American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics
On July 2 and 3, 1917, race riots rocked the small industrial city of East St. Louis, Illinois. American Pogrom takes the reader beyond that pivotal time in the city’s history to explore black people’s activism from the antebellum era to the eve of the post–World War II civil rights movement.
Charles Lumpkins shows that black residents of East St. Louis had engaged in formal politics since the 1870s, exerting influence through the ballot and through patronage in a city dominated by powerful real estate interests even as many African Americans elsewhere experienced setbacks in exercising their political and economic rights.
While Lumpkins asserts that the race riots were a pogrom—an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group—orchestrated by certain businessmen intent on preventing black residents from attaining political power and on turning the city into a “sundown” town permanently cleared of African Americans, he also demonstrates how the African American community survived. He situates the activities of the black citizens of East St. Louis in the context of the larger story of the African American quest for freedom, citizenship, and equality.
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