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The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
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Jim Crow Stories

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Atlanta Riot (1906)
People sitting on porch

In 1902, a historian wrote: "There has never been a race riot in Atlanta. The white man and the negro have lived together in this city more peacefully and in better spirit than in any other city, in either the North or South." For many whites as well as black, Atlanta seemed to be the least likely place for a race riot at the turn of the century. Atlanta was a model city of the new South. Its economy was booming. Black
For many whites and blacks, Atlanta seemed to be the least likely place for a race riot at the turn of the century. Newspaper headlines of violence
business were springing up. There were jobs for working men and women. At the center of its cultural life were the six black colleges. The colleges, and the churches, provided much of the intellectual leadership for the black community. The dominating
figure was the aristocratic scholar Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois of Atlanta University. African-American women were also quite active in Atlanta. Many joined women's clubs, most of which were affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women, the dominant black women's organization in America. Women took it upon themselves to provide community services to poor blacks, and to instill in them middle class standards and values. The men's organizations invested their energy into building social and fraternal organizations that worked for community betterment.

But despite the accomplishments of the black community, Atlanta remained one of the most segregated cities in the South. Race relations, always tense beneath the surface, seriously deteriorated in 1905 and 1906. A Thomas Dixon play called "The Clansman" glorified the Ku Klux Klan and denigrated blacks, exacerbating racial tensions in 1905. Racial hostility was intensified the next year during a race-baiting political campaign for governor. The local press contributed to the climate by publishing a number of articles claiming that black men had sexually assaulted white women. Almost all of the reports were false. By September, many felt that a race riot would soon explode. On Saturday, September 22, white crowds along Decatur street, many of them drunk and inflamed by the headlines, began to gather. Someone shouted, "Kill the niggers," and soon the cry was running along the crowded streets. Some 10,000 men and boys in the mob began to search for African Americans. Whenever the whites would see one, someone would cry, "There is one of the black fiends"; minutes later, the "fiend" would be dead or beaten senseless.
Media Feature - Watch the Video
Historian Mark Bauerlein
describes the Atlanta riot.

Among the many victims, a disabled man was chased down and beaten to death. The mob rampaged for several days before the militia restored order. Officially, 25 blacks and one white died. Unofficially, over 100 may have died. After the riots whites tried to be somewhat conciliatory, winning the praise of Booker T. Washington. But the fact that a riot had occurred in a city that he had described as a model for racial harmony weakened his moral authority.

--Richard Wormser

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Historical Documents
Le Petit Journal
The cover of the October 7, 1906 issue of France's LE PETIT JOURNAL that featured the Atlanta Riot.
Related Pages
National Association of Colored Women

W.E.B. Du Bois

Ku Klux Klan

Booker T. Washington

Wilmington Riot

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