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Early Twentieth Century Race Riots


Title: Early 20th Century Race Riots Author: swallace Last modified by: cbradshaw Created Date: 6/19/2008 12:46:25 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Early Twentieth Century Race Riots

Early Twentieth Century Race Riots
The Red Summer
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
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 wars 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
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
  • 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
Charleston Longview Race 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
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.

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
  • 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.

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
    Chicagos 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
  • Economic and cultural forces combined to push
    African Americans back into the Southsides
    Black Belt.

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
  • 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.

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
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
  • 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
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

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
  • 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.

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 buildings first
    floor. Police officers began firing their guns
    down the elevator shafts to disperse the rioters.

Omaha Race Riot Part Three
  • Omahas 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.

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 800 P.M. the mob had set the court house on
    fire. Rioters began looting stores, and over
    one thousand firearms were reported stolen that
  • 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.

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.

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 coroners office
    to explode, adding poisonous fumes to the smoke.

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

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 Browns 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 Browns corpse,
    then set it on fire. The charred body was again
    paraded through the streets for several more
  • Rioters and bystanders snapped dozens of
    photographs to commemorate the event.

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 300 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
  • Will Brown was buried October 1, 1919, in Omahas
    potters field.

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 sheriffs deputy and a railroad
    detective were present.

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.

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 reporters 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
  • Eventually, White was identified as an African
    American, and had to escape to Little Rock,
    Arkansas, to avoid attack.

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.

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.

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

Tulsa Race Riots
  • 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
  • At the jail, a lynch mob confronted sheriffs
    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.

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

the burning of the Rosewood community
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.

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