August 14: White Mob Brought Anti-Black Terror To Illinois On This Date In 1908

0 Posted by - August 14, 2022 - LATEST POSTS, On This Date

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: Atlanta’s Kenan Research Center

Two black men named George Richardson and Joe James were sought out to be lynched in Springfield, Illinois, on August 14, 1908. An angry mob of white racists forcibly collected outside the correctional facility with the intention of carrying out the execution. A violent uprising broke out when the conspiring lynch mob discovered that the prisoners had been moved from the jail to another jurisdiction.

Henry Loper was a man who was said to have assisted in the escape of Richardson and James from the jail. Some members of the mob were responsible for ransacking his local store. Others, who were under the impression that the two  Black inmates were still there, launched attacks on the law enforcement and militia personnel who were stationed at the facility. After getting back together, the two gangs went on a rampage through Black communities in Springfield. They burglarized houses, as well as businesses, robbed valuables, which were appraised at $150,000, and ignited raging fires that set entire blocks ablaze.

The lynching of two Black men in the early hours of the next day marked the peak of the violence. When Scott Burton attempted to defend himself against his assailants, he was met with brutal savagery that included being shot four times, dragged through the streets, hung, and mangled until the militia intervened. William Donegan, an 84-year-old African American man with a white wife, was abducted from his house and hung from a tree across the street. His attackers slit his neck and knifed him multiple times in other areas of his body. When the militia got at the site, Mr. Donegan was still conscious. However, he did not make it through the night. He passed away on the following day just after sunrise.

During the chaos of the unrest, which is reported to have resulted in the deaths of seven individuals, hundreds of African-American residents sought refuge at the neighboring Camp Lincoln in order to be protected by the National Guard. Others were able to escape the city. The police detained 150 persons who were suspected of taking part in the violence, and 117 of those people were criminally charged. One of the three people who were charged with murder took their own life. The other two were found not guilty after their trials.

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