feeling at the time. An uneasy uncertainty was the mood of the country. Later that night, I received a call from the manager, “Hey Liam, this is Ethan. Listen, we just got word that we’re gonna be shut down until further notice. Come back next Sunday to pick up your last paycheck and I will give you information about unemployment”. What happened to me is what happened to millions of other Americans. I am grateful that I live at home and was not reliant on my paycheck to survive. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to have been supporting others with my paycheck, only to receive a phone call out of the blue which said “Hey, you’ve been laid off”.
The MOVE Bombing still has relevance in today’s mainstream conversation. In today’s environment, there is a national conversation about police brutality, excessive force, and the overarching problem of racism. Studying an event like this brings us to the question, “was the MOVE Bombing entirely necessary?”. This can help us come to other conclusions about issues that affect our modern society. Should the police be militarized to the extent that they are today? Do we need to reimagine policing from a combative to a supportive role? Another local topic regarding MOVE was the legacy of the controversial former mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo. While he was not responsible for the MOVE Bombing, he was mayor during the first conflict MOVE had with law enforcement. The controversial legacy of mayor Frank Rizzo in the mainstream conversation of racism in America led to his statue being taken down in the summer. History and it’s legacy are connected to the present more than we imagine. Everything is connected in some way or another. I hope that viewers of my project will be able to gain a new historical perspective on problems in modern America and be able to use this to help solve problems. By looking to the past we can help gain a better perspective on the future and what we would like it to turn out.
Growing up, I was never exactly historically aware, as are most people when they are young. What drove my interest in history was a deep search for meaning to not only my existence but the existence of everyone around me. I began to wonder about the people who came before me and the country that they came from. As I stated at the beginning of this semester, the reason I am fascinated with history is because I am fascinated with life. I am fascinated by all things in the past and how they influence me and others on a daily basis. That is my connection to the past.
What drove me to my topic of choice was how war like it was. I am fascinated with human conflict and the reasons it occurs. The idea that a situation only seen in war zones happened in a first-world country is fascinating. What made it even more fascinating was the fact that this event was carried out by a government against its own citizens. Not only did this occur in the United States, but the city of Philadelphia, where I currently reside. We are connected to history more than we think. I do believe that there are certain elements to my background that affect the way I approach this topic. I grew up in a conservative rural area, which most likely affects the way I perceive it. Even though I grew up in a conservative area, I don’t consider myself to be one. For those that are knowledgeable in political history, I would consider myself to be a “Ross Perot Pragmatist”. However, even this still has an effect on the way I perceive the event. While I am aware of the negative connotations of “colorblindness”, the pragmatist in me still overrides my reaction to problems in our society. My initial reaction to the incident was that the police simply went “overboard”. However, after plenty of research, I am starting to learn about the racial elements behind the incident. I hope that I am able to do the incident justice in my project while providing a balanced perspective on the incident.
My research question is, “What is the legacy of the MOVE Bombing?”. I am going to focus on what actually happened in order for people to better understand the tragedy. I am going to go into detail about what MOVE was and what their message was about. I am also going to highlight their previous encounter with the police, which served as the catalyst leading up to the tragedy. After my introduction to the matter, I will delve into the events that happened on the day of the bombing and who made the decision to bomb the building. After giving a detailed explanation, then will I dive into the legacy of it. The legacy of it is that it remains a stain on the city of Philadelphia and has shaped what we deem to be “acceptable force” in situations such as this. I will also make a brief comparison to the Waco Siege, which lasted for 51 days, much longer than the time police gave MOVE to leave the compound. I will touch upon how we can come to the conclusion that race played a factor in the two different treatments. My project will be om the form of a 1000-1250 word historical op-ed.
My secondary sources include the following:
The article delves into why the MOVE Bombing is still largely forgotten. There is a testimony from the author who grew up in the city of Philadelphia that the bombing was never discussed in the school he attended. There is also a comparison between the MOVE Bombing and Waco, along with Ruby Ridge, which is relevant to my topic of the legacy of the bombing.
