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Faculty

Looking back at the Silent Protest Parade

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

By Chad Williams
The Conversation

The only sounds were those of muffled drums, the shuffling of feet and the gentle sobs of some of the estimated 20,000 onlookers. The women and children wore all white. The men dressed in black.

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 28, 1917, nearly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue, in silence, to protest racial violence and white supremacy in the United States.

New York City, and the nation, had never before witnessed such a remarkable scene.

The “Silent Protest Parade,” as it came to be known, was the first mass African-American demonstration of its kind and marked a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement. As I have written in my book “Torchbearers of Democracy,” African-Americans during the World War I era challenged racism both abroad and at home. In taking to the streets to dramatize the brutal treatment of black people, the participants of the “Silent Protest Parade” indicted the United States as an unjust nation.

This charge remains true today.

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Categories: Faculty
Date: July 28, 2017