In a Baltimore ghetto, Mrs. Judy Brookhouser watches from the caged window of her apartment in "The Compound" —the guarded complex operated by Johns Hopkins Hospital for families of staff doctors.
Caption from LIFE. In a Baltimore ghetto, Mrs. Judy Brookhouser watches from the caged window of her apartment in "The Compound" —the guarded complex operated by Johns Hopkins Hospital for families of staff doctors.Bill Eppridge—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
In a Baltimore ghetto, Mrs. Judy Brookhouser watches from the caged window of her apartment in "The Compound" —the guarded complex operated by Johns Hopkins Hospital for families of staff doctors.
To safeguard against break-ins and looting, many merchants have adopted the newest style in urban architecture—"Riot Renaissance." Window displays are eliminated, and so are the windows. At a dry-cleaning shop, striped sheets of plywood now cover the facade.
At a grocery, faint outlines around the new brick betray the former presence of shop windows.
At a supermarket, solid walls of concrete block replace riot-smashed plate glass.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
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At a drive-in restaurant plagued by brawling, three "rent-a-cops" —looking more authoritative in wide brimmed hats than city police—stand guard on weekends.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Past the darkened marble stoops that are Baltimore's hallmark, Mrs. Barbara Ringgold walks home after working late—escorted by Tiny, her German shepherd.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Prisoners of fear and old age, these residents of a Baltimore public housing project—Lawrence Puccia and his wife, both 87—never go out at night.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Baltimore, 1969.
Caption from LIFE. In a Baltimore ghetto, Mrs. Judy Brookhouser watches from the caged window of her apartment in "The C
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Bill Eppridge—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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What Baltimore Looked Like in the Aftermath of the Riot of 1968

Apr 29, 2015

When Baltimore was engulfed in violence in April of 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated. From Washington, D.C., to Chicago, from Boston to Louisville, civil unrest ruled the day as feelings of helplessness, anger and resentment bubbled over.

A year and a few months later, LIFE’s Bill Eppridge visited Baltimore, one of the cities that had experienced the greatest levels of violence during those days in April. Eppridge went out into the night, camera in hand, to capture the aftermath of a city thrust into chaos. His pictures have an eerie quality to them. If the streets are not dark, they are empty. If they are not empty, the people that walk them protect themselves with guns and German Shepherds.

The events of April 1968 had given rise to a style of architecture LIFE dubbed “Riot Renaissance,” a series of modifications made by business owners to prevent break-ins and looting. Window displays were replaced with brick, concrete and plywood. Sightlines between pedestrians and shopkeepers were erased as barriers were erected.

The crime and, just as notably, fear of crime that characterized Baltimore in 1969 was not a simple case of cause and effect. Though the riot had brought death, injury and destruction in a concentrated wave, Baltimore was just one of many U.S. cities experiencing a rising tide of violence during the late 1960s. Those who could afford to get out—and they were mostly white—got out. Those who could move neighborhoods often did so only to find that the violence had followed them.

The question that residents, politicians and scholars faced was not why, but what now. LIFE suggested that a hybrid approach might be the only path to take:

The gulf of fact, fear and antagonism may in the end be bridged by doing the things each side so strongly endorses—neither law and order alone nor social programs alone, but both.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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