Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of History
Abstract: In the early twentieth century, more and more African Americans began to leave the American South in search of better jobs and more equal treatment in the North. These black migrants found a less rigid racial hierarchy and employment in industrial and domestic settings. However, racism in the North was alive and well. As African American communities began to exert their economic and political power, they were often targeted by white mobs who would rampage through black neighborhoods, killing and burning as they went. In response to race riots in Springfield (1908), East St. Louis (1917), and Chicago (1919), black intellectuals would form large, national organizations with the intention of stopping further acts of violence. This era of civil rights was dominated by large intellectual personalities who brought a top-down approach to uplift. Embodied most clearly in W.E.B. Du Bois, groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League sought to cultivate a black middle-class to represent the race as a whole positively. While these groups faced criticism from more extreme thinkers to their political right and left, they ultimately distinguished themselves as the dominant voices in civil rights during the time. Unfortunately, the creation of a black middle-class did very little to stem the tide of racial violence or uplift African Americans as a whole. This paper examines the intellectual origins of prominent civil rights leaders and organizations, their programs for racial uplift, and how they ultimately succeeded or failed to bring about positive change.
Pleming, John Patrick, "Lynch Law in the Land of Lincoln: African American Intellectuals and Early Twentieth Century Race Riots" (2023). Theses and Dissertations. 1702.