The riots in East St. Louis began when whites, angry because African Americans were employed by a factory holding government contracts, went on a rampage. Over $400,000 worth of property was destroyed. At least 40 African Americans were killed. Men, women and children were beaten, stabbed, hanged and burned. Nearly 6,000 African Americans were driven from their homes.
Across the country, people were aghast at the violence. On July 28, 8,000 African Americans, primarily from Harlem, marched silently down Fifth Avenue. They were dressed in their finest clothes and marched to the sound of muffled drums. They carried picket signs while thousands of New Yorkers watched from the sidewalks. The children marched as well as the adults. Some of the banners read: "Mother, do lynchers go to heaven?" "Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?" "Thou shalt not kill." "Pray for the Lady Macbeths of East St. Louis." "Give us a Chance to Live."Keep in mind, by the way, these folks had the courage to do this decades before the civil rights movement. Nobody was arrested.
Several scuffles broke out between screaming protesters and officers who pushed them behind barricades. One woman was seen wrestling with an officer who had leaped across a barricade, chasing her before she was arrested. Police said nine people were arrested on various charges including assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.