On 15th June 1943, a massive gang of white workers from the shipyards in Beaumont, Texas, descended on the city’s centre. The angry mob, estimated to have numbered anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 men, made their way downtown after hearing news that a white woman had accused a black man of raping her.
Arriving at the police station, the massive mob was informed that the alleged victim had been unable to identify any of the black men held in custody as her assailant. The lack of a clear suspect failed to appease the mob however, and they elected to take the law into their own hands with terrifying consequences.
The leaderless, disorganised crowd, growing to around 4,000 people as it picked up interested bystanders, headed for Beaumont’s black neighbourhoods. Breaking into groups they attacked shops and businesses in the black section of the city, such as the bustling community on Forsythe Street. What had started as a vigilante attempt at justice turned into an all out attack on Beaumont’s black citizens.
Arming themselves with guns, axes, hammers and any other tools that could be fashioned into makeshift weapons, the vicious mobs made their way around the neighbourhoods in the north and centre of the city.
Black people were attacked on the streets, while shops and restaurants were broken into, vandalised, looted and burnt. Over a hundred homes of black Beaumont residents were also ransacked, ultimately leaving many homeless.
Realising the uncontrollable situation which had consumed his city, George Gary, Beaumont’s Mayor, called in the Texas National Guard, and state governor A.M. Aiken Jr. placed the city under martial law. At 8:30 pm, 1,800 national guardsmen along with a hundred state police and 75 Texas Rangers arrived in the city and set about enforcing a curfew in an attempt to restore order.