W.E.B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia

By Gerald Horne; Mary Young | Go to book overview
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The Silent Protest against Lynching was an attempt to secure President Woodrow Wilson's attention, a man who before being elected had promised to treat African Americans fairly. After his election, Wilson repudiated his promise by further segregating the federal government. The march, a response to the bloody East St. Louis, Illinois, riot (1917) in which nine whites and forty blacks were killed by rampaging mobs, occurred on July 28, 1917, in New York City. First proposed by Oswald Garrison Villard, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and involving between 8,000 and 10,000 black people, the march was silent except for “the steady roll of muffled drums carried by several men at the head,” down Fifth Avenue. Male participants were dressed in dark suits, while women and children were dressed in white. In a widely reprinted photograph of the march, Du Bois can be seen in the second row behind the drummers. Several protesters carried signs and banners. On one, carried by a child, was the question, “Mother, Do Lynchers Go to Heaven?” On another was the charge, “Your Hands Are Full of Blood.” Taken with the 1915 national campaign against D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation, there could no longer be any doubt that there was now an active, “aggressive national civil rights organization representing black people” in its quest for social-democratic rights, the outcome of which would be a test of what the nation had put on paper at its inception. See also: The Birth of a Nation; Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill; Racism; Villard, Oswald Garrison.


The Crisis. (September 1917).

William M. King


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