July 6, 1917; Carnegie Hall, New York City
Both Theodore Roosevelt (former US President) and Samuel Gompers (president of the American Federation of Labor) were invited by Hamilton Fish to meet a delegation from Kerensky’s government of Russia. During the event Gompers defended the racial violence initiated during the strike in East St. Louis. Black strike breakers and their families were attacked. Over 6,000 blacks were driven from their homes and over 200 were murdered.
Roosevelt was outraged by the savage killing of Americans and called for justice for the slain. Gompers blamed the corporations for bringing in the [African-Americans] to break the strike. The strikers warned the corporation that trouble would follow (which showed some pre-meditation of what was to follow).
The argument between the two became heated as Roosevelt stood and shook his fist in Gompers face. Gompers also stood as the war of words continued.
“I will go to any extreme to bring justice to the laboring man, but when there is murder I will put him down.” Roosevelt was quoted as saying.
The confrontation turned violent as it appeared to the labor supporters in the gallery that Roosevelt struck Gompers. They charged down onto the stage, bringing Roosevelts supporters up in an attempt to stop them.
The ensuing mêlée Mr. Roosevelt received two broken ribs and a broken nose. However his worst injury was suffered when he was pushed off the stage, shattering his hip. His death two days later would lead to riots across the northeast and west coast. The landscape of American politics would be changed for decades to come.
The South would actually become more pro-Labor while the North would push Civil Rights leading to marches and demonstrations in the late 1940s. Regional politics would remain strong weakening party politics.
Many would wonder what would have happened if Theodore Roosevelt had survived to run for President again in 1920.
Hamilton Fish: Memoir of an American Patriot (by Hamilton Fish; ISBN 0-89526-531-1)
The Chicago Daily Tribune Volume LXXVI #162, Saturday, July 7, 1917