In 1964, North Philadelphia was the city's center of African American culture, and home to 400,000 of the city's 600,000 black residents. The Philadelphia Police Department had tried to improve its relationship with the city's black community assigning police to patrol black neighborhoods in teams of one black and one white officer per squad car and having a civilian review board to handle cases of police brutality.
Despite the improvement attempts of the Philadelphia Police Department, racial tensions had been high in Philadelphia over the issue of police brutality. The Philadelphia Tribune, the city’s black newspaper, ran several articles on police brutality which often resulted in white policemen being brought up on charges of brutality, only to be later acquitted. The summer of 1964 however was at the peak of the civil rights movement with rioting breaking out in black areas of other northern cities such as New York, Rochester, Jersey City and Elizabeth caused by incidents relating to police brutality against black citizens.