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advertisements for negro workers to go north appeared in the papers of many localities. As a result, East St. Louis became a sort of convention center for excited, undisciplined negroes who were intoxicated by higher wages than they had ever known. Some of these, as in the case of the Aluminum Ore Company, were used as strike-breakers, and the element of racial industrial competition was added to other trouble-breeding influences. Low wage-workers found unfamiliar opportunities involving responsibilities in living and a social obligation for which they were totally unfitted by experience. The city government failed to supplement this deficiency by adequate police for either preventive or repressive purposes. The situation was due to governmental poverty. It is a matter of common information that conditions in East St. Louis made it the gathering place for white and black outlaws and crooks. The situation gave grave concern to the citizens of the town. All the elements necessary for a race war had been gathered.
Violence became frequent. Minor riots occurred between the whites and the blacks. Six hundred union men marched to the City Hall and asked that further importation of negroes be stopped. They wanted to avert a calamity that they knew was inevitable unless the necessary action was taken. But the profit-mad employers were not checked. Industrial friction and lawlessness continued.
A racial problem rarely becomes acute except through economic or social friction. There are few who can not dispassionately and philosophically consider racial difference when no personal contact or competition exists. Inevitable conflict comes through a clash of standards-standards of work which mean also standards of life.
Some unestablished cause precipitated the terrible attack which one race made on the other-the responsibility for which rests fundamentally upon those who profited from the industrial, social and ccriupt political conditions in East St. Louis.
Because the uprising came at a time when every effort was being concentrated to mobilize national good will and cooperation for defense against a foe without, the Illinois State Council of Defense made an investigation of the race riots. The task was assigned to the Committee on Labor, which made the report printed below.
A most unwarranted and most unjust effort has been made to fasten responsibility for East St. Louis riots upon the workers. How superficial and unfounded is that contention becomes apparent when serious effort is made to know what contributory conditions existed and what brought about the crisis. The official report of the Illinois Committee on Labor, of the Illinois Defense Council follows:
REPORT TO THE ILLINOIS STATE COUNCIL OF DEFENSE ON THE RACE RIOTS AT EAST ST. LOUIS BY ITS COMMITTEE ON LABOR
At a meeting of the State Council of Defense of Illinois, held at Chicago, on June 2, 1917, the chairman read before the Council telegrams from the Mayor of East St. Louis and from the president and secretary of the Central Trades and Labor Union of that city. Both messages requested an investigation of the race riots then taking place there. The
Council referred these communications to its committee on labor with directions to investigate.
Pursuant thereto the labor committee met in the city courtroom in East St. Louis, on Thursday, June 7, 1917, at 9 o'clock a. m. There were present, Chairman John H. Walker and John H. Harrison.* Dr. Frank Billings, the other member of the committee, was in Washington on other business for the Council. William J. MacDonald of Springfield, Illinois, appeared as counsel for the committee.
This committee was cordially received and was tendered the services of all who could in any way assist. Nevertheless, there was manifested an under-current of desire to minimize the disturbance, its causes and its consequences. The few days between the time of the riots and the time of investigation had brought about reaction in feeling due, doubtless, to the injury the city in its entirety had experienced because of the lawless demonstrations. Indiscriminate assaults upon negroes had resulted in the departure of the good citizens of that race, as well as of the undesirable ones. Business was suffering in proportion. The publicity of the news dispatches of the trouble had, according to citizens, worked serious damage to the good name of the city as an industrial center. However, no obstacles were placed in your committee's way; on the contrary, the mayor furnished an officer to serve summonses, and the Chamber of Commerce officially sent notice to all of its members, requesting them to come forward with any information that might be of value. The Trades Union Movement, through the president and secretary of the Trades Council, tendered their services to the committee. Stenographic notes were taken of the evidence, all of which was taken under oath, and which is hereby submitted in full.
The information obtained establishes that the riots were due to the excessive and abnormal number of negroes then, and for some months past, in East St. Louis. The feeling against the colored people originated in two sources, social and labor. There was resentment that the colored people, having over-crowded their quarters, were spreading out into sections of the city regarded as exclusively the precincts of the white people. The colored men, large numbers of whom had been induced there and who could find no jobs, in their desperate need were preventing desired improvements being made by labor, and threatening the existing standards of labor, and the white men were resenting it. These facts were set forth in the mayor's first message to the chairman of this Council.
The crisis came at a meeting arranged by the city council, to give a public hearing to protest against this situation, which had become intolerable. At that meeting inflammable speeches, which should have been stopped in their midst by the authorities, were madeimmediately after that the rioting started.
East St. Louis, with a population of app ox'mately 90,000 has had for a long time, a permanent negro population of from 10,000 to 15,000. This city is, accordingly, accustomed to the presence of colored people in numbers. It is therefore manifest that the trouble was due to the recent rapid influx of the colored people. The evidence shows these camə mostly from the southern states. Estimates vary from 6,000 to 15,000 as the number that had come within the past year or so. Our investigation accordingly took the line of why they came, since discovery of that would doubtless suggest the remedy.
