Moyers on Democracy

Revisiting Rosedale

After a clip from Rosedale: The Way It Is, a 1976 Bill Moyers film documenting racial tension in one New York City community, went viral on social media, New York Times reporters tracked down the young Black children — now grownups — who were terrorized by a mob of white children 45 years ago.

Revisiting Rosedale

By Whitney Hurst, Christiaan Triebert, Jonah M. Kessel and Jeff Bernier

In 1976, Bill Moyers produced a film for television, “Rosedale: The Way It Is,” that documented how racial tensions soared in a white working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, after the Spencers, a middle-class Black family, moved in.

In 2019, a graduate student brought the film back into the news by posting a short clip showing a mob of white children terrorizing a group of Black children on bicycles with slurs and intimidation, driving them out of their neighborhood. It also shows the hurt, bewilderment and anger felt by the Black children at the vitriol directed at them.

That 20-second clip has now been viewed more than 4.4 million times with many viewers wondering what happened to those children on the bikes. New York Times reporters to set out to find them and the result is this front-page story and a compelling short film showing those little children as grown women, and young people today in a classroom in Long Island, N.Y., reflecting on the brutal world that many imagined only held rein in the South.

In late 2019, Newsday published the damning results of a three-year investigation into illegal discrimination in the housing market. “Long Island Divided” illustrates that prejudice still rules who lives where.

The death of George Floyd and the protests show that racism — more than four decades after “Rosedale: The Way It Is” — is still alive, divisive and systemic in America.

Watch Rosedale: The Way It Is.