On This Day: The East St. Louis Riot
Published by Allie Shay on July 2, 2012
On July 2, 1917—95 years ago today—East St. Louis, Illinois, erupted into bloody violence, as one of the worst race riots in U.S. history began.
Racial tension was already high in East St. Louis, which had attracted roughly 10,000 new African Americans in the past year. Established trade unions resented the newcomers as “unfair” competition, and a mob assaulted African Americans at the end of May, necessitating National Guard protection in the city. After a rumor spread that a black man had killed a white man, the city on July 2nd erupted into a full-scale riot characterized by drive-by shootings, beatings, and arson.
Military rule was eventually established—followed by hundreds of arrests—but not in time to save the many innocent African Americans who fell victim to the angry mob.