Civil Rights and Protests

The Civil Rights Movement

Why did the NAACP hold a Silent Protest Parade?

The NAACP’s Silent Protest Parade, also known as the Silent March, was held on 5th Avenue in New York City on Saturday, July 28, 1917, and was spurred by violence toward African Americans and race riots and outrages in Waco, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and East St. Louis, Illinois. Typical of this unrest was the East St. Louis Race Riot, also called the East St. Louis Massacre, which drove almost six thousand blacks from their burning homes, and left hundreds of blacks dead. A large, local committee composed of pastors of leading churches and influential men and women was formed to address the parade issue. The NAACP and the local group rejected the idea of mass protest in favor of a Silent Protest Parade. The parade down 57th Street to Madison Square brought out nine to ten thousand blacks who marched silently to what was called “the sound only of muffled drums.” Children, some younger than six years old and dressed in white, led the procession. Women—some of them aged—dressed in white followed, and men—some also aged—in dark suits brought up the rear. The marchers carried protest banners and posters proclaiming the purpose of the demonstration. They distributed circulars explaining why they marched. “We march because we are thoroughly opposed to Jim Crow cars, …segregation, discrimination, disfranchisement, lynching, and the host of evils that are forced on us” is an example of what their circulars displayed. The parade moved in silence and was watched in silence.


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