American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics

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On July 2 and 3, 1917, race riots rocked the small industrial city of East St. Louis, Illinois. American Pogrom takes the reader beyond that pivotal time in the city’s history to explore black people’s activism from the antebellum era to the eve of the post-World War II civil rights movement.

Charles Lumpkins shows that black residents of East St. Louis had engaged in formal politics since the 1870s, exerting influence through the ballot and through patronage in a city dominated by powerful real estate interests even as many African Americans elsewhere experienced setbacks in exercising their political and economic rights.

While Lumpkins asserts that the race riots were a pogrom—an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group—orchestrated by certain businessmen intent on preventing black residents from attaining political power and on turning the city into a “sundown” town permanently cleared of African Americans, he also demonstrates how the African American community survived. He situates the activities of the black citizens of East St. Louis in the context of the larger story of the African American quest for freedom, citizenship, and equality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Lumpkins reveals the engagement of political and economic insiders in shaping both the violence and its aftermath, and in so doing he presents a model for understanding racial violence that both highlights black political activism and reminds us of the costs that maintaining white supremacy imposed on the black community and the nation.”
— The Journal of American History

“Charles Lumpkins provides an important reinterpretation of the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot. In American Pogrom, he challenges Elliott Rudwick’s classic Civil Rights-era account, Race Riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917 (1964).… Reflecting a generational paradigm shift in historical scholarship, Lumpkins respectfully repudiates Rudwick’s interpretation.”
— Journal of Illinois History

“In expanding on the sources of Rudwick and McLaughlin, Lumpkin instead emphasizes black political activity and community-building that—given the voting potential of oncoming black migrants—threatened white powerbrokers, who promoted racial fear and violence.”
— American Studies Journal

”Whereas previous scholars placed the responsibility for the riot on white working-class males concerned about social strife, Lumpkins argues that city elites, women, and political bosses played an integral role in this destructive demonstration of white superiority.”
Indiana Magazine of History

“American Pogrom deserves a wide audience among historians, although some readers may find themselves overwhelmed by the machinations of East St. Louis politics.… Lumpkins’s insights should intrigue and inspire other scholars.”
Ohio History

“Often comparing the East St. Louis experience with that of other urban centers, (American Pogrom) establishes the context of a continual struggle for equality from the nineteenth century to the present, using solidarity, political savvy and determination.”
Book News, Inc.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821418031
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Series: Law Society & Politics in the Midwest Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Lumpkins teaches history and African American studies at the Pennsylvania State University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Tables

Introduction 1

1 Historical Roots of an African American Community, 1800-1898 11

2 The African American Political Experience, 1898-1915 44

3 The May Uprising: An End to Expanding Black Power 74

4 The July Massacre: "We'll Have a White Man's Town" 109

5 Return to the Political Arena, 1917-1929 143

6 Breaking the Deadlock, 1930-1945 174

Postscript 204

Notes 207

Bibliography 279

Index 299

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