From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Colonization Conspiracy Claim (East St. Louis, IL)

Prior to the East St. Louis race riots of 1917, Democrats charged that Republicans were colonizing Negroes from the South to increase the power of the G.O.P. The state of Illinois was a doubtful win for the Woodrow Wilson presidential campaign, so the idea was cooked up to accuse the Republicans of vote fraud among Negroes and of importing southern Negroes to be used as strikebreakers and union busters. It was a tactic that had been used without much success in previous elections.

After the 1916 election, a colonization investigation by Assistant Attorney General Frank Dailey claimed that over the previous year, 300,000 Negroes of voting age had been colonized in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio with 10,000 to 12,000 settling in East St. Louis. The Department of Justice agents interviewed many of the so-called colonists and found that they had come North seeking higher wages more than for a voting purposes.

The newspapers were told, however, that the colonists had been brought North as illegal voters and that the jobs never existed. They reported that a party of "unscrupulous Republican politicians in Northern Kentucky had given labor contractors the names of Negroes who were to be duped."

For more see E. M. Rudwick, "East St. Louis and the "Colonization Conspiracy" of 1916," The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 33, issue 1 (Winter, 1964), pp. 35-42 [quotation from page 40]; and "The Colonization Conspiracy," chapter 2 of Race Riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917, by E. M. Rudwick.

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NKAA Source: The Journal of Negro education (periodical)
NKAA Source: Race riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917

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“Colonization Conspiracy Claim (East St. Louis, IL),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-11-13 18:33:24