Incited by a rumor of police brutality against an African-American World War II veteran, The 1943 Harlem riot began on August 1 in three different locations. Crowds gathered in front of Hotel Braddock, in which the incident had taken place, and two other locations: Sydenham hospital and the 28th precinct stationhouse. The angry crowd dispersed throughout the city throwing stones at windows and looting shops; chaos ensued in the streets. By the morning of August 2nd, Harlem looked as if it had been raided. It took great force on the part of the NYC Police Department to subdue rioters. A total of 16,100 men were deployed to quell the violence; they were comprised of 6,600 civil police officers, 8,000 states guardsman and some volunteers as well. According to a NYPD report, five African-Americans were killed by police and close to 400 people were injured. Damages caused by the riot were estimated to be as high as $5 million. During the riot, police arrested approximately 500 African-American men and women.
The rumor that started the riot was based on a real event involving a rookie police officer, James Collins, an African-American woman named Margie Polite, and an African-American veteran, Robert Bandy. Margie had checked into Hotel Braddock, only to find her room to be unsatisfactory. After being moved to a different room, Margie complained again and asked for a refund. As she was about to leave, she asked the porter back for the one dollar tip she had given him. He denied this transaction and an argument broke out in the hotel lobby. In one account of the event, police officer James Collin tried to restrain and arrest Miss Polite. As this was occurring, Robert Bandy came down with his mother into the lobby to witness the struggle. The event concluded with Robert Bandy striking the police officer with the baton and James Collin, the officer, shooting him in the shoulder.
Social inequality was acutely felt by African-Americans during the period of the riot. They had hoped that their service in World War II would gain them respect amongst Americans. However, they were continuously harassed for the color of their skin. In addition, many faced Jim Crow laws as returning veterans. These inequalities, along with the economic hardships endured by black communities were instrumental in the inducment of rioting throughout America.