The 1906 Atlanta Race Riots

By; Ashley Greene

What Caused this Riot?

By the 1880's Atlanta had become the center of the regional economy, and Atlanta's population had grown. With more and more people in Atlanta there was more competition for jobs between the blacks and the whites. These conditions caused concerns for the elite whites in the community, who were concerned about the two races intermingling. It then led to the Jim Crow laws of segregation. Also the black elites throughout Atlanta had also caused racial tension throughout the city. The black elite began to acquire wealth and education. After the blacks began to get money the elite whites began to worry. The whites soon began to blame the African Americans for the growing crime rates in the city. Tom Watson and Hank Smith began to spread racial fears to gain votes during the gubernatorial campaign of the year. By late September, after there were many reports of black men assaulting white women and soon after these stories were released there was mob activity spreading throughout Atlanta.

The Race Riot Of 1906

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 22, Atlanta newspapers reported assaults, of white women being assaulted, and these assaults had never actually happened. Later that night thousands of white men and boys gathered in the streets of Atlanta and had formed a mob. The mob began going around the black-owned business and they began smashing their windows and began attacking whatever black people were in there. The crowd attacked street cars and they entered the trolley cars and they started to beat the black men, at least three black men were beaten to death. The next day, the Atlanta newspaper reported that the state militia had been told to control the mob. The newspaper also reported that blacks were no longer the problem, it was now the white people. The police were armed with rifles and the militia was patrolling throughout the streets of Atlanta and in the public landmarks. On Monday, September 24, a group of African Americans held a meeting in Brownsville. They had discussed the matters of what had happened in the last two days. By then the African Americans were armed and prepared for what else was to come. Before the end of the meeting, the Fulton County police had learned of this meeting. They feared of a counterattack and launched a raid on Brownsville. A shootout had began and an officer was killed so they called in the militia, their weapons were seized and more than 250 African Americans were arrested. Sporadic fighting had continued throughout the day.

The Aftermath of the Riot.

This riot had damaged Atlanta's image as a thriving new southern city. The riot was covered in Atlanta and throughout the nation. There were many consequences to this riot, both locally and nationally. Its aftermath saw a depression on Atlanta's black community and economy. The riot contributed to the passage of statewide prohibition and black suffrage restriction by 1908. Although the riot had a profound effect on many of those who experienced it, the riot was forgotten or minimized for decades in the white community and ignored in official histories of the city.