- BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY Omaha Race Riot occurred in Omaha, Nebraska, on September 28–29, 1919. The race riot resulted in the brutal lynching of Will Brown, a black worker; the death of two white men; the attempted hanging of the mayor Edward Parsons Smith; and a public rampage by thousands of whites who set fire to the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Omaha. It followed more than 20 race riots that occurred in major industrial cities of the Unit.
|BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY|
Beginnin Riot At about 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 28, 1919, a large group of white youths gathered near the Bancroft School in South Omaha and began a march to the Douglas County Courthouse, where Brown was being held. The march was intercepted by John T. Dunn, chief of the Omaha Detective Bureau, and his subordinates. Dunn attempted to disperse the crowd, but they ignored his warning and marched on. Thirty police officers were guarding the court house when the marchers arrived. By 4:00 p.m., the crowd had grown much larger. Members of the crowd bantered with the officers until the police were convinced that the crowd posed no serious threat. A report to that effect was made to the central police station, and the captain in charge sent fifty reserve officers home for the day.
The first hanging
Siege of the Court HoOn the second floor of the building, three policemen and a newspaper reporter were imprisoned in a safety vault, whose thick metal door the mob had shut. The four men hacked their way out through the court house wall. The mob shot at them as they squirmed out of the stifling vault.Meanwhile the plight of the police in the court house had become desperate. The fire had licked its way to the third floor. The officers faced the prospect of roasting to death. Appeals for help to the crowd below brought only bullets and curses. The mob frustrated all attempts to raise ladders to the imprisoned police. "Bring Brown with you and you can come down," somebody in the crowd shouted.
LynchingThe mob in the street shrieked its delight at the last message. Boys and young men placed firemen's ladders against the building. They mounted to the second story. One man had a heavy coil of new rope on his back. Another had a shotgun.Another note read: "Come to the fourth floor of the building and we will hand the negro over to you."
After The riot lasted until 3 a.m., on the morning of September 29. At that hour, federal troops, under command of Colonel John E. Morris of the Twentieth Infantry, arrived from Fort Omaha and Fort Crook. Troops manning machine guns were placed in the heart of Omaha's business district; in North Omaha, the center of the black community, to protect citizens there; and in South Omaha, to prevent more mobs from forming. Major General Leonard Wood, commander of the Central Department, came the next day to Omaha by order of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. Peace was enforced by 1,600 soldiers.The lawlessness continued for several hours after Brown had been lynched. The police patrol was burned. The police emergency automobile was burned. Three times, the mob went to the city jail. The third time its leaders announced that they were going to burn it. Soldiers arrived before they could carry out their threat.
Causes and consequences
|“||It is a shame that it took these deaths and others to raise public consciousness and effect the changes that we enjoy today. When I discovered that William Brown was buried in a pauper's grave, I did not want William Brown to be forgotten. I wanted him to have a headstone to let people know that it was because of people like him that we enjoy our freedoms today. The lesson learned from his death should be taught to all. That is, we cannot have the protections guaranteed by the Constitution without law. There is no place for vigilantism in our society.|