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.
Bullet holes in the Treasurer's office.
Will Brown's lifeless body burning while a grinning crowd looks on.
Omaha World Herald, September 1919 (pdf)