East St. Louis in 1917 was a city boiling with racial tension. Thousands of Black migrants made the town their home, many after being hired to replace white workers on strike. This change angered whites.
It was in this increasingly tense climate that, on July 1, a white man cruised by in a Ford and shot into the homes of Black residents.
But the Black community refused to be intimidated. Many chose to fight back.
Armed with guns and other weapons to protect each other, the Black community prepared themselves for action. When another Ford crept by that same day, they fired into the vehicle. In a situation that tense, no white person could be trusted.
This act of self-defense further infuriated white residents. And so the East St. Louis Race Riot began.
Countless men, women, and children were gruesomely slain in the three-day massacre. Houses burned to the ground as chants of “Get a n*gger! Get another!” echoed through the air, and mobs of white men and women alike stomped and stabbed and bludgeoned and beheaded.
By July 3, as many as 250 Black people were murdered. Many others drowned in attempted escapes across the Missouri River.
The woes of entitled white men threatened by the growing Black populace, their progress, and their freedom led to this bloody horror. Even so, we recognize the men and women who fought and died - for our community and for our people.