The Influx of a New Labor Force Causes Friction
Tensions Boil Over During the Summer
It was in this charged and tense atmosphere that things boiled over. In May, three thousand white men assembled in downtown East St. Louis and as a mob began attacking blacks beating them and destroying
Later in that day, some thousands of white spectators who had assembled viewing the car as it had wound up, bloodied from the wounds of the policemen, went berserk and marched into black sections of town, conducting what amounted to an open season on
The Aftermath: Further Anger and Radicalization
The riots went on for nearly a week, causing property damage estimated at close to $400,000. Over 6,000 black citizens, left East St. Louis altogether in fear for their lives. The city's death toll estimates varied quite a lot, with the city estimating about 100 black men had been killed, and the NAACP putting the total at 200. A congressional investigating committee would later conclude that 9 white and 39
black men had been killed. The number of black dead can only be guessed at as many of the black corpses were never recovered. But due to the property damage, over 6,000 black citizens were left homeless. The deadly viciousness of the attacks during these riots lead to the radicalization of many blacks throughout the country. Marcus Garvey voiced this sentiment saying that this riot was "one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind" and a "wholesale massacre of our people." Garvey went on to say that "This is no time for fine words, but a time to lift one's voice against the savagery of a people who claim to be the dispensers of democracy." The cartoon above summed up the feelings of many. The caption, echoing the rousing war-time slogan of President Wilson, had the woman saying: "Mr. President, why not make America safe for Democracy?"
What if anything does this account tell us about the events of today in Ferguson, Missouri? That is something that you - my readers - will have to draw what lessons you can yourselves. But here we have a number of similar elements... the actions of the Governor and the Mayor, the presence of outside influences (Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, & Marcus Garvey), and the use of National Guard troops. Those events - the rioting and looting of Summer, 1917 - were clearly a case of angry
"Race Rioters Fire East St. Louis and Shoot or Hang Many Negroes", New York Times, July 3, 1917.