During World War I
the Omaha meat industry received large government contracts to
provision both American troops and hungry allies. At the same
time the military draft depleted workers in the stockyards and
packing houses. Like many northern cities, Omaha drew many rural
African-Americans to fill the labor shortage.
After the war, white veterans returned home to find their jobs
occupied by blacks. That tension would soon explode.
On September 25, 1919, 19-year-old Agnes Loebeck accused a 40-year-old
African-American, Will Brown, of raping her and robbing her and
her date, Millard Hoffman. Brown was arrested and jailed at the
Douglas County Courthouse. Three days later, a lynch mob whipped
into a frenzy by the inflammatory remarks published in the Omaha
Bee assembled outside of the courthouse. Omaha mayor Edward
Parsons Smith, tried to stop the crowd of 4,000 and narrowly
escaped hanging. Will Brown was hauled from his jail cell, brutally
lynched, and his body was shot and burned. The new Douglas County
Courthouse was substanitally damaged and two other Omahans lay
dead. The Nebraska National Guard was called onto to the streets
of Omaha to restore order.
Rioters storm the south side of the courthouse.
holes in the Treasurer's office.
Brown's lifeless body burning while a grinning
crowd looks on.
World Herald, September 1919