Thursday, July 13, 2017

Whites Kill Blacks, Burn 310 Homes, Because Negroes Might Cross Future Picket Lines, 1917

“Fear Another Outbreak in East St. Louis Tonight,” from the Hickory Daily Record, July 3, 1917

Estimates of Number of Dead Range From Score to 250—Many Blocks Burned in Fire That Raged During Night—Saloons Still closed Today

By the Associated Press

Fires which were started by rioters in three negro quarters at noon were fanned rapidly by wind, getting beyond control of the firemen.

Although surface indications were that the orgy of butchery and incendiarism which cost many lives here last night and laid whole blocks in ruins had spent its force, Adjutant General Frank S. Dixon of Illinois asserted today he feared that there might be more trouble tonight and discussed with the mayor arrangements to prevent rioting. The adjutant general explained that he feared the 1,500 national guardsmen now here would not be able to preserve order.

Estimates of the number of dead varied widely from a score to 250. At 9:30 o’clock this morning 25 bodies had been recovered, including three whites. Thirty-four wounded negroes were found. Estimates of the number of bodies in the debris of burned negro residences ranged as high as 250.
The city was quiet this morning. Saloons were still closed. Sleepy eyed guards and firemen were still at work. Other sections of the city appeared normal.

The number of dead could only be estimated at noon. Twenty-four bodies, including those of three whites, were at the morgues, and 75 others were known to have received treatment. Fire chiefs inspected the burned area and reported at 310 houses, mostly shacks, were destroyed.

Fires were still smouldering at noon today.

Shops opened as usual, but there was practically no business. The fire area covered 16 ½ blocks. It was in these ruins that the deathlist was expected to be swelled.

Three cases of smallpox developed over night among negroes quartered on the third floor of the city hall, it was reported.

Dr. Barnidge of Kansas City, representative of the Red Cross, arrived today to direct relief work among negroes whose homes had been burned. He was without food for the suffering. A large automobile truck toured the city under his direction removing wounded negroes to the hospitals. Negroes huddled together in the corners.

Five hundred of them, men, women and children, spent the night in jail. Two men were asleep in a bathtub when the sun rose. Another slept in a garbage can.

Bits of clothing were taken from dead negroes were shown today by souvenir hunters. One brutal incident of the night was related today. On Broad Street three men saw a negro lying on the street apparently dead. Finding that he was still alive, the men shot him.

The clashes Saturday night gave negroes a chance to organize for fighting. When word was telephoned to police headquarters that the ringing of a church bell had called the armed negroes together, an automobile loaded with police left for the scene. The officers were greeted with a volley. Detective Sergeant Soppedge was killed and three policemen were wounded. One detective, Frank Wodley, is in a critical condition. He was shot in the stomach. The police chauffeur also was wounded. Jay Long, a white man, was wounded in an earlier attack. Police reinforcements early this morning dispersed the mob of negroes and shortly after 3 a.m. Mayor Mollman asked Governor Lowden to send national guards men here to preserve order.

Two companies of the guard arrived about 9:30 and were assigned to duty in the negro quarter. Up to that hour the streets were quiet. As the morning wore on crowds began to congregate in the streets.

Trouble Begins

The first trouble occurred when a negro appeared at Broadway and Collinsville avenue, one of the busiest corners in the city, and an important street car transfer point. A white man struck the negro in the face and others in the crowd knocked him down and kicked him. As he lay in the street, a white man coolly approached and fired at him five times. Two of the shots took effect, one in the arm and one in the leg. As the crowd thinking the negro was dead, fell back, he jumped up and ran. The negro said he had had no part in previous race troubles.

A little later, a white man standing in front of the Illmo hotel fired at a negro but missed him and wounded a white man in the groin. The police arrested the man who fired the shot, but the threatening mob forced the officers to release him.

One of the national guard companies then was ordered from the negro quarter to the business section, but the arrival of the troops seemed to arouse the mobs to further aggression.

At 1:30 o’clock the rioting grew more serious. A car was stopped, the trolley pulled from the wire and a mob of white men invaded the coach looking for negroes. One was taken off and shot. He died in an ambulance. While this disturbance was raging, another car appeared. White women and white girls boarded it and seizing shrieking negro women, dragged them into the streets, where they were pounded and kicked.

Crowd Cheers

A few minutes later as a crowd was attacking negroes, one black was shot in the head. The crowd cheered as a policeman put him in an ambulance. National guardmen witnessed this scene but did nothing to disperse the mob.

One negro man, who was taken from the car which women rioters first invaded, was beaten in the head with a heavy club. He died in an ambulance.

Some of the men in the mob began to fire. William Keyser, a hardware merchant, was killed by a stray bullet.

One negro was shot and killed as he was waiting for a train to take him out of town.

About 5 o’clock a mob raided a pawn shop and carried away rifles and revolvers.

The race troubles here began late in May as a result of the heavy influx of negro labor. Labor leaders then expressed a fear that the negro labor was being imported to break anticipated strikes during the summer.

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