Hellraisers Journal: From The Voice, “A Newspaper for the New Negro,” Hubert H. Harrison: “The East St Louis Horror”

How can America hold up its hands
in hypocritical horror at foreign barbarism
while the red blood of the Negro
is clinging to those hands?
-Hubert H. Harrison


Hellraisers Journal, Monday July 9, 1917
East St. Louis, Illinois – “Making the World Safe for Democracy”

From Ohio’s Piqua Daily Call of July 7, 1917:

East St Louis, Safe for Democracy, Piqua Dly OH, July 7, 1917

From The Voice, “A Newspaper for the New Negro,” July 4, 1917:

The following article by Hubert H. Harrison addresses the disgraceful and murderous attacks of July 2nd, perpetrated by white citizens of East St. Louis against their fellow citizens of African descent. The massacre took many lives, and, in many cases, even the children were not spared.

The Voice is intended to be the “political voice” of the Liberty League. The issue of July 4th is it’s first.

The East St. Louis Horror
by Hubert H. Harrison

Hubert H Harrison (1883-1927)

This nation is now at war to make the world “safe for democracy,” but the Negro’s contention in the court of public opinion is that until this nation itself is made safe for twelve million of its subjects the Negro, at least, will refuse to believe in the democratic assertions of the country. The East St. Louis pogrom gives point to this contention. Here, on the eve of the celebration of the Nation’s birthday of freedom and equality, the white people, who are denouncing the Germans as Huns and barbarians, break loose in an orgy of unprovoked and villainous barbarism which neither Germans nor any other civilized people have ever equalled.

How can America hold up its hands in hypocritical horror at foreign barbarism while the red blood of the Negro is clinging to those hands? So long as the President and Congress of the United States remain dumb in the presence of barbarities in their own land which would tip their tongues with righteous indignation if they had been done in Belgium, Ireland or Galicia?

And what are the Negroes to do? Are they expected to re-echo with enthusiasm the patriotic protestations of the boot-licking leaders whose pockets and positions testify to the power of the white man’s gold? Let there be no mistake. Whatever the Negroes may be compelled by law to do and say, the resentment in their hearts will not down. Unbeknown to the white people of this land a temper is being developed among Negroes with which the American people will have to reckon.

At the present moment it takes this form: If white men are to kill unoffending Negroes, Negroes must kill white men in defense of their lives and property. This is the lesson of the East St. Louis massacre.

The press reports declare that, “the troops who were on duty during the most serious disturbances were ordered not to shoot.” The civil and military authorities are evidently winking at the work of the mobs—horrible as that was—and the Negroes of the city need not look to them for protection. They must protect themselves. And even the United States Supreme Court concedes them this right.

There is, in addition, a method of retaliation which we urge upon them. It is one which will hit those white men who have the power to prevent lawlessness just where they will feel it most, in the place where they keep their consciences—the pocket-book. Let every Negro in East St. Louis and the other cities where race rioting occurs draw his money from the savings-bank and either bank it in the other cities or in the postal savings bank. The only part of the news reports with which we are well pleased is that which states that the property loss is already estimated at a million and a half of dollars.

Another reassuring feature is the one suppressed in most of the news dispatches. We refer to the evidences that the East St. Louis Negroes organized themselves during the riots and fought back under some kind of leadership. We Negroes will never know, perhaps, how many whites were killed by our enraged brothers in East St. Louis. It isn’t the news-policy of the white newspapers (whether friendly or unfriendly) to spread such news broadcast. It might teach Negroes too much. But we will hope for the best.

The occurrence should serve to enlarge rapidly the membership of The Liberty League of Negro-Americans which was organized to take practical steps to help our people all over the land in the protection of their lives and liberties.

[Photograph added.]

From The Appeal of July 7, 1917:

The Appeal of MN, July 7, 1917, JQ Adams editor, date uk


The Appeal, re St Louis Riots, July 7, 1917



Brought Disgrace on Lincoln’s State.

Mob frenzy displayed in some of its most dreadful forms in East St. Louis yesterday has brought disgrace and just reproach upon the state of Abraham Lincoln.


The Most Disgraceful Outbreak.

The East St. Louis affair is the most disastrous and disgraceful outbreak the state has known for a generation; perhaps the worst it has ever known. That it should come during the heat of a foreign war and on the eve of Independence Day makes it still more ominous.


The Law Itself on Trial.
(From the Chicago Herald.)

East St. Louis, Ill., the law itself, are all on trial until this grim, terrible business is settled and settled rightly Failure of justice means a vicious precedent that will plague the commonwealth for years to come. When the issue of law or anarchy is presented as plainly as in the orgy at East St. Louis there should be but one answer.


