1777 Vermont bans slavery / 1917 Hundreds of African Americans murdered by white mob in Illinois: EJI Calendar 7/2

July 2nd has two entries for the day. One semi-positive and one very dark and evil.

JULY 2nd, 1777

Vermont Abolishes Slavery

After declaring independence from New York in January 1777, the citizens of Vermont developed their own constitution, which contained “A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont.” This declaration affirmed that all men were born free and that no male over age 21 or female over age 18 could serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice whether “born in the country, or brought from over sea.” Thus, with the ratification of its constitution on July 2, 1777, Vermont became the first North American territory to abolish slavery.

Earlier, in 1774, the Rhode Island and Connecticut legislatures outlawed international slave importation but fell short of banning inter-colony slave trade. Despite their bans, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont enacted laws interfering with free blacks’ efforts to find work, own property, or even remain in the state.

More can be found at the EJI web site.

While Vermont is to be commended for ending slavery so early, their also proof you can be both abolitionist and racist. Or they wouldn’t have interfered in Black employment and settlement.


JULY 2nd, 1917

Two Hundred African Americans Killed in East St. Louis Riots (bolding mine)

In 1916 and 1917, thousands of African Americans moved from the rural South to East St. Louis, Illinois, in search of industrial work. White residents and political leaders of East St. Louis attempted to dissuade African Americans from moving to the area and prohibited railroads from transporting them to the region. When these attempts failed, white residents used violence to intimidate, expel, and destroy the African American population.

The primary outbreak of violence began on July 2, 1917, and lasted until July 5. White mobs comprised of East St. Louis residents and outsiders who came to participate in the attacks ambushed African American workers as they left factories during a shift change. The National Guard was called in to suppress the violence but they were ordered not to shoot at white rioters. Some National Guard troops participated in the violence.

Estimates indicate that two hundred African American men, women, and children were shot, hanged, beaten to death, or burned alive after being driven into burning buildings during this surge of violence. The riots caused more than $400,000 in property damage and prompted 6000 African American residents (more than half of East St. Louis’s African American population) to flee the city. While 105 people were indicted on charges related to the riot, only twenty members of the white mob received prison sentences for their roles in perpetrating the extreme violence and killings.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

You might be tempted to complain that this happened over a hundred years ago and that “We’re past all that.” Are you sure? Yes, we don’t have widespread massacres of our African-American citizens, but the country seems full of white folks convinced there are spaces where black folks should not be. Instead of attacking black folks themselves, they call 911 to report on the suspicious characters. Too often African-Americans pay the price for these pointless calls.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall being taught about the East St. Louis massacre or the seemingly dozens of other instances where White mobs ran wild and murdered our fellow citizens of color and/or burned out their homes. If we don’t fully own our bloody and hate-filled history, can we ever get past it? I’m not sure.