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Early Twentieth Century Race Riots

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  1. Early Twentieth Century Race Riots The Red Summer Start

  2. Race Riots in American History Although the race riots that began during the Red Summer of 1919 were unusual in their intensity, racial tension has frequently inspired urban violence in the United States. Between 1819-1845 riots targeting free African Americans occurred in many major northeastern cities and towns. Aside from racism, many of these riots occurred because white laborers resented competition from newly arrived free African Americans. During the 1863 draft riots in New York City, angry white mobs attacked the homes of poor African Americans and killed several people because the rioters blamed the African Americans for the Civil War. During Reconstruction there were race riots in Baltimore, Charleston, and New Orleans. New York City Draft Riot End

  3. Cause of the Riots Author James Weldon Johnson coined the term “Red Summer” to describe the race riots that occurred across the South and Mid-West in 1919. Although many factors contributed to the riots, the aftermath of World War I and the Red Scare appear to have been the immediate causes. When the United States’ military demobilized at the war’s end, the return of hundreds of thousands of men from overseas led to massive unemployment. Many of the veterans deeply resented the African Americans who were now competing with them for jobs. Because of the change of the economy from war to peace, prices for goods soared; and this added a measure of desperation to the frustrations felt by white workers and veterans. James Weldon Johnson End

  4. The Red Scare The Red Scare helped to fan the flames of violence. Following the Mexican and Russian Revolutions, many Americans feared communists would infiltrate and destroy the American way of life. When African Americans began demanding racial equality, some people believed communist agents inspired them. Branding these outspoken critics of the status-quo as radicals, those who supported white superiority thought the communist ideas of social equality would appeal to African Americans. Fears of communist agitation may have intensified the violence of the race riots. Poet Claude McKay was often cited as a “radical” African American End

  5. Charleston & LongviewRace Riots Two African Americans died on May 10, 1919, in Charleston, South Carolina, during the first race riot of the Red Summer. The Longview Race Riot occurred in Texas on July 10, 1919. The riot was ignited after an article in Defender, a Chicago magazine, stated an African American, Lemuel Walters, was in love with a white woman and would have married her if the two had lived in the North. Lemuel Walters was jailed for these statements. Later, the sheriff surrendered Walters to the white lynch mob. Incensed by this murder, African Americans took to the streets. This newspaper clipping reports the Longview Race Riot. End

  6. Washington, D.C., Race Riot • Both the Longview, Texas, and the Washington, D.C., race riots introduced another common theme into the violence of that summer: fears that African-American men would become sexually or romantically involved with white women. • The Washington, D.C., Race Riot occurred on July 19, 1919, after sensational public claims that an African-American man had been sexually harassing a white woman. • On the night of July 19, the woman organized a group of men and went on a hunting spree for African Americans. One African American was severely injured and another was killed. End

  7. Chicago Race Riot – Introduction The Chicago Race Riot (July 27-August 3) was the most violent riot of the Red Summer. Initially, Chicago seemed an unlikely place for such a riot. The city government did not segregate public places. Therefore, many African Americans saw Chicago as a city where they could build a better life. Since 1910, large numbers of African Americans had moved to Chicago from the southern states. Known as the Great Migration, this was one of the largest internal population movements in modern American history. The states in blue display which states gained the most African Americans during the Great Migration. The red states show which states lost the most African Americans End

  8. Chicago Race Riot – Part Two As European immigration ceased at the end of World War I, Chicago saw its African-American population increase one hundred forty-eight percent between 1916 and 1919. First concentrated in the southern part of the city, African Americans gradually moved closer to Chicago’s Irish neighborhoods. Irish and African-American laborers began competing for the same jobs and the same housing. The tensions created by that rivalry grew even more heated as southern whites began migrating into Chicago and brought with them a culture of racial intolerance. Economic and cultural forces combined to push African Americans back into the Southside’s “Black Belt.” Map depicts where the Chicago Race Riots took place in Chicago End

  9. Chicago Race Riot – Part Three • The veterans of World War I also began returning to Chicago in 1919 and competing for many of the same jobs. African-American veterans felt that they had won their rights on the battlefield and had no intention of accepting second-place status. • White gangs in Chicago began attacking African Americans in the Southside neighborhoods in 1918-1919. City police rarely responded to these attacks. White-owned newspapers did not report crimes against African Americans but would always cover African-American legal troubles. End

