The Springfield race riot of 1908, moreso a massacre, was a series of violent actions initiated against African Americans by a mob of about 5,000 whites in Springfield, Illinois, between August 14 and 16, 1908. Two black men had been arrested as suspects in a rape(later proven false), and attempted rape and murder(also false). The alleged victims were two young white women and the father of one of them. When a mob seeking to lynch the men discovered the sheriff had transferred them out of the city, the white mob furiously spread out to attack black neighborhoods, murdered black citizens on the streets, and destroyed black businesses and homes. The state militia was called out to quell the rioting.
The riot, trials and aftermath are said to be one of the most well-documented examples of the complex intersection of race, class, and criminal justice in the United States. In 2008 an NPR report on the centenary of the race riot said that the fact of its taking place in a Northern state, specifically in “The Land of Lincoln“, demonstrated that blacks were mistreated across the country, not just in the South, and described the event as a proxy for the story of race in America.
The Race Riot of 1908 in Springfield, Illinois, the state capital and President Abraham Lincoln‘s hometown, was a catalyst showing the urgent need for an effective civil rights organization in the U.S. In the decades around the turn of the century, the rate of lynchings of blacks, particularly men, was at an all-time high. And thus, a new movement was born.