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)