Springfield, Ill. (KMOX) – 100 years ago, what’s considered by historians as one of the worst race riots in the United States, took place in East St. Louis.
Illinois Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne of Belleville is sponsor of a resolution to remember, and continue healing from, the events of 1917. Clayborne recounted events on the floor of the Senate Monday, “Rioters set fire in black neighborhoods — occupied homes — torched the Broadway Opera House on the false tale that blacks were hiding there.”
The violence began in May of 1917 when labor disputes turned into racial issues, as white workers attacked black workers accusing them of taking jobs. In July 1917, white mobs set fire to black neighborhoods, trapping some families and forcing some 6-thousand people to flee their homes. Clayborne says newspaper accounts at the time, described it as a “massacre”, “where a black skin was a death warrant”. Death tolls vary — some historians believe more than a hundred blacks were killed in those riots.