The Sound Behind The Silent Parade of 1917

The Powerful Beginnings

silent parade

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had started its 1st civil rights protest on its own variant as the “silent march” which was seen on Saturday 28th of July in the year 1917. The protest was not a usual loud one; rather it was like some whisper type where the protestors marched from 55th to the 24th streets of Madison Squares of midtown Manhattan, New York City.   

The Silent Protest Parade of 1917 was a strong protestation against the mob violence and lynching of the African American people for its racial discriminations and inequalities. 8,000 to 10,000 African-American individuals (males and females), were involved for the good cause.  The people marched in the 5th streets only with the sounds of the drums, a silent mourning for the good souls, ruffling and shuffling of the feet’s, accompanying along with a burden of the cause that is, the wave of anti-African American killings that happened before and turned the society upside down for the civilians.  The silent parade of 1917 was also called as the “Negro Silent Protest Parade,” and ultimately, this march became the first ever mass marching for the racial discriminations of the African-Americans.


Reason For the protesting

Reason For the protesting - silent parade

The backbone for the protest to occur was from the massive killing of the Blacks due to the racial discrimination that persisted during the 20th centuries against the African-Americans. This silent demonstration was the protesting for the mounting violence that was hindering all over the nation, but specifically to the sections that the public were seeking refuge ate the geographies of the North.

In 1917, during late May summers, and in the earliest of July, there were these gruesome attacks on the African Americans in the East St. Louis. This became a huge revolution of the African Americans that had risen from the tensions that had been set forth to the notions into the response of African Americans during the Great Migrations taken place.


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There was this involvement of the NAACP and among them, James Weldon Johnson, who heard about what had taken place for the African Americans, then decided to have a demonstration that fully involves the Whites in it for the need of blaming and then he concluded by the decisions of the silent protests of 1917, which became a big inspiration of mass strength for a good cause and later gave way for other social civil movements.



Notable Moments From the Group

Notable Moments From the Group- silent parade- 1917

  1. All men, women, and children were fully involved in the silent parade, not leaving a single soul uninvolved in it.
  2. The African-Americans were all beautifully dressed in white to denote peace and also the loudness that displayed the need for justice for what had happened to their communities a few days before.
  3. “The first blood shed for American Independence was shed by a Negro”-One of the many strong banners/cutouts and other pieces of verbal qualities that displayed powerful messages to the Whites, which people were holding on to during the marches.
  4. The silent parade of 1917 was the 1st mass protest against the racial injustice.
  5. Calling attention to Jim Crowism, disfranchisement, segregation, and riots of Waco, Memphis, and East St. Louis was also accomplished with the simple drum sounds and banner messages that people were using in the marches without sounds.
  6. The NAACP’s involvement was actually formed just a decade before who were of great help and significance for the silent protest.
  7. There was no presence of any cries or hustle and bustle.
  8. The counts of political banners were more; to name-‘Your Hands Are Full of Blood’, and ‘We Are Maligned as Lazy and Murdered When We Work’, etc.



NAACP’S Role in the March

NAACP’S Role in the March- silence parade-1917

James Weldon Johnson was the person who had the idea to show off the Whites about their struggles faced by means of the silence in the form of a parade, which became a massive powerful hit. They all started this for appealing to the nation and get recognized for their humanity. Thus, the NAACP had appealed to President Woodrow Wilson, who made to swear that he would reform and implement appropriate anti-lynching laws but had failed in doing it so. Unfortunately, the expansions of discrimination against the African-Americans grew during Wilson’s presidency. Thus, the NAACP who was a group of activists who were actually both Whites and Blacks were the backbone for the reform to take place properly and also give a deep effect on the lives of people.


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Later, the NAACP was more involved in the reforming parts and had joined hands for other marches, protests, and became a supportive community for the minorities. To state few other reforms, the NAACP was part of the 1989 silent march, encouraged under the guidance of Director Benjamin Hooks, in the Newark, for protesting against the new decision of the Supreme Court and the lowering of Anti-discrimination policies; also, the NAACP united for the protests to police stop-and-frisk practices fronting the African Americans in June 2012 across the whole country.

Few facts about the silent protest

Few facts about the silent protest 1917

  • Johnson of NAACP had remembered the idea of the silent parading from a Conference held in 1916 when Oswald Garrison Villard had actually suggested about it during his speeches.
  • The placards people held in their hands with powerful signs and messages were so beneficial and also impacted a lot of men and women of various areas.
  • The silent protest was done by having both the sufferings of the people in the past and also considering the lives of their kids in the future.
  • The American flag was also a part of the silent march to denote the failed interventions about the protection of the African-Americans.
  • “Along This Way,” was a part of James Weldon Johnson’s autobiography written by him and published in the year 1933.
  • Google made people remember about his silent march of 1917 by mentioning it in its 100 years day by denoting it with a Google Doodle.
  • More than about 100 black persons had been murdered by the white mobs and also more than about 6,000 black people were actually burned out of their houses.
  • The parade was led by children of the blacks, with men wearing decent suits and women in white dresses bringing up the rears.
  • Before the beginning of the march, the NAACP had calculated that more than about 2,800 black people were being lynched in the United States for over the course of three decades.

The silent protest was not known and forgotten by many

The silent protest was not known and forgotten by many

Sadly, the march’s appeals went unheeded. President Woodrow Wilson actually had been stepping up his actions and moves towards further segregation of the federal government. In fact, the actual cause, that is, the racial tensions that were the silent march’s ideas and ambitions had sparked from the silent march would only grow in the upcoming future times. Little had they known that when they were marching down 5th Avenue that things would only get worse, saying, in 1919, the exact two summers from that specified date, would be the presence of even higher levels of violence on a very massive scale — to such a degree it had been even called as the “Red Summer of 1919.” The parade is now actually very much important because we are still living in a place that even persists with the misreading, misunderstandings, and unresolved history with a bunch of unresolved tensions and conflicts that people should always be remembered in their hearts. The violence and injustice towards the Blacks and the African-Americans still exist in our contemporary society and hence we should always remember where we started and where we are now.


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