When George Hargett stepped into Engine Company 252 in Brooklyn for the first time as an FDNY probationary firefighter, it was March, 1967 — just three months before the "long, hot summer" where 159 race riots exploded across the U.S., including New York City, Boston, Newark, N.J. and upstate in Buffalo.
In just one month's time, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would address a congregation at Riverside Church in Harlem, demanding an end to the Vietnam War and forever linking the civil rights and peace movements together. A year later, Rev. King would be assassinated in Memphis.
It was tough time to be black in the city — and it was tougher to be a black firefighter, where the FDNY was seen by many as a symbol of the white status quo.