July 28, 2017
100th Anniversary of the Silent Parade
There was no singing, no chanting — just silence.
On July 28, 1917, the only sound on New York City’s Fifth Avenue was the muffled beat of drums as nearly 10,000 African American children, women, and men marched in silence in what came to be known as the Silent Parade. It was one of the first mass protests of lynching and anti-black violence in the United States. The parade was precipitated by the East St. Louis Riots of 1917, during which between 40 and 250 Black people were killed and thousands more displaced by white mobs.
Organized by the NAACP, including leaders James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B Du Bois, the protest demanded that President Woodrow Wilson take the legislative action to protect African Americans that he had touched on during his presidential campaign. Although the demonstrators marched in silence, their message was very clear. One sign read, “Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy” — a challenge at a time where the President was promising to bring democracy to the world through World War I while Black Americans were being stripped of their civil rights at home.
Today's Doodle commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Silent Parade, and honors those whose silence resonates a century later.
To learn more about this period, and the era of lynching that led to this protest, visit lynchinginamerica.eji.org, an interactive site created by Google.org grantee the Equal Justice Initiative in collaboration with Google. Through oral histories, film, and interactive maps, Lynching in America provides the opportunity to address this painful past, in the name of building a better future.