Large avatar eastlouisriots1917

East St Louis Massacre 1917,
East St Louis, Illinois
July 02, 1917

Agencies: Unspecified

Last updated: 8 months ago

Overview Help icon

Hurd pulled no punches in describing the horror he saw on the street. This is how he opened the piece:

"For an hour and a half last evening I saw the massacre of helpless negroes at Broadway and Fourth Street, in downtown East St. Louis, where black skin was a death warrant."

In the story's conclusion, which can be read here, Hurd directly addressed the reports of an armed black militia firing on two plainclothes police detectives on July 1. Both officers were killed, though one had not yet succumbed to his wounds at the time of Hurd's July 3 piece. The officers' deaths — which eyewitnesses would later claim was accidental — were blamed for sparking a chain reaction of mob violence and indiscriminate murder over the next 48 hours.

Here's how Hurd ended his account:

"In recording this, I do not forget that a policeman — by all accounts a fine and capable policeman — was, killed by negroes the night before. I have not forgotten it in writing about the acts of the men in the street. Whether this crime excuses or palliates a massacre, which probably included none of the offenders, is something I will leave to apologists for last evening's occurrences, if there are any such, to explain."

Additional Resources: