Doodle - 100th Anniversary of the Silent Parade

100th Anniversary of the Silent ParadeThe Silent Parade reflected the heightened anger of black Americans following a recent outbreak of vicious race-related violence. Between May and July 1917 brutal riots in East St. Louis, a city in Illinois, between 40 and 250 black people were killed by white mobs. Authorities were blamed for failing to protect innocent lives, with a chilling contemporary report describing how police were “either indifferent or encouraged the barbarities”.

The bloody scenes in East St. Louis sparked fury among black people across a nation already simmering with racial tension as African Americans migrated from the south to predominantly white industrial centres. Such violence was by no means uncommon – a lynching of a black farmer the previous year had attracted a gruesome crowd of 10,000 white Texans, according to the academic Chad Williams.

100th Anniversary of the Silent ParadeOn July 28, between 8,000 and 10,000 African American men, women and children marched silently down Fifth Avenue, New York City, in condemnation of the riots. Women and children, all dressed in white, led the group, with the men following behind in dark suits, creating a poignant visual spectacle. Placards held by the protesters expressed messages of peace and unity, as well as highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the nation and calling for justice over racial violence.

As well as a response to the shocking recent events in Illinois, the marchers demanded that President Woodrow Wilson delivered on campaign promises to protect black Americans. His promised anti-lynching legislation never materialised – indeed, little was done to improve discrimination against African Americans during Wilson’s presidency. However, as one of the first mass protests against anti-black violence in the US, the Silent Parade marks a significant landmark in the civil rights movement.
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