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Last Friday (July 28) marked 100 years since the NAACP’s first Negro Silent Protest Parade, better known as the Silent March. Around 10,000 African-Americans marched in silence down New York’s Fifth Avenue in response to the abject violence faced by Blacks and other injustices.

The marches came on the heels of a series of race-related riots in East St. Louis, Illinois in where angry white mobs killed dozens of Black people in response to the death of two white police officers in the city. Between 40 to 200 Black people were reportedly killed while white officers and other authorities did nothing to intervene in the one-sided affair.

On July 28, 1917, the NAACP held its silent protest in New York City. It was organized chiefly by scholar/author W.E.B. Du Bois, the NAACP and other community leaders who’d grown tired of the racial injustice in the country. The group ultimately hoped to get the attention of then-President Woodrow Wilson regarding the practice of lynching.

\Between 8,000 to 10,000 marchers walked in silence, with only the muted sounds of drums playing to keep time. The groups carried protest signs condemning the practice of Jim Crow segregation laws and the like.

The NAACP credits the day as the first silent march ever undertaken, a tradition the group heralds and still implements to this day. It was the first protest of its kind in New York City, and only the second public protest led by Black organizers. On the campaign trail, President Woodrow Wilson promised to promote Black causes and to help introduce anti-lynching laws.

Naturally, President Wilson did not live up to his lofty promises. It wasn’t until June 13, 2005 when the U.S. Senate finally recognized the injustice of its inability to pass anti-lynching laws in the early part of the 20th century. A bipartisan collective of senators introduced a resolution to formally apologize for blocking the enactment of that important legislation.

PHOTO: Public Domain

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