White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery

By Herbert Shapiro | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Struggle on a Higher Level

THE INTENSE violence of 1919 subsided, but terror as a regular component of the black experience during the 1920s continued. Racists persisted in efforts to wipe out the gains made by blacks during the war period, and blacks met new assault, strengthened by 1919's record of resistance. Despite lynchings, bombings, police intimidation, and other forms of violence black America was not quite forced back to its prewar position. Whether during the economic decline of the first postwar years or during the prosperity period of the middle and late twenties, the struggle against white terror was played out on a higher level than before.

The pattern of racist assault and black response at the start of the decade is highlighted by consideration of events in Chicago during 1920. During 1919 and 1920 a number of homes owned by blacks were bombed. The purpose of this violence was clearly to prevent blacks from moving into previously all-white neighborhoods. The bombings occurred in the context of organized efforts by associations of white homeowners, such as the Kenwood and Hyde Park Property Owners' Association, to exclude blacks. In February 1920, however, blacks formed a public organization, the Protective Circle of Chicago, to combat the bombing campaign through lawful means "and to bring pressure to bear on city authorities to force them to apprehend those persons who have bombed the homes of twenty-one Negroes." On February 29 a mass meeting was held with some 3,000 black Chicagoans attending. The speakers representing the Protective Circle spoke in the spirit of nonviolence: "The bombers of the homes of Negroes have been allowed to get away unpunished. Judge Gary hanged numbers of anarchists in the Haymarket riot for very much less complicity in bomb outrages than these men are guilty of. Hatred can never be counteracted by hatred. We cannot put any stop to the bombings of Negro homes by going out and bombing homes of white persons." The major black organizations concentrated efforts upon educating public opinion and upon appeals for action to

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