We must thank Professor Will for this reminder as we approach the elections

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the word “pogrom” from 1905, the year hundreds of Russian Jews were massacred in Odessa. In 1908, there was a pogrom of sorts in Illinois. It occurred in Springfield 100 years ago this week. So, consider the phenomenon of progress, which at the moment seems more contingent than it did just a decade ago.

On the night of Aug. 13, Mabel Hallam, a pretty young white woman whose husband, Earl, was working the night shift as a streetcar conductor, retired early. Around 11:30 p.m. she was awakened by a man’s weight on her. “Why, Earl,” she said, “what is wrong with you?” The man, who was not Earl and was black, said, “I am drunk.” He raped her and fled. So she said.

“Negro’s Heinous Crime” and “Dragged From Her Bed and Outraged by Negro” were the next day’s headlines. As Jim Rasenberger reconstructs events in his fine book “America 1908,” police plucked black men from the streets of Hallam’s neighborhood until she identified one, George Richardson, as her assailant. By 5 p.m. the jail was surrounded by a mob of at least 4,000 baying for blood. Eighty-nine blacks would be lynched in America in 1908.

Read the rest here.