The Silent Parade Heard Around The World: 100th Anniversary

 In Social Commentary

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Silent Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Organized by the NAACP, on July 28, 1917, 8,000 to 10,000 African Americans marched in silence to protest violence against the Black community.

The 1917 Silent Parade followed a spate of racist violence against African Americans in several cities. That year, one of the bloodiest race riots in the nation’s history occurred in East St. Louis, Illinois on July 1-3. A Congressional committee reported that as many as 200 Black men and women had been killed by Whites, hundreds injured, and 6,000 driven from their homes. Later that year, in August, a riot erupted in Houston, Texas between Black soldiers and White residents. Eighteen Black soldiers were hanged for participation in the riot. In 1917, Whites lynched 36 African Americans.

The following day, here is how The New York Times described the Silent Parade:

To the beat of muffled drums 8,000 negro men, women and children marched down Fifth Avenue yesterday in a parade of ‘silent protest against acts of discrimination and oppression’ inflicted upon them in this country, and in other parts of the world. Without a shout or a cheer they made their cause known through many banners which they carried, calling attention to ‘Jim Crowism,’ segregation, disenfranchisement, and the riots of Waco, Memphis, and East St. Louis.

Below is an NAACP memo listing the slogans for the posters the demonstrators carried. The marchers included children, women dressed in white, and men dressed in black.

memorandum for naacp branches