An Urban Humanities Initiative

A Centennial of a Divided City: East St. Louis and the 1917 Race Riot

Jesse Vogler and Karla Scott

100 years ago this year, in the city of East St. Louis, IL, the United States experienced the single most violent racially motivated massacre in its history. By many accounts, over 200 men, women, and children were openly and brutally murdered in the streets of a city that W.E.B DuBois described at the time as a place where “there was no veil of hypocrisy here, but a wickedness, frank, ungilded, and open.” Yet the story of the East St. Louis Pogrom remains an under examined episode in the historical narrative of race in our region.

This proposal supported the planning of a 2-day symposium of the East St. Louis Centennial Academic Conference on May 26-28, 2017. The event hosted international and local scholars as well as leading community activists and artists in a suite of events around commemoration of the 1917 Race Riots in East St. Louis. There were over 100 participants.

The conference opened the afternoon of Friday May 26th with a keynote by Dr. Charles Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State University lecturer and author of American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics and editor of An East St. Louis Anthology: The Origins of a River City.  Lumpkins’ work argues that the riots were a pogrom—authority sanctioned violence for the massacre of an ethnic group—prompted by African-Americans asserting their political might through the power of the ballot. Local high school student projects on the 1917 Riots were also featured during the afternoon.

See the full program here.

Jesse Vogler, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Washington University in St. Louis.
Karla Scott, Associate Professor of Communications, Director of African-American Studies Program, St. Louis University.