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Wells-Barnett, Mrs. Ida B. The East St. Louis Massacre: The Greatest Outrage of the Century . Chicago: The Negro Fellowship Herald Press, 1917. [format: book], [genre: report; narrative]. Permission: Public domain
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Chapter IV.

Such is the present state of unrest at this writing. No one has any feeling of certainty that anything will be done, either to punish the rioters or to make the lives and property of Negroes more secure permanently. For this reason, on our second return, at the meeting held at Quinn Chapel, Tuesday evening, July 14th, the following resolution was passed, accompanied by a memorial to the federal government:


We, the undersigned Citizens Committee, chosen at the Mass Meetings held under the auspices of the Negro Fellowship League and Bethel A. M. E. Church and directed to confer with Governor Lowden over the situation caused by the riot at East St. Louis and to continue the investigation previously begun, beg leave to make the following report:

Your Committee arrived in Springfield July 10th, the morning following the Mass Meeting at Bethel Church, and by appointment met Governor Lowden in the Capitol Building where our conference was held at eleven o'clock. There were present also Adj. Gen. Dickson who participated in the conference, also Col. John R. Marshall who had spent some time in East St. Louis soon after the riot.

The express purpose of the committee was:

First, to call the attention of the Governor to the fact that thousands of citizens of East St. Louis were exiled from their homes and were the beneficiaries of charity in St. Louis, Missouri, and to request that some provision be made by the Illinois authorities for their protection and maintenance. Governor Lowden took prompt action upon this matter. In our presence he called up the Red Cross officials at East St. Louis and directed that immediate attention be given to this situation and then assured the committee that the city of St. Louis would not be required further to take care of citizens of Illinois.

Second, to call to the attention of the Governor the manifest inefficiency and indifference of the Illinois militia during the time of the mob — the possible connivance of members of the militia with the mob and to request that investigation be made of the work done by the militia to the end that a court martial be ordered if justified by the facts.

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Upon these serious charges which the committee supported by newspaper reports and experiences related to members of the committee by victims of the mob the conference was frank and earnest; both sides desiring to determine upon the best way to fix responsibility upon all who aided and abetted the mob. So far as the militia was concerned the Governor gave his assurance that the charges would be fully investigated and if proper, a court martial would be ordered. Since the conference a court martial has been ordered, although we regret that no member of the Eight Regiment was named thereon.

Third, to demand for the victims of East St. Louis, many of them refugees from home and work, the full protection of the law in the enjoyment of their lives, the protection of their property and the right to earn their living by honest toil. To the justice of this demand Governor Lowden gave his hearty assent and declared that all citizens of Illinois should have the fullest protection of the law if it required the exercise of all the power of the State. But your committee from the investigation believes that the same bitter vindictive spirit which manifests itself in the awful deeds of July 3rd still exists in a dangerous degree in East St. Louis today and that no earnest and effective measures will be taken by public officials to curb that spirit or prosecute known murderers who took part in the mob. Our belief is that security for life and property will come only through action of Federal authority by Congressional investigation and a Federal Grand Jury at East St. Louis. Believing this, your committee has prepared a Memorial which we respectfully submit for your consideration.

W. D. COOK, D.D., Chairman.



The undersigned, a Citizens Committee, chosen at three Mass Meetings held by Chicago Colored Citizens interested in the protection of life and property of colored citizens of the State of Illinois, beg leave to submit this Memorial, praying for action on the part of the Federal Government in our behalf.

We plead for thousands of Colored Citizens of East St. Louis, who for more than six weeks prior to July 3rd last not only lived in immediate danger of mob violence, destruction of property and lynching, but later — many of them became the victims of the most deliberate, wanton and barbarous massacre that has blotted the pages of American history. It was a very orgy of inhuman butchery during which more than fifty colored men, women and children were beaten with bludgeons, stoned, shot, drowned, hanged or burned to death — all without any effective interference on the part of the police, sheriff or military authorities.

The riot was no sudden outburst of passion. It was a combination of a publicly declared determination on the part of white laborers to drive colored laborers from work or kill them. There was no provocation by acts of lawless blacks, no drunkenness on the part of the whites — nothing but the deadly vindictiveness of labor trouble accentuated by hatred toward the Negro.

The dangerous situation was well known to the Mayor and chief of police of East St. Louis; to the sheriff of St. Claire County, and on two separate occasions the impending danger was called to the attention of the Governor of the State. A brief outburst of fury on the 28th day of May was quelled, but the fires of race hatred smoldered and grew in intensity until July 3rd when mob frenzy sated itself by the burning of hundreds of humble homes and the unspeakable butchery of scores of victims whose only offense was their effort to earn their bread by honest toil. White men, white women and white children made the mob — laughing, jesting and gloating as they beat, tortured and burned their pleading victims to death.

An eye witness, Mr. Carlos F. Hurd of St. Louis, Mo., wrote and published a part of what he saw in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch; an excerpt from

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which account is appended hereto.

The victims of the mob in whose behalf Chicago Colored Citizens plead and for whom all humane people must plead — were citizens of the United States. Because Germany put to death American citizens upon the high seas — fewer in number than the mob killed in East St. Louis — the Nation entered into a world war that will cost billions of treasure and perhaps a million lives. Shall not the Stars and Stripes protect American citizens at home as well as upon the high seas?

We appeal through Congress to the Nation. The indifference and inefficiency of City, County and military authorities and their apparent connivance with the mob which made this awful tragedy possible, forbid our reliance upon our local authorities for security of life and property. One hundred and twenty-seven members of the mob, arrested while rioting, when brought into court were discharged, the State's Attorney publicly declaring there could be no successful prosecution. Justice can be meted out to the guilty and protection for the innocent can come only through a Federal Grand Jury impaneled by a Judge who knows his duty and dares to do it.

As American Citizens our lives are subject to the Nation's call, and at no call have we faltered or failed. As American Citizens we call to the Nation to save our lives; to that call will the Nation falter or fail?

In memory of the slaughtered dead and their bereaved ones — in behalf of the thousands made homeless and penniless by fire, and for the security of life and property — to exiled thousands of East St. Louis citizens we plead for Congressional investigation and appropriate action on the part of the Federal Government, and we bespeak for this Memorial the earnest consideration of the Congress of the United States.

This memorial was sent to Senators Lawrence Y. Sherman and James Hamilton Lewis, also to Congressman Martin B. Madden. As a result of which steps have already been taken to have the Department of Justice act.

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Wells-Barnett, Mrs. Ida B. The East St. Louis Massacre: The Greatest Outrage of the Century . Chicago: The Negro Fellowship Herald Press, 1917. [format: book], [genre: report; narrative]. Permission: Public domain
Persistent link to this document:
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