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

Colonization Conspiracy (East St. Louis, IL)

Prior to the East St. Louis race riots of 1917, a conspiracy took place when 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 also 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. For the 1916 election, there was a colonization investigation with the supposed findings, by Assistant Attorney General Frank Dailey, that over the previous year, 300,000 Negroes of voting age had been colonized in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Ten to twelve thousand had settled 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 so than politics. But, the newspapers were told that the colonists had been brought North as illegal voters, and that the jobs never existed, and there was a guilty party in Kentucky: "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.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

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

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Colonization Conspiracy (East St. Louis, IL),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 25, 2020,

Last modified: 2018-11-08 21:43:48