A white mob rioted for days in Springfield, the town where Lincoln was born.
On anniversary of race riot, Lincoln's hometown acknowledges events it ignored for generations
08-09-2008 1:02 PM
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS
Two days of terror. Black men tortured and hanged. A baby dead of exposure. Four white rioters shot by black defenders.
It wasn't America's first riot, and certainly not the last.
But this one was in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, the president who helped end slavery.
Today, Lincoln's city _ where Barack Obama launched his campaign to become the first black president _ is finally commemorating the events that erupted 100 years ago this month.
At the time, even respectable citizens came out to gawk at the smoldering rubble and a body hanging from a tree.
"His feet dangling and within reach ... the men and boys played with the corpse by swinging it back and forth against the building to hear the dull thud," a local newspaper reported.
Outraged activists helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in response to this "race war in the north."...
The riots led to 107 indictments and 85 arrests.
But witnesses, either sympathetic to the rioters or intimidated by them, were hard to find.
One mob leader killed herself rather than stand trial.
One man was sentenced to 30 days in jail for stealing a sword from a black veteran, and a teenager was sent to a reformatory for a few months.
The city power structure quickly played down the riot.
"This was not a race war at all," one newspaper claimed. In decades to come, the obituaries for key participants _ including the sheriff whose protection of his prisoners helped trigger the violence _ would contain no mention of the riot.