Subversive Historian – 07/02/09

The East St. Louis Riots

Back in the day on July 2nd, 1917 racist violence against African-Americans erupted in East St. Louis. Tensions had been growing in the months leading up to the one of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history. On July 2nd, racist violence reached its cruelest crescendo as wanton rioting broke out after two white detectives were shot and killed the day before. White mobs assembled and marched into East St. Louis, burning black homes while beating and killing any African-Americans they could encounter. Interviews with eyewitnesses conducted by Ida B. Wells reveal horrific details of the racial massacre as she noted the violence effectively made black skin a death warrant. Wells reported that between 40 and 150 African-Americans had been killed with thousands more fleeing their homes.

The National Guard of Illinois and the police of East St. Louis stood by complacently as the carnage raged on proved that deadly race riots were not the sole providence of the South.


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