  10. Chicago Race Riot – Part Four The riots began on July 19, 1919, when a young African American, Eugene Williams, wandered into the white section of the Twenty-eighth Street beach. Angry whites threw rocks at him, and he was struck on the head. Williams fell into the water and drowned. When a police officer refused to arrest the white man who allegedly threw the rock that killed Williams, groups of African Americans took to the streets. When the same police officer arrested an African-American man for disorderly conduct, a thousand people became involved in the riot. A group of white men look for African Americans during the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 End

  11. Chicago Race Riot – Conclusion The Chicago Race Riot caused the deaths of twenty-three African Americans and fifteen whites during a week of riots. Initially, newspapers only reported the deaths of whites, which enflamed more white citizens against the African Americans. Moreover, African Americans were accused of setting fires in the region, a story newspapers continued to print even after the Illinois state fire marshal reported white citizens had ignited the fires. No whites were convicted of murder, though one man was prosecuted and later acquitted for Williams’ death. The beginning of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 End

  12. Knoxville Race Riot • On August 30, 1919, the Knoxville, Tennessee, Race Riot exploded when deputy sheriff Maurice Mayes was arrested for the murder of Bertie Lindsay, a white woman. As a mulatto, or a man of mixed ethnicity, most whites perceived Mayes to be an African American. • Sheriff W.T. Cate feared for Mayes’ life and attempted to take him out of Knoxville. Before he could do so, a mob of whites broke down the door of the jail. Many prisoners escaped during the confusion. Additional violence led to the arrests of thirty-six people. • After a brief trial, Mayes was convicted and executed, although many people believed he was innocent. End

  13. Omaha Race Riot – Introduction On September 25, 1919, Agnes Loebeck, a 19-year-old white woman in Omaha, Nebraska, alleged that she had been raped by an African American. The next day police arrested Will Brown, a 40-year-old African American, and Loebeck identified him as the rapist. That afternoon, a mob of whites attempted to lynch Brown at the local jail. This incident gained widespread attention in the Omaha Bee, which printed sensationalized and usually false stories about African-American men and sexual attacks on white women. Will Brown, African-American man accused of raping Agnes Loebeck End

  14. Omaha Race Riot – Part Two • On September 28 a group of young white men again approached the Douglas County Court House where Will Brown was held. • There were thirty police officers guarding the police station when the mob arrived. The crowd grew throughout the afternoon, but the police captain in charge thought the men represented no threat and sent fifty reserve officers home for the day. • When the mob grew to nearly 4,000, it attacked the police officers with sticks and bricks. The police responded with water hoses but failed to disperse the mob. The young men broke the court house windows and invaded the building’s first floor. Police officers began firing their guns down the elevator shafts to disperse the rioters. End

  15. Omaha Race Riot – Part Three Omaha’s chief of police attempted to assure the mob that justice would prevail and there was no need for violence, but the thousands of angry men refused to listen. By early evening the police had completely lost control of the situation. Police weapons and equipment were stolen by the angry crowd. Some police officers joined the mob. The violence began to extend beyond the court house, and white rioters were attacking any African Americans found nearby. White citizens who attempted to assist African Americans also became victims of violence. The large group of whites forms outside of the Douglas County Court House. End

  16. Omaha Race Riot – Part Four The remaining policemen were trapped on the fourth floor of the Douglas Count Court House. Sheriff Michael Clark instructed his deputies to make sure the mob did not capture Brown. By 8:00 P.M. the mob had set the court house on fire. Rioters began looting stores, and over one thousand firearms were reported stolen that evening. As the mob surged through the building, rioters shot any police officers who resisted. Seven officers were wounded; and two members of the mob, Louis Young and James Hiykel, were shot and killed during the riot. End

  17. Omaha Race Riot – Part Five • Mayor Edward Smith had announced throughout the day that “They shall not get him (Will Brown). Mob rule will not prevail in Omaha.” When he appeared in public before midnight, however, rioters attacked him. They claimed the mayor had fired his own pistol into the crowd. One rioter struck Smith in the back of the head with a baseball bat, and a noose was quickly placed around his neck. • Mayor Smith narrowly avoided death. A woman managed to remove the rope from his neck, and several men hustled him into a police car. But the mob overturned the car and recaptured the mayor. Smith was then hanged, but a state agent saved his life by cutting him down and transporting him to a local hospital. End

