Beaumont, Texas race riot 1943. Beaumont in 1943 was booming. The war effort drew 18,000 new residents between 1942 and 1943 with work in the shipping and manufacturing industries.
But the economic boost came with a price.
Housing was tight and food shortages common. Blacks and whites jostled for the same jobs.
Adding to the tension, the Ku Klux Klan had scheduled a convention and hoped to draw up to 20,000 Klansmen. At the same time, the black community was preparing for a Juneteenth celebration.
When rumors that two white women had been raped by black men began circulating in the first weeks of June, the simmering tensions exploded.
An angry white mob that might have numbered as many as 4,000 marched on City Hall the evening of June 15, 1943. Wielding guns, axes, hammers, they descended on a black section of downtown Beaumont, breaking into businesses, pillaging, wrecking and burning property and attacking black residents. More than 100 homes were ransacked.
And when it was all over, 200 had been arrested and 64 blacks and 7 whites were injured. And two blacks and one white person were killed.
Black resident John Johnson, had finished his shift at the American Ice Co. and was getting into his car when a shotgun-toting group of white men shot him. He died on a Hotel Dieu operating table.
Ellis Cleveland Brown, a white carpenter from Louisiana, was heading home from work when he was attacked by three blacks. He was found dead near the Pennsylvania Shipyard with a crushed skull.
Booker Addison was one of a group of black military recruits waiting to board a bus to report for basic training. They were attacked by a white mob beaten and Addison died of his injuries several months later.
City officials asked for help from the Texas State Guard, which was mobilized and sent 1,800 soldiers. For backup, there were 100 state police and 75 Texas Rangers.
A curfew of 8:30 p.m. was set, roads were sealed off and Beaumont was put off limits to military personnel. Parks, playgrounds and bars were shut down and public events, such as the Juneteenth celebration, were canceled.
Black residents were not allowed to go to work.
The rioting already had begun to subside by the time the guardsmen arrived.
"Following a night of terror, the rioting began to slow down between 4 and 5 o'clock yesterday morning with the 18th Battalion Texas Defense Guard under command of Maj. Fred C. Stone in control of the courthouse, city hall and police headquarters sectors of what had been a seething, frightened Beaumont," an Enterprise account said.
"By June 20, a military tribunal had reviewed the cases of the 206 arrested. Twenty-nine were turned over to civil authorities on charges of assault and battery, unlawful assembly and arson. The remainder were released, mostly because of lack of evidence," the Handbook of Texas Online said.
Professor Donald Warren of Indiana University, who grew up in Beaumont, remembered the riot and was curious to learn more about it. He was only 9 or 10 at the time and recalls not being able to go out and ride his bicycle like he normally did.
Warren said in a telephone interview Friday that when he was doing his research on the incident back in the early 1990s, he found that, curiously, white shipyard workers seemed not to remember the incident until he brought it up. Neither a shipyard supervisor who was on duty when the workers walked off the job that day, nor a guardsman whose only mobilization was for the riot saw fit to mention the riots when he asked them about their memories of the era. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xx2Vh2rwDY