Attitudes, Cause and Perceptions: The 1980 Black Riot in Dade County (Miami), Florida


  • Thomas D Boswell
  • Ira Sheskin
  • Carroll Truss


In May 1980, Dade County gained the unenviable distinction of becoming the first large U.S. metropolitan area to experience a major racial disturbance during the 1980s. This was not the first racial disorder in Miami. In August 1968, a black riot occurred that was one of the last in a round of racial disorders that characterized large American cities during the late 1960s (Salter and Mings 1969). The 1980 riot, however, was significantly more destructive and deadly than the 1968 disturbance.  In 1968, the result was several hundred thousands of dollars worth of property damage and three deaths. In 1980, the damage amounted to about one hundred million dollars and eighteen deaths (Figs. 1 and 2). In fact, the 1980 riot was more expensive (in dollars unstandardized for inflation) than any other single urban social disorder in U. S. history (Ten most costly ... 1980). This paper intends (1) to identify the areas where most of the 1980 disturbances occurred and to sketch the background characteristics of the people involved; (2) to present some of the causes for this riot; and (3) to discuss some of the findings of an attitudinal survey conducted by The Miami Herald in 1981 with the assistance of the authors of this paper.