1966: The First Kwanzaa Is Celebrated In Long Beach, California

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
Left: On August 16, 1965, two African-American men hold their hands up against the wall of a dry cleaners while being arrested by Caucasian state troopers during the Watts race riots. Right: Fruits and vegetables in a Kwanzaa celebration. Sources: Hulton

Where did Kwanzaa come from? In 1965, while black Americans' struggle for Civil Rights was front page news, race riots broke out in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. Dr. Maulana Karenga was troubled by Watts; he saw that, despite the progress being made by Martin Luther King, Jr., many black Americans were in a deep despair. Looting your own neighborhood and stealing from your neighbors is a nihilistic act. Karenga devised a holiday based on pan-African harvest festivals, and it was first celebrated on December 26, 1966, in Long Beach, California.