A glimmer of progress in Baltimore's crisis

Story highlights

  • Julian Zelizer: Calls for urban reform and the swift Freddie Gray murder prosecution are positive signs
  • He says the Baltimore riots were a sign of the need for change on many fronts

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.

(CNN)When riots broke out in Baltimore last week following the funeral ceremony for Freddie Gray, most Americans were dismayed as they watched the images broadcast on their television screens and through the Internet. Seeing young African-Americans square off against the police, and against one another, brought back horrible memories from the riots of the mid-1960s in Watts, Newark, and Detroit, when the progress of the civil rights movement came to a halt.

The events in Baltimore likewise rekindled the feelings of frustration when riots shook Los Angeles in the wake of not-guilty verdicts for the police who had assaulted Rodney King.