The difference between race riots from 1917 to 1919
As a passageway in to the decade that would be known as the ” The Roaring Twenties “, the years between 1917 and 1922 was one an minor doorways in time, known not so much for what occurred as what would come. Stuck between one decade battered by war, deprivation and another decade consumed with material and illusions of greatness, the United States was a country in the midst of monumental change. Amid the societal and economic chances, the arts and sciences flourished, ushering in jazz and giving way to some century’s most influential works of literature.
However, a review of newspaper headlines at the time reveals a country that had grown disgusted with the victory and bitter with peace. Inflation was raging, the national debt had grown and maimed veterans, and impoverished war widows were everywhere. The people’s sacrifices during the war seemed to generates none of the benefits that the wartime politician has had promised. But unrivaled economically, America would enter the third decade of the 20th century, vowing to remain uninvolved in foreign entanglements, turning inward, conservative and hostile to unions, Socialist and every children. However, it was the ” white man burden ” the African-American that faced persecution for jobs, equalization, decent living quarters and ” and the pursuit ” of happiness “. However, it was the summer riots for these ” unalienable rights ” that uprooted the United States. What makes a riot in a city unique? Could it jobs, the area of the country or just fear? That is the purpose of this paper.
Urban race riots were not new to the United States. Melinda Meek Hennessey cites thirty-three major riots, episodes in which more than a single life was lost, as occurred during Reconstruction. In addition, while whites initiated many of these riots, African-Americans remained inactive to violence. Hennnessy writes, ” blacks fought back at least initially, and usually until they were overwhelmed by superior white numbers and firepower.” The beginning of the 20th century, there were riots in New York, and again African- American did not response violently. However, for the first time, African-American organized a large, eloquent protest from the black community. This organization, published a book, ” Story of the Riot “which a true view how African- American were treated. The group has a hearing but lawyers could not ask questions of the witness perhaps the first use of institutional racism.
The New York Times Index for the period between 1917 and 1921 shows 17 different events that might be classified race riots. There were riots in 1917 in Chester and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and in Houston, Texas. However, a great riot of historical importance occurred in East St. Louis.
Between 1910 and 1917, the african american population of East St. Louis increased from 6,000 to 13,000. African american began seeking jobs meeting white resistance. Friction from owners who had slaves -master mentality, and pay their wages lower to blacks because management feel that blacks would be more loyal. Friction from whites who had moved from the south. Friction from whites who were not hired. The results turned against black workers and not against the company. The leading example of this is the Aluminum Ore Company who bought in blacks from the south as strikebreakers. This would lead to one of the reasons for the riot.
One reason for the riot was the growth of blacks in the city. The white population considered blacks to be a southern problem . St. Louis was not exception. It had been ” assume perhaps that, adapt to a subordinate and segregated position, interacting with whites only on the basic of an accommodative system defined and operated by whites. Blacks, therefore, were expected to confirm to the system of segregation inside and outside the factories where there separate facilitates for blacks and whites .” This did not happen in St Louis, perhaps for the first time management seemed either to employ blacks in preference to whites or to provide an atmosphere of fair opportunity. That the purpose of the move by management was to maximize profits ,was hardly recognized by white workers: thus, they thought that to remove blacks from the labor market as viable competitors would solve their problems.
In May, white citizens filled a two formal protest against African Americans citizens and Aluminum Ore Company. The charge against African- Americans was for migrated to the city. There were objections against the company, but black people took all the blame. These angry white racist’s has attacked blacks at will. Their mission was to intimidation all black citizens to leave the city. For the first time in a larger scale, Africans-Americans began to fight back. However, most of the victims were black.
After signing the Treaty of Versailly, President Wilson returned to the United States. The country that summer was frightened with fear of labor-radical-Bolshevik-IWW-anarchist-Socialist revolution . In addition was the growth of residential segregation after the World War bought greater discrimination and segregation in many northern communities that has ever had them. In cities like Chicago, earlier blacks blamed the mass of Southern newcomers, with their awkward and unrefined ways, for the more intense prejudice that all blacks faced. .
James Weldon Johnson, a black writer and NAACP official coined the summer of 1919 ” the Red summer.” These attacks against blacks began Charleston, South Carolina. What started as a disturbance between white sailors and blacks extended when white sailors charged into the black district. Two Blacks died and several white sailors were hurt before the violence ended. By the middle of the summer, Chicago 5000 public employees decided to strike. During intense labor dispute, a young black boy swims across an imaginary color line. Whites stoned him to death as a police officer just looks on. Black mobbed the police officer, and the worst riots of the summer.
Crowds of armed whites roamed the black section of Chicago on foot and cars, firing upon blacks recklessly. Blacks strike back, killing all the whites that firing a machine from a truck that as driving through the neighborhood Whites attacked blacks and blacks return the attack whites. The riots in the city lasts for five days. By the time it ended, more than 500 were injured and 38 people were dead. Everyone had notice that blacks had fought back Chicago and East St. Louis riots were much different because most of the victims were black. However, in the Chicago riots blacks were more violent. It was the first the closest thing to a race war that everyone could remember.
Other race riots that summer was in the nation capital. The Washington Post had run untrue stories the full summer of white women being attacked by black men. After this report, white solders and marines began to attack blacks men and women. During the riots, this “newspapers ” publish battle plans and meeting places. Like in any riot city, the police were ineffective to control the crowd. After the riot, the truth comes out. This newspaper admits the assault that been reported and that had started the whole mess had been verbal.
The Chicago Defender reported that ” youngest generation of black men are not content to move along the line of least resistance as their sires. George Hayes, a black economist, and director of Negro economics in the United States Department of Labor traced the ” shuffling off the coil of servility ” to the war and the migration of blacks out of the South. For the first time, Haynes said, blacks really understood what liberty meant and the United States was face to face with the new Negro.
The one fact that stands out in each of these riots is the initial violence came from whites. In addition, while there was no unanimous plan, some elements of white society were deeply unset by the changes taking place in the conditions of black people. Many wanted to see blacks remain servitude, perhaps a new form of slavery. The riots serve the same duty as lynching and terror tactics, for years the means of upholding the social class system. The only change is that the disorders from lynching is the fact that, to a greater degree than before, blacks responded by fighting back.
The new migration bought blacks to the North. In addition, when they arrive found more freedom than they had ever known. This would lead to aggressive black leaders. Whatever the inequities in the North, the South was twice as worse.
These riots presented a serious problem for the local, state, and federal government because federal troops were required to stop the riots in Washington. In the fourth instance, the Charleston riots. Marines from the local navel base was used to asset the police. The Chicago riot had state troops or national guardsmen to restore order. As the list of rioting grew worse, it become clearer that the local police could not keep up with this type of trouble and federal force was often required.
The right for African Americans to pursuit their dreams of happiness did not come easy. The hard work came from every color and religion. This work for equality began slowly opening an unknown amount of people also disagreed with the discrimination, but these people could not speak out. They fear for their jobs, their homes and mostly for their lives.
Rudyard Kipling , The White Burden, McClure ’s Magazine ( Feb. 1899)
Herbert Spapiro, White Violence and Black Response from Reconstruction to Montgomery, University of Massachusetts Press Amherst 1988
L. Alex Swan, The Politics of Riot Behavior, University Press of America 1980
Neal Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon, The United States 1877 to 1919, W.W. Norton & Company 1989
August Meier, From Plantation to Ghetto: an interpretive history of American Negroes, New York, Hill and Wang, 1966
William M. Tuttle, Race Riots: Chicago in the red summer of 1919, New York, Athenaeum, 1970
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