Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

Synopsis

During the hot summer of 1906, anger simmered in Atlanta, a city that outwardly savored its reputation as the Gate City of the New South, a place where the races lived peacefully, if apart, and everyone focused more on prosperity than prejudice. But racial hatred came to the forefront during a heated political campaign, and the city's newspapers fanned its flames with sensational reports alleging assaults on white women by black men. The rage erupted in late September, and, during one of the most brutal race riots in the history of America, roving groups of whites attacked and killed at least twenty-five blacks. After four days of violence, black and white civic leaders came together in unprecedented meetings that can be viewed either as concerted public relations efforts to downplay the events or as setting the stage for Atlanta's civil rights leadership half a century later.

Rage in the Gate City focuses on the events of August and September 1906, offering readers a tightly woven narrative account of those eventful days. Fast-paced and vividly detailed, it brings history to life. As June Dobbs Butts writes in her foreword, "For too long, this chapter of Atlanta's history was covered up, or was explained away.... Rebecca Burns casts the bright light of truth upon those events."

Excerpt

by June Dobbs Butts, EdD

I grew up hearing my father talk about “the race riot of nineteen aught six” long before I could understand his old-fashioned words. and though that unprovoked massacre of countless black people in the streets, shops, and homes of Atlanta no longer dominated our family’s dinner conversation when I came along in 1928, the detritus of racial hatred from four days of senseless and random violence remained imbedded in Daddy’s peripheral vision. As a newlywed of three months, my father spent each night of the riot crouched at the front door, gun in hand, ready to defend his loved ones. My parents lived with my mom’s sister, her husband, and their young boys for several years after their marriage in that very home. And, since my dad had a gun (as a legal requirement of his job as a U.S. railway postal clerk-in-charge of an interracial crew) he guarded their home during those days of fury. Until his death in 1961, at age seventy-nine, his fervent prayer was, “God, keep me from becoming bitter — ’cause I don’t wanna hate anyone.”

My dad’s occupation during my youth was serving as Grand Master of the fraternal order of Prince Hall Masons in the State of Georgia. He was forty-six and my mother was forty-three when I was born, the sixth in an African American family of all daughters. (There was twenty years’ difference between my oldest sister, Irene, and myself; I have no memory of her living at home, and didn’t even get to know her as a person until after she’d . . .

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