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Silent Protest Centennial: Has anything changed

100 years ago today 10,000 Negroes gathered for a Silent Protest parade on 59th St and Fifth Ave in New York to protest lynchings and other violence against blacks, especially the East St. Louis race riot of July 1-3, 1917.

Young girls led the parade followed by the Women in white, while the Men and young boys brought up the rear. The Laborer, the professional man - all classes of race on foot; no yelling or chanting just marching to the beat of muffled drums.

The flyer distributed by the NAACP several days before clarifies the reasons for the march.

Why we March:

We march because by the Grace of God and the force of truth, the dangerous hampering walls of prejudice and inhuman injustices must fall.

We march because we want to make impossible a repetition of Waco, Memphis and East St. Louis, by rousing the conscience of the country and bring the murderers of our brothers, sisters and innocent children to justice.

We march because we deem it a crime to be silent in the face of such barbaric acts.

We march because we are thoroughly opposed to Jim-crow Cars etc., Segregation, Discrimination, Disfranchisement, LYNCHING and the hose of evils that are forced on us. It is time that the Spirit of Christ should be manifested in the making and execution of laws.

We march because we want our children to live in a better land and enjoy fairer conditions than have fallen to our lot.

We march in memory of our butchered dead the massacre of the honest oilers who were removing the reproach of laziness and thiftlessness hurled at the entire race. They died to prove our worthiness to live. We live in spirt of death shadowing us and ours. We prosper in the face of the most unwarranted and illegal oppression.

We march because the growing consciousness and solidarity of race coupled with sorrow and discrimination have made us one: a union that may never be dissolved in spite of shallow-brained agitators, scheming pundits and political tricksters who secure a fleeting popularity and uncertain financial support by promoting the disunion of a people who out to consider themselves as one.

The notes below clarify phrases used in the parade banners.

 East St. Louis, Illinois race riot of July 1-3, 1917. After weeks of tension and attacks on blacks, spurred by the use of black workers to replace striking white workers in a plant processing bauxite for the war effort, a white mob set fire to the black section of the city and destroyed it. Black residents were brutally attacked and shot as they tried to flee the fires. The National Guard, called in by the mayor, proved ineffective against the mob violence. At least 39 African Americans were killed, and hundreds more were burned and beaten.

 Lady MacBeths of East St. Louis. White women yelled encouragement to the white mob, and some participated in the beatings of black men and women. The Cleveland Advocate reported that “women and children . . . pursued the [black] women who were driven out of the burning homes with the idea, not of extinguishing their burning clothing, but of inflicting added pain, if possible. They stood around in groups, laughing and jeering, while they witnessed the final writhings of the terror and pain [of the] wracked wretches who crawled to the streets to die after their flesh had been cooked in their own homes.” (21 July 1917)

 Memphis and Waco. Widely publicized brutal lynchings had occurred in these cities, in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1917, and in Waco, Texas, in 1916 (the sadistic murder of 17-year old Jesse Washington).

 Carrizal. African American soldiers of the 10th Cavalry the Buffalo Soldiers fought under General Pershing in the 1916 incursion into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa. Troops of the Buffalo Soldiers were ambushed at the Battle of Carrizal.

 Carnegie hero medals. In 1904 Andrew Carnegie instituted the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission to recognize and award acts of civilian heroism.

The saddest part of today, July 28, 2017, is realizing that our great nation, still has not moved forward in equal rights for everyone. Instead our government is filled with racist that continues to perpetuate racism and violence, both actively and apathetically.

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