Atlanta Race Riot

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The cover of French magazine "Le Petit Journal" in October 1906 depicting the Atlanta Race Riot

The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 was a mass civil disturbance in Atlanta, Georgia, USA which began the evening of September 22 and lasted until September 24, 1906. An estimated 25 to 40 African-Americans were killed along with 2 confirmed European Americans. The main cause was the rising tension between whites and blacks as a result of competition for jobs, black desire for civil rights, Reconstruction, and the gubernatorial election of 1906.

Causes[edit]

Atlanta was considered to be a prime example of how whites and blacks could live together in harmony; however, with the end of the Civil War an increased tension between black wage-workers and the white elite began. These tensions were further exacerbated by increasing rights for blacks, which included the right to vote. With these increased rights, African-Americans began entering the realm of politics, establishing businesses and gaining notoriety as a social class in the eyes of the white population. These newly acquired African-American rights and status brought increased competition between blacks and whites for jobs and heightened class distinctions.

These tensions came to a boil with the gubernatorial election of 1906 in which M. Hoke Smith and Clark Howell competed for the Democratic nomination. Both candidates were looking to find ways to disenfranchise black voters because they felt that the black vote could throw the election to the other candidate. Hoke Smith was a former publisher of the Atlanta Journal and Clark Howell was the editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Both candidates used their influence to incite white voters and help spread the fear that whites may not be able to maintain the current social order. These papers and others attacked saloons and bars that were run and frequented by black citizens. These "dives", as whites called them, were said to have nude pictures of women, some of whom were white. Competing for circulation, the Atlanta Georgian and the Atlanta News began publishing stories about white women being molested and raped by black men. These allegations were reported multiple times and were largely false accusations.

The Atlanta Race Riot[edit]

On September 22, 1906, Atlanta newspapers reported four alleged assaults on local white women. Soon, some 10,000 white men and boys began gathering, beating, and stabbing blacks.

Outcomes[edit]

It is estimated that there were between twenty-five and forty African American deaths. It was confirmed that there were only two White deaths. Significant African American social changes were also an outcome of the riot.[1] This included a disturbance of black housing and social patterns. In the years after the riot, African Americans were most likely to live in settled black communities. These communities were most likely found to the west of the city near Atlanta University or in eastern downtown. Black businesses were dispersed to the east, where a thriving black business district soon developed. Other outcomes included an increase in black suffrage in 1908.

Some black Americans modified their opinions on the necessity of armed self-defense, even as many issued explicit warnings about the dangers of armed political struggle. Harvard-educated W. E. B. Du Bois purchased a shotgun after rioting broke out in Atlanta, and stated in response to the carnage of the race riot, "I bought a Winchester double-barreled shotgun and two dozen rounds of shells filled with buckshot. If a white mob had stepped on the campus where I lived I would without hesitation have sprayed their guts over the grass."[1] As his position solidified in later years, circa 1906–1920, Du Bois argued that organized political violence by Black Americans was folly, but in response to real-world threats on black people, Du Bois "was adamant about the legitimacy and perhaps the duty of self-defense, even where there [might be a] danger of spillover into political violence."[1]

Efforts to promote biracial understanding included the creation of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation in 1919 (Which later evolved into the Southern Regional Council). However, white supremacist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, made their return in the city. Nathan Bedford Forrest Klan No. 1 had a membership of over 15,000 within the city, displaying a newfound white bitterness towards blacks.[citation needed]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Johnson, Nicholas (2014). Negroes and The Gun: the black tradition of arms. Amherst, New York: Prometheus. pp. 151–157. ISBN 978-1-61614-839-3. 
  • Bauerlein, Mark (2001). Negrophobia: A Race Riot in Atlanta, 1906. San Francisco: Encounter Books. ISBN 1-893554-54-6. 
  • Baker, Ray Stannard (1908). Following the Color Line: an account of Negro citizenship in the American democracy. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company. 
  • Burns, Rebecca (2006). Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. Emmis Books. ISBN 1-57860-268-8. 
  • Godshalk, David Fort (2006). Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-5626-6. 
  • Mixon, Gregory (2005). The Atlanta Riot: Race, Class, And Violence In A New South City. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-2787-X. 
  • Allen, Josephine (2005). "Atlanta, Georgia". Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (2nd ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster and the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. ISBN 978-0-02-865816-2.