Governor Pete Ricketts issued a statement regarding the 100th anniversary of the Omaha Race Riot of September 1919.
“September 28, 2019 marks a somber anniversary in our state. One hundred years ago a race riot broke out in downtown Omaha, culminating in the brutal murder of Will Brown, a young black man, at the hands of an angry white mob.”
“In the early 1900s many African-Americans moved to Omaha in search of economic opportunity. All too often they encountered racial hostility. Powerful individuals with influence over Omaha newspapers used the press to inflame racial animosities for the purpose of consolidating their own political control. In September 1919, escalating social tensions erupted into a harrowing display of violence known as the Omaha Race Riot.”
“The riot began when Will Brown was placed in custody following dubious allegations that he had assaulted a 19-year old white woman. In response to inflammatory newspaper reports of the incident, a mob formed outside of the Douglas County Courthouse where Brown was being held. Omaha’s mayor intervened in an effort to disperse the crowd, but the rioters attacked him and overran the courthouse. The mob then dragged Will Brown from the building and savagely murdered him in a manner too gruesome to recount.”
“This day was a stain on our state’s history. It is painful to remember and difficult to discuss. Yet it’s important that we learn from the past—even its most shocking and saddening chapters. The events of September 28, 1919 serve as a stark reminder of our duty to oppose hate, condemn racism, and uphold due process and the rule of law. I know my fellow Nebraskans will join me as we solemnly recall what happened 100 years ago and renew our commitment to racial harmony.”