'Remember our history': East St. Louis race riot anniversary brings call for revitalization, change
More than 100 people marked the 100th anniversary of a deadly race riot in East St. Louis Sunday by crossing the Eads Bridge into St. Louis.
About 6,000 African-Americans fled the violence by the same route on July 3, 1917, when mobs of white men, and some women, attacked black people following months of tension over jobs.
Many white workers believed that black southerners who migrated north had taken their jobs. Historians say the white mob likely killed more than 100 black people.
Official records place the death toll at 39 African Americans and nine white people.
On Sunday, drummers led the anniversary procession past East St. Louis City Hall and across Eads Bridge. Many people wore white in memory of the solemn occasion.
Tony Fisher, of St. Louis, said he took part in the event because it’s important to remember the past.
“When you hear those stories of things that happened in this country over time most of them weren’t this close,” Fisher said. “This is 20 minutes away from where I live, you know, to know that I live in an area where 20 minutes away this went on, it’s eye opening.”
Tequella Jones of East St. Louis brought her granddaughters to the commemoration.
She said she knew about the city's violent history, but didn’t realize how many people had died in 1917.
“Not until I saw a documentary earlier today about ... how awful and terrible it was, and still how so much further we have to come," Jones said. "We have to go farther, and be sincere about going forward.”
She said she hoped the event would bring more attention to East St. Louis and its problems.
“East St. Louis is becoming somewhat of a left-out area, and this puts us back on the map,” she said, adding that she brought her granddaughters because she wanted them to know what happened in the past.
“I want to share in this event, this activity, this year, so that going forward they may have some understanding about what happened before," Jones said. "And not to understand that everything that they’re dealing with is right, but we still have to press forward."
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