This Philadelphia Tribune article highlights that the MOVE Bombing is still relevant, especially in recent times due to the Black Lives Matter Movement. It provides a modern lens of the bombing itself and how it is related to a long history of police using excessive force in the city of Philadelphia.
My primary sources include the following:
This New York Times article was published on May 14th, 1985, the day after the MOVE Bombing. This is extremely relevant to my research question, as it provides a raw account of what happened on that fateful day. It provides a very detailed depiction of what happened in chronological order. This is important because it provides this account without the context of modern times.
This Los Angeles Times article helps to provide a raw reaction from the mayor’s office and the police that were involved. Due to the article being written the day it happened, there are several rationalizations that were published that attempted to justify the bombing. The quote that comes to mind after reading the article is, “If you were in a fire fight and the opposition held the higher ground, what would you do?”.
The Time article is not about the MOVE bombing, it is about their previous encounter with the police in 1978. It details the 56-day siege. There is also an extremely negative perception of the MOVE organization itself. It was labeled as a cult and the article stated, “MOVE members threatened to kill their own children if city health officials attempted to inspect the house”.
Demby, Gene. “Why Have so Many People Never Heard of the Move Bombing?,” May 19, 2015. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/05/18/407665820/why-did-we-forget-the-move-bombing.
Nose to Nose – TIME, August 14, 1978. https://web.archive.org/web/20070820195409/https://time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,946962,00.html.
Pilkington, Ed. “The Day Police Bombed a City Street: Can Scars of 1985 Move Atrocity Be Healed?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, May 10, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/10/move-1985-bombing-reconciliation-philadelphia.
“Radical Cult Bombed by Philadelphia Police : Resulting Blaze Spreads to 50 or 60 Homes; Officer Is Wounded in Battle During Eviction.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1985. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-05-14-mn-18979-story.html.
Stevens, William K. “POLICE DROP BOMB ON RADICALS’ HOME IN PHILADELPHIA.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 14, 1985. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/14/us/police-drop-bomb-on-radicals-home-in-philadelphia.html.
———. “POLICE DROP BOMB ON RADICALS’ HOME IN PHILADELPHIA.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 14, 1985. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/14/us/police-drop-bomb-on-radicals-home-in-philadelphia.html.
I found the reading to be very intriguing. I am quite fascinated by this because the idea of how history relates to people is what intrigued me to indulge myself in social studies. As I have stated before, I am fascinated by history because I am fascinated with people. While history almost entirely consists of people interacting with one another, it is essential that we not lose the deeply personal human aspect of it.
A quote that stands out to me goes as follows, “Picture them: The relics of two girls, one cradling the other, plundered innocents; a sailor caught sight of them and later said they were friends. Two world-less girls found a country in each other’s arms. Beside the defeat and the terror, there would be this too: the glimpse of beauty, the instant of possibility” (Hartman 2008). To me, this quote is extremely meaningful and exposes the terrible yet personal elements of history. While it is terrible that these events did take place, the ability to bring it to a personal level, one where you can picture what took place in your head, is essential in understanding the human condition. Perhaps one can look at a quote such as this and imagine that they themselves are in a similar situation? This brings history closer to our modern world and consciousness.
While this does relate to my project, it is slightly different due to the recording of the event being extremely detailed due to modern technology and record-keeping. The historical actors in the MOVE bombing were not only Johnny Africa but also the children who were killed in the bombing. While it was tragic that they perished, one can only imagine what they themselves were going through and what thoughts they had in the events leading up to the tragedy.
Hartman, S. (2008). Venus in two acts. Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, 12(2), 1-14. doi:10.1215/-12-2-1
Stevens, W. (1985, May 14). Police drop bomb on radicals’ home in philadelphia. Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/14/us/police-drop-bomb-on-radicals-home-in-philadelphia.html
- B – Basic Info – Answer the basic who/what/when etc.
The article is about the 1985 MOVE Bombing and the events which took place.
- C – Close Reading – Making sense of the content, digging deeper!
