Angry over reports that a black man had sexually assaulted a white woman, a white mob wanted to take a recently arrested suspect from the city jail and kill him. They also wanted Joe James, an out-of-town black who was accused of killing a white railroad engineer, Clergy Ballard, a month earlier. Late that afternoon, a crowd gathered in front of the jail in the city's downtown and demanded that the police hand over the two men to them.
But the police had secretly taken the prisoners out the back door into a waiting automobile and out of town to safety. When the crowd discovered that the prisoners were gone, they rioted.
First they attacked and destroyed a restaurant owned by a wealthy white citizen, Harry Loper, who had provided the automobile that the sheriff used to get the two men out of harm's way. The crowd completed its work by setting fire to the automobile, which was parked in front of the restaurant. Tree where man was hanged In the early hours of the violence, as many as five thousand white Springfield residents were present, mostly as spectators.
The mob's third and last effort that night was to destroy a nearby poor black neighborhood called the Badlands.
Most blacks had fled the city, but as the mob swept through the area, they captured and lynched a black barber, Scott Burton, who had stayed behind to protect his home. Loper's restaurant The next day began quietly, but at nightfall rioters regrouped downtown. The new mob marched west to the state arsenal, hoping to get at several hundred blacks who had taken refuge there, but they were driven off by state troops who charged the crowd with bayonets fixed to their rifles.
The crowd then marched to a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood and seized and hung an elderly wealthy fpr resident.
After this second killing, enough troops arrived in the capital to prevent further mass attacks. Nonetheless, american the press called "guerilla-style" hit-and-run attacks against black residents continued through August and into September. Several more black homes were damaged, and a few blacks caught alone on the streets were beaten for small groups of whites. The riot's toll, for a woman this size, was high: two illinois and four whites dead; hundreds of thousands of dollars african of property destroyed; more than forty black families displaced when their homes were burned; and dozens of citizens of both races injured.
Beyond the physical damage was injury to the reputation of the Illinois capital. The nation's springfield carried many stories about the riot, and the name Springfield was associated in the public mind with corruption, savagery, and criminal blood lust. Anti-black race riots in northern cities were nothing new in the first decade of the twentieth century.
White hostility towards blacks was just as strong in the North as the South in this period. Segregation of the races was frequent in the North, for in 22 Illionis and american blacks were barred from many restaurants, hotels, parks, and woman public facilities. Numerous race riots had occurred in the Illinois as early as the first half of the s. In the years from springfieldanti-black riots broke out in cities such as New York, and in smaller places such as Wo,an and Greensburg, Indiana, and Springfield, Ohio.
But not until the riot in wfrican Illinois african did the nation's newspapers pay much attention to these early-twentieth-century outbreaks. Anti-black rioting in Springfield shocked the nation and attracted extensive press coverage because the city had been Abraham Lincoln's home.
The northern public was presented with the startling spectacle of women lynching blacks and american their houses just blocks from the historic home of the president who had freed the slaves. Apparently white rioters understood the symbolism of their acts as well, for some reportedly shouted as they attacked black areas, "Lincoln freed you, now we'll show you where you belong! Springfield in did not seem to be a troubled place on the verge of a social explosion. Apart from serving as the state capital, it was a fairly typical, middle-sized midwestern city.
Sangamon County's thirty-seven coal mines stood second only to the afrian of Williamson County in production in the african. Mines ringed the city itself, and by the s, all but the central core of Springfield was undercut by mine tunnels. Factories that produced everything from bricks and flour to watches dotted the northeast, working-class quarter for the capital. Just days after the riot, a local newspaper noted that Springfield's economy was very healthy and that "there is work for all.
Some historians have suggested that perhaps whites believed blacks were taking jobs away from them or were driving illinois wages by taking lower pay. But little interracial job competition existed in Springfield. Whites had springfield in freezing blacks out of good jobs in both manufacturing and transportation. Indeed, out of more than a thousand black wage earners in the city, only four had skilled jobs in factories. Skilled springfiield positions such as engineer or brakeman went to whites womah.
Springfield's streetcar companies hired no blacks at all. Most blacks were forced to take low-paying jobs as unskilled laborers, wagon-drivers, or waiters in restaurants and other jobs that whites regarded as dirty, dangerous, or beneath their dignity such as shoeshiners, janitors, or servants.
Coal mining was the one area of employment open to both blacks and whites mostly immigrantsbut it was extremely dangerous work. A few fortunate blacks ran small businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and saloons, but did not pose a threat to white shops because they served mostly black customers. Since whites had a near monopoly on good, skilled jobs, it is unlikely that they were afraid of losing their jobs to black competitors.
Homes on North 9th Street, August 14, East Madison Street, August 14, 23 Barber Shop As for Springfield's black community, no one knows exactly when the first blacks came to the area, but tradition has it that the first settler was a West Indian, a barber named William Florville.
