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The Lost Revolution: Capitalism, democracy and Black citizenship in early 20th-century America's biggest race conflicts, 2007

Author(s): Katonio Butler
  • Type: Thesis
  • Researcher: Other Researchers
  • Timeline: 2000s
  • Affiliation: Student


This new racial conflict over the future of blacks' social, political and economic self determination became an inescapable "trial by fire" for American democracy. Throughout the United States, W.E.B. Du Bois' "New Negroes," molded on the battlefields of Western Europe and the shop floors of the American mill, were determined to assert their claims to equal American citizenship. During the period of racial tumult following the end of World War I, three riots that were notable for their scale and significance to both American race relations and black political activism occurred in the United States: the Chicago Riot of 1919, the Elaine Riot of 1919 and the Tulsa Riot of 1921. All three riots involved armed, organized mobs of hundreds to thousands of whites fully mobilized against armed black communities that were resolute in the defense of their lives, property and rights as citizens. The three riots were additionally notable for the character of the black communities involved; although only Chicago's South Side escaped total destruction, armed and organized elements of blacks in each locale attempted to repel attacks by whites. All three riots saw the intervention of armed troops, though not necessarily in a bid to restore order. Once the troops arrived, only the black communities were occupied. Only in Chicago, where the black community enjoyed the most protection of their civil rights, did the government troops actually mobilize to protect the black population. At best, the troops did not actively move against the white mobs, allowing further bloodshed to occur (Chicago). At worst, they were implicit in the white mob violence that claimed hundreds of black lives and millions in property (Elaine and Tulsa). In each case, when the dust settled, the predominant racial caste system was still intact. In none of these communities were the mass of white rioters ever brought to justice for their atrocities. Many blacks, however, were detained and formally prosecuted for numerous offenses stemming from the violence...

About the Author

Katonio Arthella Butler '07 earned his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics and History, with a concentration in Economics, from MIT in 2007. While at the Institute, he worked in the MIT Space Systems Laboratory as a researcher on the MIT LunarDREEM Project and as an archivist in the Industrial Liaison Program in the MIT Office of Corporate Relations. Butler was the recipient of an Annenberg Fellowship and won first place in a NASA in-situ resource utilization competition.  

Butler, Katonio A. "The Lost Revolution: Capitalism, democracy and black citizenship in early twentieth-century America's biggest race conflicts." Thesis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007. Web. []