Black History: The Atlanta race riots of 1906

29 reasons to celebrate Black History Month: No. 8, the 1906 Atlanta riot

February marks Black History Month. Follow the AJC this month for a series of short stories and videos and people, places and events that played a significant role in the development of black people in America. 

No. 8: 1906 Atlanta Race Riots

Atlanta wasn’t always “The city too busy to hate.” In fact in 1906, the city exploded when as many as 25 African Americans and two whites would die on the downtown streets of Atlanta in a four-day race riot.

The riot began downtown on Sept. 22, a hot Saturday night when thousands of white men, inflamed by sensational and inaccurate newspaper reports — in both the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution — of black sex crimes, started attacking blacks at random.

After 1906, Atlanta became more segregated as blacks withdrew into the safety of their own community, most notably Auburn Avenue.

W. E. B. Du Bois wrote his powerful poem, “The Litany of Atlanta,” in the riot’s wake. But the riot also produced the city’s first interracial forums where white and black leaders met to make sure the city never again erupted in racial fighting.

As part of the 100-year anniversary of the Atlanta Race Riot, a memorial service was held in 2006 at the old Ebenezer Baptist Church, followed by a funeral procession to South View Cemetery, where at least eight of the victims were buried.
Photo: Rich Addicks
A part of the 100-year anniversary of the Atlanta Race Riot in 2006, a memorial service was held at the old Ebenezer Baptist Church. At least eight of the riot victims were buried South-View Cemetery.

Reason No. 9: Editor Ralph McGill

More Black History Month stories from the AJC

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