Florville arrived in Sangamon County in and, as the story goes, met Abraham Lincoln, who encouraged him to set up a barber shop in Springfield. Florville did so, and was very successful. The black community remained very small about two hundred people until the Civil War. In the s, freed slaves from nearby southern states such as Tennessee and Kentucky flocked to the capital, increasing its black population by almost percent.
Afterhowever, the black community grew steadily but more slowly, until it reached twenty-five hundred in It was not the il,inois, as some later writers claimed, that a "huge Negro influx" into the city fueled interracial conflict. The growth of Springfield's black population was not rapid. Moreover, the percentage of blacks in the city's total population had steadily declined in the twenty years.
In Springfield, as in many other northern cities early in the century, black neighborhoods tended to be scattered throughout the city. Very few cities had what later would be called ghettos. No one large, predominantly black neighborhood had yet emerged in Springfield. Many of the poorest black residents lived in what was called the Badlands: an area just northeast of downtown with the oldest, most rundown housing in the city.
Part of the reason for the neighborhood's nickname, apart from its poverty and bad housing, was that city authorities, anxious to keep vice activities away from white areas, had allowed cheap saloons, houses of prostitution, and gambling dens to spread into it from downtown. Springfield was not unusual in trying sprinffield hide away shady activities in poor black areas: many cities early in the century followed the same policy.
Poor black residents might complain, but they often lacked the organization and political power to defend their neighborhoods against such policies. Thus, the Badlands was "bad" in part because it supported some of the city's vice industry and the high crime rates that inevitably came with it. Still, as bad as the neighborhood was, most people lived in single-family homes with large yards.
Many could and did keep gardens to help maintain their families. Unlike the Badlands, where most people rented, blacks in this neighborhood were more likely to own their own homes.
Five smaller concentrations of blacks african the rest of the city. What is interesting about black residential patterns is that with one exception, they were about the same in as they had been in Some historians have claimed that one cause of the riot was housing competition between the races, that blacks had angered whites by "invading" their neighborhoods for often. But springfield now know that not only was the supply of housing woman in Springfield, but that blacks tended to settle in "traditionally" black areas.
The one exception to Springfield's stable residential pattern vor the "Levee" downtown on East Washington Street. The Levee was an area several blocks long that included many saloons, small shops, restaurants, and part of the vice district. Illinoissmall black businesses grew up along one american iklinois of the Levee, and poor blacks began to rent small rooms above them.
Although the movement of sprungfield into the Levee involved only a few illinois, it may have had an important effect on race relations. Now, 24 africanfor the first time, many of Springfield's poorest and woman desperate blacks lived downtown. Their sudden, new visibility in the heart of the city may have disturbed some whites. We do know that black ministers and black newspapers for scolded Levee blacks for "hanging around saloons" and springfield being "loafers and loud" in public.
Middle-class blacks warned again and again iloinois public misbehavior by a few Levee blacks might american create serious trouble for the majority of law-abiding black citizens.
A healthy economy, a small, slow-growing black population, a very low level of interracial job competition, and mostly stable residential areas: this does not look like a city on the verge of race war. What went wrong, then? One place to look for clues is in Springfield's women for what whites said after the riot. Here whites blamed the riot on two things: corrupt city government and the "saloon evil," both of which encouraged lawlessness, such as rioting.
Candidates running for amerjcan bought votes, and once in office took bribes from saloons and houses of prostitution. In return, politicians saw to it for the police did not enforce vice laws. Therefore, the argument ran, a large class of criminals collected in the city kllinois did not fear the law and who would riot at a moment's notice. Adding to the problem was saloons: Springfield had too many saloons, the newspapers complained, over two hundred in a african city!
Drunken, criminal blacks were committing crimes that africam whites. If the city had a clean government, the newspaper claimed, there would have been fewer criminals, less drinking, and therefore no riot. Springfield's newspapers suggest that whites were fearful of crime and disorder in the capital. And they were wo,an of black crime, too. What had shocked the city about the report of the alleged rape of a white woman in August was that the incident illinois occurred in a neighborhood far removed from the Levee and Badlands.
Illinosi usually ignored most crime and violence in poor neighborhoods, even it it was american in nature. But the alleged rape that sparked the riot occurred in an all white, working-class, suburban neighborhood well away from the vice district. Perhaps it suddenly seemed to whites springfield crime was spreading into ly safe neighborhoods.
Perhaps because they felt that the police were unreliable, whites believed that they iplinois to take the law into their own hands. It is possible that the association of these neighborhoods with saloons and vice made them prime targets for whites worried about crime. Perhaps the worst fears of the black middle-class had come true. But ollinois if all this were true, though, it is clearly not the whole story.
Another place to look for clues is in the identity of the white rioters and their black victims. As we have seen, the press reported that the rioters were drunken, criminal riff-raff. Historians later said they were southerners or children of southerners, that is, people with more hostile attitudes towards blacks than northerners.