In the 1910s, half a million African Americans moved from the
impoverished rural South to booming industrial cities of the North in
search of jobs and freedom from Jim Crow laws. But Northern whites
responded with rage, attacking blacks in the streets and laying waste to
black neighborhoods in a horrific series of deadly race riots that
broke out in dozens of cities across the nation, including Philadelphia,
Chicago, Tulsa, Houston, and Washington, D.C. In East St. Louis,
Illinois, corrupt city officials and industrialists had openly courted
Southern blacks, luring them North to replace striking white laborers.
This tinderbox erupted on July 2, 1917 into what would become one of the
bloodiest American riots of the World War era. Its impact was enormous.
"There has never been a time when the riot was not alive in the oral
tradition," remarks Professor Eugene Redmond. Indeed, prominent blacks
like W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Josephine Baker were forever
influenced by it.
Celebrated St. Louis journalist Harper Barnes
has written the first full account of this dramatic turning point in
American history, decisively placing it in the continuum of racial
tensions flowing from Reconstruction and as a catalyst of civil rights
action in the decades to come. Drawing from accounts and sources never
before utilized, Harper Barnes has crafted a compelling and definitive
story that enshrines the riot as an historical rallying cry for all who
deplore racial violence.
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