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Reply #131: List of Race Riots in the Jim Crow era [View All]

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Brewman_Jax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-04-08 12:35 PM
Response to Reply #48
131. List of Race Riots in the Jim Crow era
The violent, racial confrontations in which mobs of whites and blacks battled each other in U.S. towns and cities during the Jim Crow era were triggered by some of the same forces driving legalized segregation, disfranchisement, and the lynching of thousands of African Americans. These explosions of urban violence against blacks differed in several ways from the individual lynchings and systematic terror practiced by organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, in the 1870s. For one thing, the urban explosions were directed less at individuals and more at entire black communities. They also reflected more the anxieties felt by lower-class whites, who feared competition with blacks for housing, employment, and social status as African-American newcomers began moving into urban settings following the Civil War. Also, although whites--who felt enraged by some real or imaginary actions by blacks--always started these riots, black victims increasingly defended themselves as best they could. Clearly, the race riots also were backlashes by white Americans who reacted with contempt and rage to black Americans cries for equality, justice, and decency.

The race riots generally followed historical events. The first wave occured after Reconstruction. Some of the more serious outbreaks occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana (1866), (1868), (1874), Memphis, Tennessee (1866), Meridian, Mississippi (1870), Vicksburg,Mississippi (1874), and Yazoo City, Mississippi (1875).

The second wave occured after the Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court decision and legalized segregation and disenfranchisement. The most serious riots happened in Lake City, North Carolina (1898); Wilmington, North Carolina (1898); Greenwood County, South Carolina (1898); New Orleans, Louisiana (1900); New York City, New York (1900); Springfield, Ohio (1904); Atlanta, Georgia (1906); Greenburg, Indiana (1906); Brownsville, Texas (1906); and Springfield, Illinois (1908).

The third wave occured during and after World War I with demands from angry black people for justice along with the return of black veterans in no mood to tolerate injustice after fighting "to make the world safe for democracy". The great urban migration from the south to the manufacturing centers of the north brought blacks into too close and uncomfortable contact with whites. Whites saw their social status threatened by the newcomers and "uppity" black veterans.

Between 1917 and 1921, an unprecedented outbreak of racial violence swept across the nation. Over 20 race riots broke out between April and October 1919 alone, a six-month period remembered as the "Red Summer." Among the most deadly outbreaks were those in East St. Louis, Illinois (1917); Chester, Pennsylvania (1917); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1917); Houston, Texas (1917); Washington, D.C. (1919); Chicago, Illinois (1919); Omaha, Nebraska (1919); Charleston, South Carolina (1919), Longview, Texas (1919); Knoxville, Tennessee (1919); Elaine, Arkansas (1919); and Tulsa, Oklahoma (1921).

After the 1921 Tulsa riot and except for the 1935 New York (Harlem) disturbances, no major racial riots occurred until the world war era of the 1940s. Many of the same domestic demographic and social changes affecting blacks and whites that had unfolded during 1919 accompanied World War II, but this time, on a larger scale. The competition between increasing numbers of working-class blacks and whites for housing and employment in urban areas again set the stage for racial conflict. Though the race riots during the World War II era race were far fewer (only three) than their World War I precursors, they no less violent. The 1943 Detroit riot, for example, resulted in the deaths of 25 African Americans and nine whites. The other two riots occurred in New York City (Harlem) and Columbia, Tennessee, in 1943. Eight years later, the last major race riot before the 1960s inner city explosions (which most historians view as rebellions rather than race riots) erupted in Cicero, Illinois (1951).

Although urban race riots in the United States between 1866-1951 were unique episodes rooted in the particular historic situation of each place, they shared certain characteristics. To begin with, the whites always prevailed, and the overwhelming majority of those who died and were wounded in all of these incidents were blacks. The few times when white casualties outnumbered black casualities were riots involving black soldiers (Brownsville, 1906; Houston, 1917). Riots also tended to break out in clusters during times of significant socio-economic, political, and demographic upheaval when racial demographics were altered and existing racial mores and boundaries challenged. Perhaps most importantly, the riots usually provoked defensive stances by members of the black communities who defended themselves and their families under attack. Seldom did the violence spill over into white neighborhoods. Finally, the riots greatly strengthened the resolve of blacks to challenge white supremacy legally, intellectually, and emotionally--producing greater efforts by organizations like the NAACP and leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois, as well as an outpouring of black cultural manifestations of defiance identified with the "New Negro Movement" of the Harlem Renaissance.

Addendum: It cannot be stressed enough that the reason for the race riots go back to the basic racist premise that black people are not really human and, thus, are not deserving of respect and decency, much less basic human and civil rights.
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