The march was organized by W. E. B. Du Bois, the NAACP, second vice president of the NAACP, Harlem‘s James Weldon Johnson, and Rev. Hutchens Chew Bishop, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and realtor John E. Nail in Harlem, on July 28, 1917.
Johnson remembered the idea of a silent protest from A NAACP Conference in 1916 when Oswald Garrison Villard suggested it.
Men, women, and children marched to the sound of drums, carrying placards that read:
“Mother do lynchers go to heaven?”
“Give me a chance to live”
“Treat us so that we may love our country”
“Mr. President, why not make America Safe for Democracy?”
Ana “Your hands are full of blood.”
As the protesters marched from Harlem silently down 5th Avenue, south down 5th Avenue, and 59th Street and then to Madison Square to 23rd Street. Boy scouts distributed fliers describing the NAACP’s struggle against segregation, lynching, discrimination, and other forms of racist oppression.
NAACP literature outlined the objectives and goals of the march:
We march because by the Grace of God and the force of truth, the dangerous, hampering walls of prejudice and inhuman injustices must fall.
We march because we want to make impossible a repetition of Waco, Memphis, and East St. Louis, by arousing the conscience of the country and bringing the murders of our brothers, sisters, and innocent children to justice.
We march because we deem it a crime to be silent in the face of such barbaric acts.
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. It is time that the Spirit of Christ should be manifested in the making and execution of laws.
We march because we want our children to live in a better land and enjoy fairer conditions than have fallen to our lot.
The American flag was also carried as a reminder of the democratic ideals that failed to protect African Americans. This march launched the NAACP’s public campaign against lynching and racial violence.
Photo credit: In front row are James Weldon Johnson (far right), W. E. B. DuBois (2nd from right), Rev. Hutchens Chew Bishop, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (Harlem) and realtor John E. Nail via source.