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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: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=wells-stlouis.html


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Chapter V.

East St. Louis, after the mischief had been done, thro its Chamber of Commerce and committee of business men, took steps to bring back the thousands of Negro workmen who had been driven away by the brutalities described in these pages. Orders were given to let no more pass over the bridge and men had to get permits to go to their own homes or move their effects on Friday, the fourth day after the riot.

"All except five of the twelve thousands refugees on the Missouri side declined today to accept the invitation of the East St. Louis Chamber of Commerce to return to work in the packing and manufacturing plants."

The Chicago Herald, July 6th, 1917, had the following article from the pen of Jack Lait, its well known correspondent:

East St. Louis, Ill., July 6. Mrs. Ida Wells Barnett of Chicago, one of the foremost colored women in America, left here tonight for her home.

"The Negroes and the law-abiding Whites are in the hands of a conspiracy, unquestionably well financed and closely organized, a coalition of the labor unions of the North and the manufacturers and planters of the South," she declared.

"The South is almost bankrupt because the Negroes are leaving. In the North the control of labor unions is being torn away by the coming of competing, unorganized colored labor."

"Money is being spent like water to drive the Negro back where he came from and murder, arson, intimidation propaganda and scandal are being stirred up as the weapons of this infamous plot."

Will Not Return.

Mrs. Barnett said that the Negroes would not return to East St. Louis, in spite of the sugar-coated invitation of the employers and the sincere promise of safety from the state authorities.

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"When they hang at least one of the men who butchered our babies and strung up our decent men and bludgeoned our women and burned our homes and threw our wounded into the flames, then the Negroes might come back. But until some such symbol of lasting efficiency and sincerity on the part of the whites is revealed, our people will not return to this hotbed of hatred and crime."

Today's results verified her statement. Exactly five Negroes answered the call to return. Out of about 12,000 not half a dozen accepted the homecoming appeal.

Arms by Armful.

The work of disarming the remaining blacks went on. One after another the militia autos pulled up at the city hall and the soldiers lugged in armfuls of muskets, carbines, sixshooters, razors and bowie knives.

All the afternoon the Chamber of Commerce and Associated Merchants met in a mass at the council chambers and at the end signed a remarkable statement and set of resolutions, which Mayor Mollman was ordered to sign first.

He meekly drew his signature to the open, and thereby official, confession to the world of the city's shame, the guilt of its police, the inefficiency, inactivity and hostility of the first contingent of state troops.

The demand was incorporated that the police system be reorganized and that the guilty be fully punished.

All day long a star chamber inquest from which newspaper men and the public were rigidly barred went on.

Its purpose is not as secret as its methods — it is piling up an alibi for the white race as it is typified here, a record to back up the comfortable theory that the Negroes started the trouble willfully and are responsible for all the ghastly consequences.

Five white men and ten Negroes were fined $200 today on charges of carrying concealed weapons. Unable to pay the fines, they were locked up in the County jail."

East St. Louis has not been entirely idle in the effort to convince the public that there is a desire to punish the criminals.

Since this horrible thing took place, the Grand Jury of St. Clair county has brought indictments against 105 persons. It reported in the daily papers as follows:

Cornelius Hickey, lieutenant of police of East St. Louis, who was acting as chief the night of the massacre, is held on a charge of conspiracy.

Richard Brockway, an investigator for the Belleville and East St. Louis railroad, is indicted for conspiracy, riot and assault to kill.

Clark C. Fancher, known as "Tobe" Fancher, former policeman of East St. Louis, is held for assault with intent to kill. The indictment against him recites that he deliberately drew his revolver and fired four shots at a helpless Negro who was severely wounded and was thought to have only a few hours to live. The Negro is convalescing.

One Woman Is Named.

One woman is indicted for assaulted with intent to kill. Her name is withheld for the present. The indictment charges that one of her favorite stunts that terrible night was stamping the heels of her French slippers in the faces of prostrate Negroes.

Several of those indicted are included in many different indictments, a few of the ringleaders, it is understood, being held for nearly all the crimes alleged to have been committed during the riots.

One man is held for burning with the purpose to defraud, and out of this attempt to collect fire insurance he also is caught for arson.

Summary of Jury Work.

Summed up, the work of the Grand Jury follows:

Nine indictments for conspiracy naming thirty-three persons.

Eleven indictments for conspiracy, naming sixty-four persons.

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Five indictments for arson, naming twenty-seven persons.

Thirteen indictments for rioting, naming sixty-nine persons.

Twenty-six indictments for assault to murder, naming sixty-three persons.

One indictment for malicious mischief, naming four persons.

Two indictments for burglary, naming four persons.

One indictment for burning for purpose of defrauding, naming one person.

One man has also been convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment and it is asserted that all who are indicted will be punished.

Mayor Mollman has also been indicted on two counts. The test will come when these men are put on trial.

But up to date no punishment has been meted out to the militia who are responsible for the mob because they did not quell it. Carlos Hurd's account states that he found a corporal's guard of them who had just come from where the firemen were working and he told them of the lynching of the Negro. "I do not know that they could have done anything, but I do know they did not try. Most of the men in uniform were frankly fraternizing with the men in the street."

Thursday, July 5th, the following editorial appeared in the Post-Dispatch of St. Louis.

The East Side Atrocities.

Gov. Lowden need not go far to find evidence of the utter failure of the major part of the forces of the Illinois National Guard to do their duty in stopping wholesale murder and arson in East St. Louis last Monday.

Carlos Hurd of the Post-Dispatch staff, who was an eyewitness of the atrocities on the East Side, told a plain circumstantial story of the outrages he witnessed. The assaults and murders were cold-blooded, deliberate and incredibly brutal. They were not the mob infuriated against particular offenders. They were the work of groups of men and women who sought out and burned out the Negroes and then shot, beat, kicked and hanged them. The work was done in a spirit of flippant, relentless barbarism. Mr. Hurd described it as a man-hunt.

Others who corroborated this testimony called it rabbit-hunting and rat-catching. Nothing like it in unmitigated cruelty has occurred before on American soil. It can be likened only to the fiendish atrocities of Turks in Armenia or the pogroms against the Jews incited by the Russian Black Hundred, in which helpless Jews were smoked or dragged from their homes to be beaten, outraged or murdered on the streets. The black skin, without regard to age, sex or innocence, was the mark for slaughter.

All the impartial witnesses agree that the police were either indifferent or encouraged the barbarities, and that the major part of the National Guard was indifferent or inactive. No organized effort was made to protect the Negroes or disperse the murdering groups. The lack of frenzy and of a large infuriated mob made the task easy. Ten determined officers could have prevented most of the outrages. One hundred men acting with authority and vigor might have prevented any outrage.

The stain cannot be wiped from the record of Illinois, but the State may be vindicated by punishment of the officers responsible for the conduct of the guardsmen; and by the vigorous prosecution of the murder leaders.

East St. Louisans have a duty to perform in looking into the conduct of their own city government which permitted the trouble to culminate in these atrocities. They should find out the cause of the fatal weakness which encouraged the race riots and paralyzed the police while innocent men, women and children were shot, burned and tortured. The future of the city which in point of growth and prosperity is a marvel, should prompt thorough action by law-abiding citizens.

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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: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=wells-stlouis.html
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