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How Successful Black Communities Were Bu ...

How Successful Black Communities Were Burnt Down By Whites In U.S Through Riots

Aug 17, 2021

The story and journey of the Black people in America’s history can never be told with a joyful face. There is always sorrow and sadness in the mix. The treatment of Black people in America after slavery can be said to be just as gruesome as the atrocities of slavery.

After slavery, Black people started to organize themselves into productive and prosperous communities. They built schools, owned businesses and even had a middle and sometimes upper class. This was a problem, as their white neighbors who were once masters of black slaves, found themselves in a competition of dominance with their former slaves.

This caused great resentment and envy among the white people, and oftentimes, this resentment led to confrontations and violence against the black community. Below are some of the successful Black communities that were burnt down and destroyed by White people

Atlanta Race Riot of 1906

After the American civil war had been fought and ended, former African enslaved people began venturing into politics, setting up their own business and getting recognition as a social class. This led to increased tensions between Black wage-workers and the white elites.

These tensions led to hate and ill-feelings from the whites, as the Blacks acquired more civil rights. This included the right to vote. It was hard for racist Americans who had killed and subjugated blacks for hundreds of years to accept that the blacks would have equal rights as they do. It seemed like their ‘world of hate’ was crashing on them.

In 1906, the gubernatorial election between M. Hoke Smith and Clark Howell brought the existing tensions to a boiling point. Both candidates were competing for Democratic nominations and were searching for ways to deprive African-America voters of voting.

Both men felt that the population of black voters could throw the election to the other candidate. Both men were influential in the press, and they used their positions in the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution respectively to incite white voters against Black people. They spread the fear that if whites allowed Blacks to vote, they may not be able to sustain the current social order which subjugated blacks.

To further reinforce the tensions, papers such as the Atlanta Georgian and Atlanta News started to publish stories on how white women were raped and molested by Black men. These allegations which were solely lies were reported multiple times by white people.

Atlanta Newspaper, on September 22, 1906, reported four alleged assaults on local white women. This caused outraged amongst the white people, and soon about 10,000 while men and boys gathered. They went into town beating, stabbing and killing Blacks. The estimated number of Blacks who died from that onslaught was around 40, but personal accounts by blacks put it at way above that number. In self-defense, only two white people were killed.

Greenwood , Tulsa, Oklahoma “Black Wall Street” (May 31 – June 1, 1921)

During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as “the Black Wall Street.” The area was home to several lawyers, realtors, doctors, and prominent black Businessmen, many of them multimillionaires.

Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses such as grocery stores, clothing stores, barbershops, banks, hotels, cafes, movie theaters, two newspapers, and many contemporary homes. Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their white neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system. The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community.

The neighborhood was destroyed during a riot that broke out after a group men from Greenwood attempted to protect a young Black man from a lynch mob. On the night of May 31, 1921, a  mob called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after reports spread that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a white woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building.

In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Black Tulsa was looted, firebombed from the air and burned down by white rioters. The governor declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, removed abducted African-Americans from the hands of white vigilantes, and imprisoned all Black Tulsans, not already confined, into a prison camp at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for as long as eight days.

In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins, over 800 people were treated for injuries and estimated 300 deaths occurred.

Chicago Race Riots:

During World War I, a great number of Blacks migrated from the rural South to the cities of the North. This caused great tensions, and the tensions reached its peak in the “Red Summer” of 1919. The tensions led to violent racial abuse of Black people, which were also called riots, to remove the heinous nature and intents of the events.

During the war, the city’s railway companies, meatpacking houses and steel mills needed people to work in them. And since a good number of the white folks had gone to fight, the black people who moved down from the South occupied the job positions. The population of black people in Chicago rose from 44,000 in 1910 to 235,000 at about 1930. After the war ended in 1918, thousands of white servicemen came home to find their positions at their jobs occupied by the blacks.

These caused more tensions in the city. And on 27 July 1919, a young African-American boy was stoned and drowned by white youths in Lake Michigan. His offense was challenging the unofficial segregation of the beaches in Chicago.

After his death, the police refused to make arrests of those who killed him. That caused one week of race rioting between white and blacks in Chicago. But as usual Black neighbourhoods were badly hit, since they had no law to protect them.

On the 13th of August, after the riots, 15 whites and 23 Blacks had died, with over 500 people injured. Among the damages done to the Black community was the loss of over 1,000 homes, that were burnt down by white rioters. Even the then-President Wilson blamed the white people for the riots calling them the “aggressor” in the riots and uprising.

The Rosewood Massacre of 1923

Rosewood was a calm and progressive self-sufficient town in Florida. Just like some other African-American neighborhoods at the time in America. The population of Rosewood was mainly Blacks, with their people farming, worked for local businesses, which included a sawmill in a nearby town of Sumner, which was mainly a white town.

By 1920, the Black community of Rosewood boasted of a baseball team, a large Masonic Hall, a school, three churches, a turpentine mill, a sugarcane mill, and two general stores. One of the stores was owned by blacks while the other was owned by whites. The Rosewood community had a couple of homes, which ranged from two dozen plank two-story homes to other small houses.

