JULY 3, 1917

East St. Louis Race Riot headline, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Friday, July 6, 1917 Credit: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/east-st-louis-race-riot-1917/

One of the worst racial massacres in U.S. history ended after three days in East St. Louis, Illinois. After Black workers were given jobs in a factory that received government contracts, White workers began stabbing, beating and killing them. As many as a 100 or more were killed, hundreds more were injured, and 6,000 were driven from their homes. 

“My father … witnessed … horrible things: people’s houses being set ablaze, . . .  people being shot when they tried to flee, some trying to swim to the other side of the Mississippi while being shot at by white mobs with rifles, others being dragged out of street cars and beaten and hanged from street lamps,” said Dhati Kennedy, whose father was one of the survivors. 

The Pittsburgh Dispatch wrote, “The picture of wantonness by the savagery of mobs at East St. Louis will be a humiliating display for the Fourth of July sun to look down upon as it rises on our national liberty jubilation with the country just entered upon a war to make democracy safe.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.