  18. Omaha Race Riot – Part Six Fire threatened to engulf the court house, and the rioters refused to withdraw unless the police officers surrendered Will Brown. To escape, Sheriff Clark led his one hundred twenty-one prisoners to the court house roof. Some prisoners tried to throw Brown from the roof, but deputy sheriffs stopped them. Female prisoners, both African American and white, were eventually escorted through the burning building to safety. The fire became more intense as the mob added gasoline to the inferno. The intense heat caused bottles of formaldehyde in the coroner’s office to explode, adding poisonous fumes to the smoke. The Douglas County Court House burning at night after the mob set it on fire. End

  19. Omaha Race Riot – Part Seven Police officials believed they had little choice but to give in, and they sent down a message saying, “The judge says he will give up Negro Brown… There are one hundred white prisoners on the roof. Save them.” Moments later the mob heard a second message: “Come to the fourth floor of the building and we will hand the negro over to you.” Rioters placed a fire department ladder on the side of the building. Armed with a noose and shotguns, rioters began climbing toward the roof. While these men were climbing up one side of building, they heard a series of shouts and gun shots from the other side. Will Brown had been captured. The body of Will Brown burns after he was lynched by the angry mob. End

  20. Omaha Race Riot – Part Eight After a brief struggle, rioters hanged Will Brown from a telephone pole at the corner of Eighteenth and Harney Streets. The rope holding Brown’s body was cut, and his corpse tied to the back of an automobile. The mob dragged the body through the streets to the intersection of Dodge and Seventeenth Street. Rioters poured lantern oil on Brown’s corpse, then set it on fire. The charred body was again paraded through the streets for several more hours. Rioters and bystanders snapped dozens of photographs to commemorate the event. asecond picture of the body of Will Brown burning after being lynched by the angry mob End

  21. Omaha Race Riot – Conclusion The riots continued throughout the night. The governor called for federal troops to suppress the mob. Colonel John E. Morris of the 20th Infantry arrived in Omaha at 3:00 A.M. with a small detachment of troops to defend the jail. The next day, Major General Leonard Wood arrived with an additional 16,000 soldiers and imposed martial law. Will Brown was buried October 1, 1919, in Omaha’s potters field. The infantry is deployed to Omaha in order to calm down the riots. End

  22. Elaine Race Riot – Introduction The Elaine Race Riot, also known as the Elaine Massacre, occurred on October 1, 1919. The unrest began when African-American sharecroppers in Arkansas disputed the price they were being paid at harvest. The sharecroppers asserted that the white planters had not paid the prices originally promised. These African-American farmers wanted to join the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. They also considered filing a lawsuit against their white landlords. Union representatives requested armed guards at the meeting, so a sheriff’s deputy and a railroad detective were present. An exaggerated newspaper headline in 1919 End

  23. Elaine Race Riot – Part Two • When rioters wounded the deputy sheriff and killed the railroad detective, local church leaders called for an immediate investigation. White-owned newspapers insisted that this clash was the prelude to an African-American insurrection. Incited by these sensational accounts, more whites rushed to Elaine and began murdering African Americans. • Arkansas Governor Hillman Brough requested five hundred troops from the United States War Department to put down the “negro uprising.” At Hoop Spur Church these soldiers exchanged gunfire with African-American farmers. After days of fighting, the United States troops had arrested two hundred eighty-five African Americans; a large but unknown number of African Americans had been killed or wounded. End

  24. Elaine Race Riot – Part Three The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) launched an investigation into the Elaine Race Riot and sent NAACP Field Secretary Walter F. White to Elaine. Ethnically mixed, White appeared to be a white person; and the Chicago Daily News provided him with a reporter’s credentials. He interviewed Governor Brough, as well as both white and African-American citizens. White concluded that up to one hundred African Americans had been killed. His results were published in magazines nationwide, including the Chicago Defender and the NAACP magazine, Crisis. Governor Brough attempted to ban the United States Post Office from delivering these publications. Eventually, White was identified as an African American, and had to escape to Little Rock, Arkansas, to avoid attack. NAACP Field Secretary Walter F. White End

