Birmingham, AL Shiloh Baptist Church Disaster, Sept 1902

Shiloh Baptist Church, Birmingham 1902

OVER ONE HUNDRED LIVES LOST IN CHURCH DISASTER

The negro population of Birmingham, Ala., is in mourning, and a gloom has been cast over the entire state as the people begin to realize the immaualty of the appalling disaster at Shiloh Baptist church. The number of dead has reached 110 and ninety of these have been identified. A large majority of the victims of the stampede were residents of Birmingham, and as fast as the undertakers can prepare their bodies for inspection they are being identified.

American Eagle Murray Utah 1902-09-27

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SEVENTY-EIGHT NEGROES KILLED IN A MAD PANIC.

SHOUT OF "FIGHT" MISTAKEN FOR AN ALARM OF "FIRE!"

TRAGIC CLOSE OF NATIONAL CONVENTION OF NEGRO BAPTISTS AT BIRMINGHAM, ALA. -- BOOKER WASHINGTON PRESENT BUT UNHURT.

Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 19 -- In an awful crush of humanity caused by a stampede in the Shiloh Negro Baptist Church, at the corner of Avenue G and Eighteenth Street, to-night, seventy-eight persons were killed and as many more seriously injured.
The disaster occurred at 9 o'clock, just as BOOKER T. WASHINGTON had concluded his address to the National Convention of Negro Baptists, and for three hours the scenes around the church were almost indescribable. Dead bodies were strewn in every direction, and the ambulance service of the city was utterly unable to move them until long after midnight. While the injured were being attended to dozens of dead bodies were arranged in rows on the ground outside the building awaiting removal to the various undertaking establishments, and more than a score were laid out on the benches inside.
Shiloh Church is the largest place of worship for negroes in Birmingham, and at least 2,000 persons were inside when the stampede began. Instructions had been issued to allow no one to enter after the building had been filled, but the negroes forced their way inside and were standing in every aisle when the cry of "Fight!" "Fight!" was mistaken for "Fire," and a deadly scramble began to get out. The entrance to the church was literally packed, and the negroes were trampled to death in their struggle to escape.
As BOOKER T. WASHINGTON concluded his address JUDGE BILLOU, a negro lawyer from Baltimore, engaged in a dispute with the choir leader concerning an unoccupied seat. Some one in the choir cried, "A fight!" Mistaking the word "fight" for "fire," the congregation rose en masse and started for the door.
One of the ministers quickly mounted the rostrum and urged the people to keep quiet. He repeated the word "quiet" several times, and motioned to his hearers to be seated. The excited congregation mistook the word "quiet" for a second alarm of fire and again rushed for the door. Men and women crawled over benches and fought their way into the aisles, and those who had fallen were trampled upon like cattle. The screams of the women and children added to the horror of the scene. Through mere fright many persons fainted and as they fell to the floor were crushed to death.
The level of the floor of the church is about fifteen feet from the ground, and long steps lead to the sidewalk from the lobby, just outside the main auditorium. Brick walls extend on each side of these steps for six or seven feet, and this proved a veritable death trap. Negroes who had reached the top of the steps were pushed violently forward and many fell. Before they could move others fell upon them, and in a few moments persons were piled upon each other to a height of ten feet, where they struggled vainly to extricate themselves.
This wall of struggling humanity blocked the entrance, and the weight of 1,500 persons in the body of the church was pushed against it. More than twenty persons lying on the steps underneath the heap of bodies died from suffocation.

Continued