Heartland Pogrom, Part 3

As the sun began to sink in the sky on July 2, 1917, scores of African-Americans realized that their only choice might be to leave East St. Louis.

They streamed over the Municipal Bridge, the Eads Bridge, and along the roads headed out of town. Some, like the Kennedy family, took to the water, fashioning a quick raft out of the wreckage of downtown buildings.

African-American residents fleeing East St. Louis, July 2, 1917.

Samuel Kennedy, a seven year old boy, recalled floating across the river on such a raft, looking back at the wall of smoke and fire on the eastern shore. His hometown was engulfed in smoke and flames.

They had become refugees in their own land.

Late in the evening of July 2nd, the Illinois National Guard finally received orders to round up rioters and clear the streets. When another raging mob attempted to hang a black man at 4th and Broadway, the guardsmen arrested the men and marched them to City Hall to be detained.

This show of authority quickly dispersed the mobs. Peace once again began to creep over the streets of East St. Louis.

This show of force, however, was much too little and much too late. By the evening of July 2nd, scores of black East St. Louisans had been killed. Even more had fled the city, some never to return.

As July 3rd was on its way, the world was about to learn about the violence in East St. Louis. The reaction that began on that day echoes down to us today.

(Author’s note: a version of this story appeared on the Facebook page of the St. Clair County Historical Society, http://www.facebook.com/stcchs)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s