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In the early part of the century, thousands of African Americans migrated from the rural South in search of a better life in the northern industrial cities. This black migration was an important event in U.S. history. It fueled the factories of the North, but hurt an already weakened southern economy. In East St. Louis, Ill., trouble was brewing as black workers were being hired to replace striking white workers. It all came to a head on the night of July 1, 1917 when two white men shot randomly into homes in a black neighborhood. As the riot escalated, the militia was called in. When the dust settled, thirty-nine people were officially reported dead and many more were injured. The black community was convinced that these numbers were low, but President Wilson refused to permit a federal inquiry. In the ensuing trials, black rioters were punished more severely than their white counterparts. Using testimonies of eye witnesses, commentary by academics and journalists, this powerful film brings alive a violent chapter of American history.