“It is important to learn and share the stories of racial terror, such as the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre, to build a more complete narrative of this city. Without them we are left to understand current instances of injustices as isolated issues without the necessary context to correctly address them.” -Allison Bantimba, Founder of the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition.
115 years ago on September 22nd, 1906 when the gubernatorial candidates Hoke Smith, former publisher of the Atlanta Journal, and Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, used the power of the white media to convince the city’s white citizenry to disrupt and dismantle Black civil and economic rights. By publishing allegations that four white women had been assaulted by black men, Atlanta erupted into racial terror.
That false propaganda and gaslighting started the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre that would take place for four days and cost dozens of Black Atlantans their lives while hundreds of others were injured.
A mob of terror moved from the Five Points area of downtown Atlanta, attacking Blacks, and destroying and looting black-owned businesses, throwing stones and bricks through windows and using knives, firearms, and other weapons to attack anyone of color in the area.
Through the work of The Equal Justice Initiative Reports “Lynching in America” we now know some of the horrific accounts of many that were killed during the four-day massacre.
For example: While looting a pawn shop, a mob of more than 75 white men saw Milton Brown and began chasing him down Peters Street during the massacre. Mr. Brown was shot three times–in his chest, head, and shoulder. Members of the Atlanta Police Department witnessed Mr. Brown’s attack but did not intervene. News reports stated that as Mr. Brown was waiting for an ambulance, he stated that he “knew nothing of the trouble going on and that the attack on him was wholly unexpected.” He died before an ambulance arrived. He worked for the Stocks Coal Company as a laborer and was walking back to his home on Morris Street from a friend’s house on Castleberry Street.
Black clergy and civic leaders and white officials met privately to discuss plans for ending the terror, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce held a public meeting. Though the riot had been the product of white mob brutality, fueled by sensationalized narratives of racial hostility spread by the white press, these meetings insisted on a narrative that the violence was due to black Atlanta residents’ failure to protect white women. The Chamber of Commerce conversations also revealed that, among white residents, the primary incentive to end the riot was to end its disruption to local business.
Three years after the riots the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) would be formed, with an Atlanta professor and author, W.E.B. DuBois as one of its founding members.
100 years later the city would formally recognize the crimes that took place those faithful days.
115 years later, with all of these documented accounts of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre, it is still one of the most untalked about events in Atlanta’s History.