1919 July 21

NAACP Demands President Wilson Condemn Racial Violence


In response to racial violence in Washington, D.C. (see July 19, 1919) and other cities, which involved mob attacks on African-Americans, the NAACP on this day called on President Woodrow Wilson to “make a statement condemning mob violence and to enforce such military law as [the] situation demands.” Racial violence had erupted in Washington, D.C. two days earlier (July 19, 1919) when white mobs, aroused by rumors that an African-American had attempted to rape the white wife of a U.S. sailor, attacked the African-American community in southwest Washington, D.C. The NAACP telegram to Wilson cited a New York Times story that noted whites attacking “any passing negro” with cries of “there he goes.”

President Wilson made no statement denouncing the mob violence. Nor had he made a statement in 1917 following the East St. Louis race riot that began on July 2, 1917, despite many demands that he do so. He did issue a statement denouncing mob violence on July 26, 1918, but he did not make a public speech on the subject.

Learn more: Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (2011)

Read: Gilbert Jones, Freedom’s Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle Against Racism in America, 1909–1969 (2012)

For more about President Wilson on race and other civil liberties issues: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)

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