ON JULY 28, 1917, up to 10,000 African Americans marched silently through New York City in one of the first mass protests against anti-black violence in the US.
The 100th anniversary of the civil rights landmark is being commemorated by a Google Doodle, which pays tribute to “those whose silence resonates a century later”.
What was the background to the Silent Parade of 1917?
The Silent Parade reflected the heightened anger of black Americans following a recent outbreak of vicious race-related violence.
Between May and July 1917 brutal riots in East St. Louis, a city in Illinois, between 40 and 250 black people were killed by white mobs.
Authorities were blamed for failing to protect innocent lives, with a chilling contemporary report describing how police were “either indifferent or encouraged the barbarities”.
The bloody scenes in East St. Louis sparked fury among black people across a nation already simmering with racial tension as African Americans migrated from the south to predominantly white industrial centres.
Such violence was by no means uncommon – a lynching of a black farmer the previous year had attracted a gruesome crowd of 10,000 white Texans, according to the academic Chad Williams.
What happened during the Silent Parade?
On July 28, between 8,000 and 10,000 African American men, women and children marched silently down Fifth Avenue, New York City, in condemnation of the riots.
Women and children, all dressed in white, led the group, with the men following behind in dark suits, creating a poignant visual spectacle.
Placards held by the protesters expressed messages of peace and unity, as well as highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the nation and calling for justice over racial violence.
As well as a response to the shocking recent events in Illinois, the marchers demanded that President Woodrow Wilson delivered on campaign promises to protect black Americans.
His promised anti-lynching legislation never materialised – indeed, little was done to improve discrimination against African Americans during Wilson’s presidency.
However, as one of the first mass protests against anti-black violence in the US, the Silent Parade marks a significant landmark in the civil rights movement.
What is a Google Doodle?
In 1998, the search engine founders Larry and Sergey drew a stick figure behind the second ‘o’ of Google as a message to that they were out of office at the Burning Man festival and with that, Google Doodles were born.
The company decided that they should decorate the logo to mark cultural moments and it soon became clear that users really enjoyed the change to the Google homepage.
In that same year, a turkey was added to Thanksgiving and two pumpkins appeared as the ‘o’s for Halloween the following year.
Now, there is a full team of doodlers, illustrators, graphic designers, animators and classically trained artists who help create what you see on those days.
This week a Google Doodle also celebrated the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of the year and officially marks the start of summer.