The Race War in the North: White Mob Violence Against Blacks in Springfield, Illinois in 1908

William English Walling, The Race War in the North: White Mob Violence Against Blacks in Springfield, Illinois in 1908. The Independent, September 1908. Spartacus Educational: “In August, 1908, Walling and his wife witnessed the Springfield Riot in Illinois, where a white mob attacked local African Americans. During the riot two were lynched, six killed, and over 2,000 African Americans were forced to leave the city. In an article entitled, The Race War in the North, that he wrote for The Independent about the riot, Walling [wrote] that ‘a large part of the white population’ in the area were waging ‘permanent warfare with the Negro race.’ Walling argued that the only way to reduce this conflict was ‘to treat the Negro on a plane of absolute political and social equality.'”

Excerpts from story:

‘Lincoln freed you, we’ll show you where you belong,’ was one of the cries with which the Springfield mob set about to drive the negroes from town. The mob was composed of several thousand of Springfield’s white citizens, while other thousands, including many women and children, and even prosperous business men in automobiles, calmly looked on, and the rioters proceeded hour after hour and on two days in succession to make deadly assaults on every negro they could lay their hands on, to sack and plunder their houses and stores, and to burn and murder on favorable occasion….

For the underlying motive of the mob and of that large portion of Springfield’s population that has long said that ‘something was bound to happen,’ and now approves of the riot and proposes to complete its purpose by using other means to drive as many as possible of the remaining two-thirds of the negroes out of town, was confessedly to teach the negroes their place and to warn them that too many could not obtain shelter under the favorable traditions of Lincoln’s home town. I talked to many of them the day after the massacre and found no difference of opinion on the question. ‘Why, the niggers came to think they were as good as we are!’ was the final justification offered, not once, but a dozen times….