Protests continue in the US following the shooting dead of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer 10 days ago.
His death has reignited accusations of racism by US police forces against the African-American population.
Before the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, the last big race riots took place in July 2010, when a San Francisco transport police officer told a judge he mistakenly fired his handgun instead of a Taser into the back of a 22-year-old black man a year earlier.
His two-year jail sentence for Oscar Grant’s killing was seen as another insult to the black community and the city exploded in violence.
But US history is blighted by its treatment of African Americans. In the 1960s, blacks battled for more than a decade to achieve an end to 85 years of racial segregation.
The civil rights struggle would pay a heavy price – with the assassination of its leader Martin Luther King – but not before he witnessed the signing of the 1964 civil rights act, which finally outlawed discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.
But despite high hopes, the new law didn’t rid the country of racial intolerance overnight. The remainder of the 60s would be marked by several violent flare-ups. Riots in 20 cities, dozens of deaths and thousands of arrests….though the 70s and 80s would be a little quieter.
However in 1992, when video footage emerged of Rodney King being beaten by several Los Angeles police officers, America held its breath once again.
Their initial acquittals – by a white jury – triggered the LA riots which lasted six days and saw 53 people killed.
Then in 2008, 45 years after the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, the unthinkable happens – the US elects its first black president.
The ‘Yes We Can’ campaign ignited a new optimism that America’s minorities fortunes were about to change.
But despite Obama’s two-term win, race issues continue to dominate the news.
In 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida.
His killer claimed self defence and was acquitted of second-degree murder.
Up against the worst economic prospects too, the black community remains sceptical about whether real change is taking place.
Rather than motivational speeches, they say a more thorough enforcement of their civil rights is what is desperately needed now.
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