Both whites and blacks sought work after World War I.
Because there were so few jobs, whites felt that their jobs were being taken away from them, and vice versa. When African Americans moved into any formerly white neighborhood, it caused tension, too.
In 1917, between forty and two hundred African Americans were killed in East Saint Louis, Illinois, by a white mob that invaded the black community. That same year, sixty-three black soldiers in Houstoti, Texas, were court-martialed and thirteen hanged without appeal after a black battalion rioted in reaction to white harassment.
During the Summer of 1919, more than twenty violent race riots occurred in the United States, including disturbances in Longview, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Illinois; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Omaha, Nebraska.
These events motivated African Americans to defend their rights and support outspoken leaders.