For more than two years, there has been a considerable migration north of the southern negro. There has been increased demand for labor in the north on account of the great numbers employed in plants devoted to war materials. This was accentuated by the return of some of the foreigners from the north to their native lands to take their places in the war, and the complete stoppage of the former supply of labor from those countries.
The negroes from the south furnish the most likely supply to meet this demand, because the south pays them lower wages, works them longer hours, gives them less consideration, and surrounds them with poorer working conditions. This movement, so far as it is a result of this condition, is a readjustment of the equilibrium of population in accordance with present economic law, and so far as this is true, no issue can be taken with it
But this committee finds that the situation at East St. Louis differs so much in degree from the situation in most other cities, that it could not be explained as a result of ordinary operations. That East St. Louis, accustomed as it is, to the presence of colored people, *John H. Harrison, editor and owner of Daily Commercial News, Danville, Ill.
could stage a racial outbreak, argues that a cause different than ordinary migration of colored labor was operative.
Such a cause was definitely established by evidence. It was shown that extensive advertising had been done in southern newspapers, setting forth the allurements in East St. Louis in the way of abundant work, short hours, and high wages, good conditions and treatment. Labor agents also were shown to have been very active in the south. They had gone about soliciting the movement of colored men to East St. Louis. They had invited colored men to assemble in groups of ten in order to get cheaper railroad rates. Excursions by train and by steamboat were offered cheaper for the round trip than the regular one way fare would amount to. That such things were being done, was recited in the local press of East St. Louis continually for many weeks, and seemed never to be denied.
A peculiarity of this campaign for the importation of unskilled labor to East St. Louis was its anonymous character, a fact in itself suspicious. There appear in all newspapers over the country almost daily, advertisements for labor in some other place, which are signed by those who want the employes. Such advertisements, of course, are legitimate. But it seems strange that the extensive territory of the south should be covered by a propaganda urging migration to East St. Louis, and at the same time that these advertisements should not only be signed by no one, but that they should not designate any particular plant, of which there are many large ones in East St. Louis, that required additional labor. Likewise,.labor agents were equally mysterious. It was related that these labor agents would assemble car loads of negroes and start north accompanying them. At convenient points these agents would leave the car with the remark that they had telegrams to send, or would get a lunch. They never came back, and the train pulled out without them. The negroes were thus left to shift for themselves upon their arrival at East St. Louis; to find work as they could and quarters as they might.
The evidence warrants the conclusion that there was an extensive campaign to induce negroes in great numbers to come to East St. Louis. Such campaign had required considerable financing, and its backers took pains to be unknown. Official recognition of these circumstances was taken in a resolution introduced to the Chamber of Commerce by M. V. Joyce, its vice-president, ten days before the race riots occurred. The resolution sets fort the things here related, and urges that steps be taken to discontinue the practice and to "Employ every legitimate means to prevent the influx of negroes into East St. Louis, and thereby take every precaution against crime, riot and disorder generally." The resolution was laid upon the table by the directors of the Chamber of Commerce, pending the forwarding to every member of a copy. The Chamber of Commerce of East St. Louis has within its membership the most influential and the most important, industrially, of its citizenship. This resolution was never acted upon. Its non-action at a time when the very atmosphere was charged with tense feeling is in line with the anonymous character of the influence bringing the extraordinary influx of negroes into East St. Louis.
As a result of the intense public interest and general discussion of the situation before and after the riots, this committee was confronted with many unverified statements as to conditions existing with relation to the matter to be investigated. It was urged that during the previous year there had been industrial troubles in several of the plants of the city, and that employers had brought about the extraordinary influx of colored men to have a surplus of labor and thus defeat the contentions of their employes. It was alleged that employers had had meetings to arrange a program of importation of the southern negroes and that the larger employers of the city had collectively been responsible. The managers of all the larger industries of the city were examined, and all denied any collusion, or knowledge of the campaign conducted in the south to bring negroes to East St. Louis. The fact remains, however, that these managers were the chief beneficiaries of the surplus of labor, and the force of motive points in their direction. Fixing the actual personal responsibility, while it might be desirable, adds nothing at this point. This Council of Defense is a body organized to promote the country's war interests, and to pursue the research for responsibility further along this line would not serve the purpose of this Council. The condition was there, no matter how it was brought about, or by whom.
Since this Council is a war body, its endeavors must have a relationship to the war.
A harmonious nation is necessary to successful prosecution of war. The situation at East St. Louis, its causes and its consequences, contain a lesson and a warning valuable for guidance in relation to the war. To get the maximum of efficiency for success in this war, there must be harmony between capital and labor, between employer and employe. They must face the future with an equal degree of patriotism. Organized labor, in its national central body has, by formal action, inaugurated a policy of suspending or avoiding strikes as far as possible. It thus, as far as possible, waives its right of aggression in making the best bargain possible for its services. This is a most patriotic attitude but in all reason it can not be expected to maintain that spirit, unless met half way by the employing class. If labor exerts every influence possible to avoid industrial strife, then capital must do the same thing, and must do nothing to impair existing standards of labor.
