East St. Louis, Ill., Committee Discusses Reparations For Descendants Of 1917 Massacre

A white mob attacked Black residents more than a century ago, now their descendants want restitution.

The East St. Louis, Ill., City Council is considering reparations to descendants of the 1917 massacre of Black residents, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

Community organizations in the town announced plans on Saturday (July 1)  to create a reparations committee with the council’s support to discuss the possibilities. The announcement came during an annual march to honor those killed more than a century ago by a white mob.

“This massacre has affected the economic advancement of our people,” Larita Rice-Barnes, an activist with Metro-East Organizing Coalition, told the more than 50 people attending the rally. “Houses, jobs, property that could have been passed down to this day, it’s no longer here. And it’s up to us to raise that awareness.”

Historians say perhaps hundreds of Black residents in the town,  a suburb of St. Louis that sits just east across the Mississippi River, died between July 1 and July 3 in 1917 when a local company hired Black workers to replace whites who went on strike, according to local station KMOV. Memories of the massacre have faded over the last century.

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“I hadn’t even heard of the race riot until several years ago,” Rice-Barnes told KMOV. “I have my parents who grew up in the early 50s and they didn’t even know about the race riot.”

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