The article is a very detailed description of MOVE itself and the reactions from residents. There is also a description of who was responsible for the bombing and their rationalization of it.
- A – Archival Context – How did the source find its way to an archive? What collection is it a part of? We’ll learn how to better answer this piece next week!
This is a New York Times article that was digitalized. I was unable to find sources from the Philadelphia Inquirer without having to pay a fee.
- B – Broader Historical Context – How does the source fit into a larger story?
The article provides a very raw account and is a good source to view of the media perceived the events that unfolded without the context of modern times. For example, the article states that MOVE was a “radical” organization.
The day Philadelphia bombed its own people
S – Scope – What is the purpose of the source? What is the driving research question?
The purpose of this source is to retell the historical event where the city of Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a residential neighborhood. The driving research question is to find what was behind this event.
A – Argument – What is the author’s argument?
The author’s argument is that the 1985 MOVE Bombing has had a tremendous effect on the city of Philadelphia, even if it has been mostly forgotten nationally.
S – Significance – Why is the source important? How is it contributing to a larger conversation about your topic? How are you going to use this source in your project?
This source has several quotes from different residents from the neighborhood where the bomb was dropped. This is important because it adds a story element to the article. I am going to take these quotes and use them in my project.
E – Evidence – What sources does the author use to support their argument?
The author uses testimonials from Philadelphians to support their argument.
Norward, L. (2019, August 08). The day Philadelphia bombed its own people. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/8/8/20747198/philadelphia-bombing-1985-move
I plan on my final project being about the 1985 MOVE bombing. There are multiple questions that I plan on finding the answers to in relation to this topic:
- What was MOVE?
- Who led MOVE?
- What happened leading up to 1985?
- What happened on the day the bombing took place?
- What is the legacy of the bombing?
There are two significant topics of African-American history in Philadelphia that I would like to research for my final project. I find the MOVE Bombing and the murder of 19th century activist Octavius V. Catto to be fascinating. I am interested in the MOVE bombing for the sheer fact that the police used a level of force that is typically only seen in warzones. The amount of force used by the Philadelphia Police Department still has lasting effects on policing in Philadelphia and the country as a whole. I am interested in Catto for the fact that he was able to make a list of accomplishments in the name of civil rights. I am also interested in his tragic and ill fated end, where he was killed on election day for the fact that he rallied African-Americans to vote in the election.
How has your concept of Philly changed since this time last year? Along with your map, please write a brief (~200 words) reflection about the process of mapping Philadelphia and what your map represents.
Covid has really changed my perspective of Philadelphia. I moved here in August of 2019 and by the beginning of 2020, my perspective had changed completely. I viewed Philadelphia as a place of adventure and opportunity, which was in stark contrast to my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, due to the pandemic, my experience has been limited. While I am working in Center City again, I am unable to go to classes on campus. I cannot attend an Eagles game, which I have always wanted to do. I can only visit my friends and family in neighboring towns and cities on very limited occasions. I am unable to experience all that Philadelphia has to offer, and I feel as though my very basic map is a representation of that fact.
The map that I digitally created is a reflection is the very limited life that I am living in Philadelphia. The house with the heart in the middle is a representation of my house located in East Falls. The footsteps on the map lead from my house to Wissahickon Valley Park. That is where I would take my daily walks during the “shutdown”. From my house is a dark blue line representing the Regional Rail, which leads me to Temple, the university that I am currently attending. From Temple, Regional Rail takes me to Center City, where my job at Staples is located. The rail line then takes you to the symbol of a train. This is meant to represent 30th Street Station. From the station are two dark blue lines representing Amtrak lines. To the West of the station lies the route that I take to Lancaster where I visit my friends and family on very limited occasions. To the northeast is the train line that takes you to New York, where I was able to visit my friend before the pandemic.
To the south lies the logo of the Philadelphia Eagles, a team in which I have never been able to see in person due to the pandemic. To the southwest lies the Philadelphia international airport, which I have not been able to go to and travel, which is my main desire.