  25. Elaine Race Riot – Part Four • By November of 1919, one hundred twenty-two African Americans were indicted on seventy-three counts of murder in addition to insurrection and conspiracy charges. African Americans who agreed to testify against other African Americans were acquitted. Police forced confessions by torture such as whipping and electric shocks. • Armed whites stood watch inside the court room. Most trials lasted less than an hour, and all-white juries often delivered verdicts within ten minutes. Sixty-seven men received jail terms of up to twenty-one years, and twelve were condemned to die in the electric chair. • The Arkansas Gazette praised the judicial process because no African Americans were lynched. End

  26. Elaine Race Riot – Part Five The NAACP raised 50,000 dollars for appeals and hired African-American attorney Scipio Africanus Jones and former Arkansas Attorney General Colonel George W. Murphy to present them. Jones and Murphy managed to reverse the death sentences in six of twelve cases, due to the technicality that the juries did not state during the trial whether the defendants were being charged with first or second-degree murder. These cases were returned to the court for retrial. The other six death sentences were upheld. The ruling on these cases stated that the mob atmosphere of the trial did not prohibit due process. African-American attorney Scipio Africanus Jones End

  27. Elaine Race Riot – Conclusion • The state of Arkansas admitted that torture and intimidation had been used to force confessions but claimed that this was not cause for a denial of due process. The United States Supreme Court eventually disagreed. The court ruled in Moore v. Dempsey that torture and a mob-influenced atmosphere constituted a denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court ordered new trials, and the African Americans received twelve-year jail sentences. • Attorney George Ross wrote to Governor Thomas McRae during the last few weeks of his gubernatorial term and begged him to release the other defendants if they pled guilty. The newly elected governor, Thomas Jefferson Terral, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; and the NAACP feared he would fight for more harsh sentences. • Governor McRae contacted Scipio Jones and arranged for the African-American prisoners to be released under the cover of darkness. These prisoners were taken out of the state, and other African Americans convicted of lesser crimes were released. End

  28. Tulsa Race Riots End The Tulsa Race Riots began on May 31, 1921, when a young African American, Dick Rowland, was arrested following an altercation with a white, female elevator attendant. The Tulsa Tribune immediately published the story, “To Lynch Negro Tonight.” At the jail, a lynch mob confronted sheriff’s deputies and armed African Americans. Whites feared a “negro uprising,” and African Americans feared a massacre. When violence broke out, the larger white mob forced the African Americans back into the neighborhood known as “The Black Wall Street.” Homes were burned, and as many as three hundred people were killed, including African-American men, women, and children.

  29. Rosewood Massacre Rosewood was a small, predominately African-American town in central Florida. In January, 1923, a white woman, Fannie Taylor, claimed she had been sexually assaulted by an African-American man. Many African-American residents believed her assailant to be a white man with whom Taylor was having affair . A lynch mob formed and went in search of an African American, Jesse Hunter, who had escaped a chain gang. Members of the mob believed Rosewood residents were protecting Hunter. Whites marched into Rosewood and burned the town to the ground. Many residents were killed, but a large number of women and children managed to escape on a train to Gainesville, Florida. In 1994, seventy-one years after the massacre, the Florida legislature passed the Rosewood Compensation Bill. This awarded the survivors and their descendants 2.1 million dollars in compensation and established a scholarship fund for the descendants of the Rosewood Massacre victims. the burning of the Rosewood community End

  30. Race Riots in Context What conclusions can be drawn from the race riots during and after the Red Summer? During the initial riots, African Americans appeared unprepared to defend their communities from attack; and civil authorities moved very slowly to stop the violence. By the time of the Omaha and Tulsa riots, African Americans had begun arming and organizing to protect themselves and their communities. This was a dangerous tactic, however, as it fueled white perceptions of a “negro uprising.” White mayors and governors often used such armed resistance as a pretext to call for federal troops to be used against the African Americans. These race riots also provided the NAACP a national stage to argue against torture, coerced confessions, and lynching. This began a decades-long process of the NAACP lobbying senators and congressmen to pass a federal anti-lynching law. End