When the Civil War ended, Blacks in Atlanta began entering the realm of politics, establishing businesses and gaining notoriety as a social class. Increasing tensions between Black wage-workers and the white elite began to grow and ill-feelings were further exacerbated when Blacks gained more civil rights, including the right to vote.
The tensions exploded during the gubernatorial election of 1906 in which M. Hoke Smith and Clark Howell competed for the Democratic nomination. Both candidates were looking for ways to disenfranchise Black voters because they each felt that the Black vote could throw the election to the other candidate.
Hoke Smith was a former publisher of the Atlanta Journal and Clark Howell was the editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Both candidates used their influence to incite white voters and help spread the fear that whites may not be able to maintain the current social order.
The Atlanta Georgian and the Atlanta News began publishing stories about white women being molested and raped by Black men. These allegations were reported multiple times and were largely false.
On Sept. 22, 1906, Atlanta newspapers reported four alleged assaults on local white women. Soon, some 10,000 white men and boys began gathering, beating, and stabbing Blacks. It is estimated that there were between 25 and 40 Black deaths; it was confirmed that there were only two white deaths.
Source: Atlanta Black Star