Change the Name: The 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre

Petition to change the name

We, the undersigned, believe that the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre should be the accepted name for one of the most egregious acts of racial violence in Georgia history. Calling it a “riot,” the most commonly used term until now, does not fully convey the brutality of an event in which at least two dozen of Atlanta’s Black residents were killed and hundreds more injured at the hands of a white mob numbering nearly 10,000.

We believe the word “massacre” more accurately describes what happened and should be used in any reference to the events of that day, from education curricula to web resources to media references.

Sign the Petition

Join the Campaign to Change the Name:

Background

On Sept. 22, 1906, one of the worst recorded cases of racial violence in Georgia history erupted on the streets of downtown Atlanta. By the time it ended four days later, at least two dozen Black people had been killed, hundreds injured, and hundreds more driven from the city.

For more than a century, this surge of violence was known in most accounts as the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. Many historians, community members, and allies believe that term is not sufficient to describe what happened. They believe the events of 1906 should be called a massacre.

Webster’s defines a riot as a “violent disorder.” The events of 1906 went far beyond that and more closely match the definition of a massacre: “the indiscriminate, merciless killing of a number of human beings.”

The massacre occurred after weeks of rising racial tension brought on by scores of false and misleading newspaper reports about African American men sexually assaulting white women. The media whipped up a sense of hysteria, one newspaper going so far as to call for vigilantes to punish African American men. That’s why a mob of nearly 10,000 white people, many of them armed, gathered in downtown Atlanta on the evening of Sept. 22, 1906, and began indiscriminately attacking Black Atlanta residents: beating, stabbing and shooting men, women and children. In coming days, the attacks spread out to other Atlanta neighborhoods of Brownsville and East Point, where more people were murdered.

What happened in Atlanta in 1906 should not be mistaken for civil unrest. It was part of an era of vigilantism targeting African Americans and their economic progress, an era that saw a rise in lynchings and racial terror that were broad attacks on Black communities.

Other cities that experienced racially motivated white mob violence have formally changed the names of those events to clarify their history. What was once known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot is now the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Likewise, what was once called the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot is now the 1898 Wilmington Massacre.

Atlanta should do likewise. It isn’t just a matter of semantics. The words we use to describe important chapters in our history matter.

Please join the efforts of Atlanta community leaders and organizations, working through the Coalition to Remember the 1906 Race Massacre and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, to commemorate and raise awareness about the events of 1906.  Please sign the petition to change the name from the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot to 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre.

 

Supported by:

The Coalition to Remember the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre

Culture Centers International (CCI) was joined by Southern Truth and Reconciliation (STAR) and the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition (FCRC) to become The Coalition’s Convening Organizations.

They were joined by:

  • The Atlanta Branch of Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)
  • Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival
  • King Williams
  • Chattahoochee Brick Company Descendants
  • Equitable Dinners
  • Project South
  • National Center for Civil and Human Rights.