100 years ago today, nearly 10,000 African Americans walked in complete silence down New York City’s Fifth Avenue. The protest, depicted in today’s Google Doodle on the search engine’s homepage, was organized by the NAACP in an effort to speak out against lynching and racial violence in the years after slavery was abolished. It was also a call to action aimed at President Woodrow Wilson to take legislative action to protect African Americans from anti-black violence.
Known as the Silent Parade of 1917, the march began at 59th Street and ended at 23rd Street — with children at the front, women wearing white in the middle, and men in the back.
According to the National Humanities Center, a flyer that was handed out before the march cited lynchings in Memphis and Waco, Texas, as well as the East St. Louis race riot of 1917. Banners in the Silent Parade had powerful words of protest, such as, “We helped to plant the flag in every American dominion,” “We are maligned as lazy, and murdered when we work,” and “Thou shalt not kill.”
In a flyer distributed by the NCAAP ahead of the Silent Parade, Reverend Chas. D. Martin detailed the need for action:
The Silent Parade initiated what has been almost a century of civil rights movements: 46 years later, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; and 96 years after the protest, the Black Lives Matter movement was formed.
To learn more about the Parade and the events that led up to it, check out Google’s interactive collaboration with the Equal Justice initiative.
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