This Day in Black History: Dec. 20, 1986

Michael Griffith was chased to his death in a Howard Beach hate crime.

Posted: 12/20/2013 12:00 AM EST
This Day in Black History: Dec. 20, 1986

Hate crime victim Cedric Sandiford (center) speaks at a press conference at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, in January 1987. (Photo: New York Times Co./Getty Images)

What happened in the Howard Beach area of New York on Dec. 20, 1986, sent shock waves through the U.S. and enraged civil rights activists. Michael Griffith, Cedric Sandiford and Timothy Grimes were driving through Howard Beach in Queens when the car they were in broke down. 

The three friends left the car and walked for several miles to a local pizzeria where they asked the owner to use his phone to call for help. He told them he didn’t have a phone. After leaving the restaurant they were set upon by a gang of white teenagers. Griffith, then 23, was chased on to the highway where he was hit by a car and killed. Sandiford was caught and severely beaten and Grimes managed to escaped largely unhurt.  

After major protests led by civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, the three assailants were convicted of manslaughter for the death of Griffith. 

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