Du Bois and Marcus Garvey
Although African American soldiers in World War I had suffered from segregation, discrimination, humiliation, and slander, they assumed that things would be better in the United States when the war ended. After all, Du Bois and other black leaders had assured them that equality under the law would be the inevitable reward for bearing arms.
Many white people, on the other hand, feared that blacks had been “spoiled” by their experiences abroad. They insisted that the returning African American soldiers should be disabused of the belief that they would receive equal rights; they insisted that blacks should be kept “in their place.”
To complicate the situation, about a million black people had moved from farms to cities during the war. These blacks found themselves in competition with urban whites for housing and the use of parks and other amenities. Under the circumstances, after the war there was a marked rise in friction between the races. The result was one of the two major clusters of race riots that the United States experienced in the twentieth century (with the other occurring during the 1960s). The summer of 1919 was aptly called the Red Summer. Twenty-five riots occurred between June and the end of the year. Some were large, others small. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured. The casualty rate was several times greater than that of the 1960s. Seventy blacks were lynched during the summer of 1919, ten of them soldiers recently returned from Europe, some of them still wearing their uniforms.1
African Americans did not react passively but organized for self- defense. They were determined to defend their lives and property against attacks, and several potential lynchings turned into race riots when blacks fought back. In some instances blacks also organized raids against innocent whites who owned stores or peddled merchandise in black neighborhoods.
Du Bois had reflected the postwar mood in his editorial, “Re
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Publication information: Book title: Du Bois and His Rivals. Contributors: Raymond Wolters - Author. Publisher: University of Missouri Press. Place of publication: Columbia, MO. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 143.
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