The Shame of Illinois.
(From the Chicago Tribune.)

The riot at East St. Louis is one of the worst blots on the good name of an American community in our whole history. Illinois must bow her head in shame before this disgrace. We have no excuse. There can be no excuse for such a break down of the most primitive safeguards of civil government, for such betrayal of the first duty of ordered society.


Will Sue for Damages.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with former Judge Edward Osgood Brown of the appellate court president of the local chapter, is planning to institute suits under the Illinois statutes against the city of East St. Louis and St. Clair county for personal damages on behalf of the dependents of the Negro men and women who died at the hands of the incensed mobs in the orgy of murder and arson several days ago.

Under the statutes, the dependents have actions against both the city and the county for damages to property, life and limb, the judgments not to exceed $5,000 in each case. This may mean suits for nearly $1,000,000 when the final loss of the scores killed, the hundreds injured and the many homes destroyed is recorded.


The Illinois Massacre.
(From the Chicago Evening Post.)

“In ouah town we don’t let a niggah get off the train long enough to brush youah coat, not even if he’s a po’tah on a Pullman.”

They’ll tell you this in just these accents in some of the southern towns of Illinois

And it was from these towns that the militiamen came to “maintain order in East St. Louis.”

This is the whole story of the failure of the militia in the worst race riot that has disgraced Illinois since Lovejoy was martyred.

Troops from Northern Illinois should have been sent into East St. Louis; troops from Southern Illinois should not have been sent there. For the twilight zone of the Mason and Dixon line cuts across the central and southern portions of the state.


Greatest Disgrace to State.

“I feel very strongly on the subject,” said Judge Brown today. “In my opinion it is the greatest disgrace upon the name of the state of Illinois yet recorded. I’m very indignant. Our organization is watching the proceedings there, but we are waiting for the reports of the various investigations. I do not want to appear to criticize any one at this time. We have faith in Governor Lowden unearthing all the facts. At a meeting to be held in the near future we will decide what steps to take.”

“The society will prosecute suits for damage against the city and county for each Negro killed or injured,” said Dr. Charles E. Bentley, dentist at 25 East Washington street. “The statutes are clean on the subject. We will go after the sheriff also if the facts prove our beliefs.

“We are so astonished we can hardly express our feelings. It is most outrageous.”


Worse Than Belgium.

New York, July 3—”Swift and severe punishment” for the East St. Louis mobs was demanded by the Socialist leader, William English Walling, in a telegram to President Wilson today.

Such punishment is necessary, Walling said, because “of the dangerous effect of race riots in America on revolutionary Russia, South America and Japan.”

Walling characterized the uprising as partly the result of German agents efforts to stir up a race war to keep American troops at home and partly the result of an attempt by the Southern states to keep the Negro under their thumb.

Speaking as a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Walling, in his telegram, said:

The international and military situation calls for immediate action. There must be swift and severe punishment for the mob. But this will not suffice. There should be an immediate presidential proclamation in the present military exigency that the full military power of the nation will be used in defense of the lives and liberty of our colored fellow citizens.


[Photograph of Editor J. Q. Adams added.]



When Africa Awakes: The “inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World
-by Hubert H. Harrison
Porro Press, 1920
“The East St. Louis Horror” by Hubert H. Harrison

Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918
-by Jeffrey B Perry
Columbia University Press, Dec 29, 2008
(Search: “east st louis;” pages 299-301 most relevant)

The Appeal
St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota
-July 7, 1917

East St Louis, Safe for Democracy, Piqua Dly OH, July 7, 1917
Hubert H Harrison (1883-1927)
The Appeal of MN, July 7, 1917, JQ Adams editor, date uk
The Appeal, re St Louis Riots, July 7, 1917

See also:

East St. Louis Riots

For more on the Liberty League and The Voice:

100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding of the First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement”

One hundred years ago, on June 12, 1917, Hubert Harrison founded the Liberty League of Negro-Americans at a rally attended by thousands at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 52-60 W. 132nd Street in Harlem. It was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement.” Several weeks later, on July 4, at a large rally at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 120 W. 138th Street, Harrison founded the movement’s first paper — The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro….

“Is This the Black Activist Everybody Forgot?”
by Jeffrey B Perry

“Why the Ideas of Pioneering African-American Radical Hubert Harrison Matter More than Ever”
-by Jeffrey B. Perry

John Quincy Adams (1848-1922), blackpast org

“John Quincy Adams: St. Paul Editor and Black Leader”
-by David V. Taylor


Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism by Jeffrey B Perry

Odetta – Battle Hymn Of The Republic

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.