Trouble came knocking when the white people falsely accused a black man of beating and raping a white woman in Sumner. White men matched out from other nearby towns and lynched a Black resident of Rosewood. The Black residents, been surrounded by a white mob, chose to defend themselves.

Several hundreds of white people attacked the black community and burnt down almost all the structures, businesses, and homes in Rosewood. Those who survived the onslaught hid in the nearby swamps for many days, before being evacuated by train and cars to other bigger towns. It was recorded that six black people were killed. The authorities and law enforcement knew about the violence, but no arrests were made. The Blacks left and never returned.

Washington DC race Riots

Washington DC, after the war, with about 75% white population was a very racial sensitive place to live in. There were low accommodation and jobs. But even with the tight economic situation, the black community thrived. Their community was then the largest and most prosperous in America at the time.

They had a remarkable upper class which consisted of ministers, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen, all living and working around the LeDroit Park neighborhood, near Howard University.

By the “Red Summer” the progress of the Black community brought so much envy from the unemployed white folk. The whites were not happy with the influx of Black people into neighborhoods that were previously segregated. Such neighborhoods were Capitol Hill, Foggy Bottom, and the old downtown.

As usual, a false report of a black man raping a white woman was spread, and in July of 1919, a large group of white men in military uniforms attacked the Black community and for four days there was violence in the town. The riot was intense and the white mob randomly beat black people and pulled them off streetcars. The riots and molesting of black people continued without police intervention, and so the Blacks decided to retaliate and defend themselves.

American troops had to move in to restore the peace – they did that by closing stores and theaters to discourage gatherings. After the violence ended, 10 whites and 5 Blacks died, including two police officers. Around 150 people were injured. It was recorded that this was the first time the white casualties outnumbered the blacks.

Knoxville, Tennessee Race Riots of 1919

Just like others before it, the Knoxville riot was inspired by another rumor that a Black man murdered a white woman. A mob of about 5000 men stormed the county jail where the Black man was supposedly held. In the process. they released 16 white prisoners, with some of them being suspected murderers.

After the white mob looted the jail and the sheriff’s home, they attacked the businesses belonging to black people in the area.

The other race riots across America that summer had made the Black residents prepared. They armed themselves and put a barricade at the intersection of Vine and central to protect their community and businesses.

The chaos was out of hand, and two platoons from the Tennessee National Guard 4th Infantry tried to stop it, but it was not possible. The white mob could not be contained – they broke into gun stores and stole firearms, with which they marched towards the Black business area. When they arrived, they opened fire on the Black people, while the Black people returned fire in defense.

The gunshots also hit the Tennessee National Guards. The national Guards then pointed two machine guns and shot without caution into the neighborhood, and dispersed the rioters. Gunfire continued for a few more hours. Out-gunned by the white mob and National guard, the Black people who defended their businesses retreated.

After the entire incident, eyewitnesses said that a great number of dead people were buried in mass graves, and others dumped in the Tennessee River. But the Newspaper lied and said that only two people had died.

The New York City Draft Riot of 1863

This was a four-day violent riot that happened during the civil war. It was caused because workers were not happy with the first federally mandated conscription laws.

The movement of the emancipated Black people from the deep South caused a swell in a number of people who were willing to the jobs of striking white people. Most of the black people were used as strike-breakers during that period.

This led to fears and hate from the white people, eventually resulted in the white mob turning their rage on black people. They were envious of black business, homes, and their growing political, social and economic power.

This led to an organized opposition protest on the 31st of July, 1863, all across New York. The protest went out of controlled and the white mob attacked the city’s elites and the Black residents.

The riot lasted for four days and was stopped by the police with the help of the 7th New York Regiment. There were varying estimates of people who died in the riots. It was reported by historians that around 115 people lost their lives, including over 12 Black men, who were tortured and beaten to death.

The rioters burnt down hundreds of buildings that were worth millions of dollars. Another 50 buildings belonging to black people were burnt to the ground, including the Colored Orphan Asylum, where more than 230 Black children lived.

The East St Louis Massacre of 1917

There was a great influx of Black people into St. Louis in the spring of 1917. Every week, an average of 2000 Blacks came in, and a good number was employed at the Aluminum Ore Company and also the American Steel Company which was in East St. Louis.

In May of that year, over 3,000 white men formed a mob and started to attack Black people and burn their buildings. The governor of Illinois got the National Guard to stop the rioting – this reduced the tensions for a few weeks.

White men, driving a car through a Black neighborhood, on July 1, opened fire into houses, stores, and a church. The Black people organized resistance to defend themselves, and in the process shot two police officers who were driving by in the same type of car.

The killing of the white detectives angered the white people and they formed a mob that spent two days hunting down black people and destroying their properties. The National Guard was sent in again, but this time, they joined the white mob in killing Black people.

There were various reports of the casualties by various news agencies and papers. But it estimated that over 200 Black people lost their lives, while 6,000 of the Black people of East St. Louis were left homeless after their houses were burnt.

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