To import a surplus of labor will promote strife rather than repress it. To so act is not to meet labor half way. Labor has declared a truce, to whatever extent such may be possible, and the employer will be the opposite of a patriot if he does not do the same. Labor has set a patriotic pace which should challenge a patriotic rivalry from the employer. The patriotic spirit of labor thus far has given the government rich promise as to what extent it may be depended upon. This committee therefore recommends the following:
First: That the widest publicity be given to the situation at East St. Louis through the Council of National Defense, and through the respective State Councils of Defense, that the danger in the situations of this kind may be made apparent to the south and the industrial centers of the north, to the end that migration of the southern negroes may be dis couraged before other outbreaks of a similar nature occur.
Second: That migration of any class from one part of the country to another be allowed to flow along natural lines, that the equilibrium of population may not be disturbed; that the severest condemnation should be visited upon those who undertake to promote any artificial movement of population, because such artificial movement is sure to result in friction, and now more than ever should friction be avoided.
Third: That the problems of shifting labor where labor is needed during the war, be handled by the various State Councils of Defense, in conjunction with the Council of National Defense, in connection with those responsible officers of the labor movement who are daily showing their patriotism in endeavoring to restrain industrial strife, and in connection with the Department of Labor of the United States and similar departments of the states. It is anticipated that if this is done that labor can be shifted to where it is needed with sole reference to the benefit of industry as well as the workers themselves, and consequently to the welfare of the nation.
We believe such arrangement will be productive of the greatest cooperation and harmony between labor and the employing interests, and these must work during the period of this war in harmony, and in mutual recognition of each other's rights and responsibilities in order to preserve the life of democracy and maintain the honor of our country.
LABOR COMMITtee, the State COUNCIL OF Defense,
CHICAGO, ILL., June 30, 1917.
Let no community assume an attitude of self-righteousness toward the terrible violence that has brought shame and horror to East St. Louis and to our whole nation. If the same conditions are cermitted to exist in any other locality, the same rioting may be expected. Race problems are serious even when approached with intelligence and always harbor geims of danger. This is why the organized labor movement tries to protect workers from industrial competition with another race, particularly one with lower standards.
It is particularly timely that this warning be considered now that an effort is being made to destroy the legislation that protects workers against
competition with coolie standards of work and life. Our nation is in the fight for democracy and is ready to pour out lives and treasure freely and urgrudyingly for human freedom. Victory means wonderful opportunity but it m be a victory for American people as a whole.
All students know that the American Federation of Labor, its off and advocates have valiantly stood in defense and advocacy of the rights of all workers- all our people-white and black, but no one can blind the people to the fact that the negroes became the conscious or unconscious victims to the profit mongers, aided and abetted by a corrupt gang of East St. Louis politicians and grafters.
In connection with this situation, an article by W. S. Carter, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, published in the official journal of that organization, is of especial significance. We quote the portion which shows that the problem is a general and a fundamental one and of concern to all workers:
"Through what appears to me to be a short-sighted policy some operating railroad officials have assumed the attitude that a negro employe is not entitled to the same consideration as a white man.
"During the western arbitration of firemen and hostlers in 1910 but few railroads participating in that wage movement employed negroes in any capacity, but some of such roads that did employ negro firemen, failed or refused to place the arbitration award in effect so far as it affected negro firemen and hostlers.
"In the last western wage movement of engineers firemen and hostlers certain railroads assumed that negro firemen could not participate in the arbitration and the discussion over this matter makes up an important feature of the official records of that arbitration. Subsequent to this western arbitration certain railroads did not hesitate to enforce their dictum that negro firemen were not entitled to any of the benefits of an arbitration conducted under the provisions of the federal law.
"During the more recent national eight-hour movement certain railroads absolutely refused to permit the national conference committee of the railways to represent the negro firemen, hostlers and brakemen, and now the same railroads contend that the negroes are not entitled to participate in the settlement of the eight-hour matter reached at New York. It is doubtful if these railroads will permit a negro to receive the benefits of the Adamson Law.
"And now it is reported that negroes are being imported from the south to take the places of white firemen and other employes in the north. Evidently the purpose of the railroads is to destroy the influences of white men's labor organizations."
The way to prevent riots is to establish justice. Negroes were brought to this country through injustice-that their labor might be exploited. Those innocent, helpless slaves have had a terrible vengeance in the race problem the American people must meet. Similar exploitation of the workers of any other race would inevitably lead to similar results.
"Your patriotism is of the same self-denying stuff as the patriotism of the men dead or maimed on the fields of France, or else it is no patriotism at all. Let us never speak, then, of profits and of patriotism in the same sentence, but face facts and meet them."-President Wilson.