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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.

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EJI June 25th, 1964: Hundreds Attack Anti-Segregation March in St. Augustine, Florida

On June 25, 300 anti-segregationist marchers who had spent the afternoon rallying at the site of St. Augustine’s former slave market, Slave Market Square, were violently attacked by over 200 white segregationists. The segregationists easily evaded police and physically assaulted the marchers. As the marchers fled, they were chased and attacked across the city’s downtown area. Close to fifty of the marchers were injured, and fifteen were treated at the city’s hospital. Several hours before the attacks on the marchers, seventy-five white segregationists had attacked a group of 100 African Americans who attempted to wade into the ocean at a local “white beach,” and twenty people were arrested. Such violent clashes between anti-segregationists and segregationists in St. Augustine continued throughout June 1964.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Note: First paragraph of this article was snipped. I wanted to focus on the rage of the White people unwilling to share space with African Americans.

On the one hand I can barely comprehend that level rage. On another, I wonder if much of that rage, that desire to not share space with African Americans hasn’t simply been sublimated into calling the police on black folks apparently for being in places or neighborhoods “they aren’t supposed to be in.”

EJI June 18th, 2015: White Man Shoots and Kills Nine Black Worshipers in Racist Attack at Charleston, South Carolina, Church

On the night of June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sat in on a Bible study session for about an hour before opening fire on the other participants, all of whom were black. Prior to the attack, Roof had expressed racist views on a personal website and to friends, allegedly stating that he hoped to incite a “race war.”

The nine victims killed in the shooting were Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, and Clementa C. Pinckney, the senior church pastor and a South Carolina state senator. Five people survived the shooting.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Let me be up front, I don’t support the death penalty for anyone. No matter how vile someone is, it is not up to human authority to kill someone except in active defense of self or others (i.e. while someone is actively trying to kill others). Still, I find it troubling that Roof and many White mass shooters — who have demonstrated ability and willingness to kill — get captured alive, when many unarmed black men get killed by police. I’m not wishing Roof had been killed, but do wonder why it seems like police aren’t afraid of people who’ve killed but are afraid enough of black people to shoot them without being fired on.

This incident also shows that deep abiding hatred on the simple basis of skin color is still very much with us.

EJI June 11th, 1966: Dozens Participate in NAACP’s Birmingham March Against U.S. Steel Employment Discrimination

Despite the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, and national origin, African Americans were continuously relegated to low-paying, unskilled jobs. Many industries refused to train or promote African Americans, only permitting white employees to compete for supervisory positions.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Looking at most high level jobs in many industries, we continue to view a sea of white male faces – now sprinkled here and there with women and people of color. This is not a simple accident, but a product of decades of purposeful exclusion. I suspect we will need to put as much effort into creating diversity as our society used to employ in actively suppressing diversity to get real racial and gender diversity in business and politics.

EJI June 4th, 2011 United States Census Bureau: Over 1 in 4 Black and Latino Americans Living in Poverty

The United States Census Bureau calculates national poverty levels by using a threshold income value set according to family size and composition. In 2010, a family of five earning a combined annual income below $26,675 qualified as “impoverished.” On June 4, 2011, the United States Census Bureau released data collected in the 2010 census which showed 46.2 million Americans living in poverty – the largest number recorded since poverty estimates were first collected in 1959. The 2010 poverty rate of 15.1% was the highest recorded in America since 1993.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)

EJI doesn’t provide a clear enough citation for me to offer the “June 4, 2011” Census release, but similar information can be found in a CNN/Money article reporting on a September 2011 Census release – Poverty rate rises in America By Annalyn Censky @CNNMoney September 13, 2011.

 

EJI May 28, 1830: Indian Removal Act Forces Indian Tribes to Migrate West

MAY 28th, 1830

Indian Removal Act Forces Indian Tribes to Migrate West

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the President to grant land west of the Mississippi River in exchange for the lands of the American Indian tribes living primarily in the southeastern United States. President Jackson’s message to Congress stated a double goal of the Indian Removal Act: freeing more land in southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, while also separating the Indians from “immediate contact with settlements of whites” in the hopes that they will one day “cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”

Source: Equal Justice Initiative

You can find more background on the Indian Removal Act and read the full text of the law at the Library of Congress’s Indian Removal Act site.

The last sentence of the quote above irks me greatly and hope it does you as well. To this day, many Whites are entirely dismissive of any culture or religion not their own.

EJI MAY 21st, 1961: National Guard Disperses White Crowd Threatening Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

MAY 21st, 1961

National Guard Disperses White Crowd Threatening Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

On May 20, 1961, Freedom Riders arriving in Montgomery, Alabama, were attacked by a white mob and several suffered serious injury. On the evening of May 21, more than 1000 black residents and civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth attended a service at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church organized by Rev. Ralph Abernathy to support the Freedom Riders. A white mob surrounded the church and vandalized parked cars. From the church’s basement, Dr. King called United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and requested help. United States Marshals soon arrived to dispel the riot; the growing mob pelted them with bricks and bottles. The marshals responded with tear gas.

Source: Equal Justice Initiative

This incident could have been far bloodier if MLK didn’t have a friendly Attorney General on speed dial. Or if the federal government had declared it a state matter.

 

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