Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The History of the 1919 Chicago Riot, Nationally named the "Red Summer."


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.

The Chicago race riot of 1919 was a major racial conflict that began in Chicago, Illinois, on July 27, 1919, and ended on August 3rd. During the riot, thirty-eight people died (23 black and 15 white) and over five hundred were injured. It is considered the worst of the approximately 25 riots during the Red Summer, so named because of the violence and fatalities across the nation. The combination of prolonged arson, looting, and murder made it the worst race riot in the history of Illinois.

According to official reports, the Chicago riots began on July 27, 1919, after Eugene Williams, an Black teenager, drowned in Lake Michigan after being struck in the head by a rock thrown by a white man angry that Williams and friends had drifted into the “white side” of the informally segregated beach. Responding police refused to arrest the white man who was identified as having thrown the rock, and instead arrested a black man at the scene. When black onlookers complained they were met with violence, and widespread rioting between Black and white Chicagoans soon spread throughout the city’s black residential areas. Tensions between groups arose in a melee that blew up into days of unrest.
A horde of young boys run to the corner where a young black man was being beaten during Chicago's race riots of 1919. White youngsters drove out Black residents by stoning their homes during the race riots.
The state militia was called in to quell the violence on the south side of Chicago during the 1919 race riots.
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The sociopolitical atmosphere of Chicago was one of ethnic tension caused by competition among many new groups. During the Great Migration, thousands of Blacks from the South had settled next to neighborhoods of European immigrants on Chicago's South Side, near the stockyards and meatpacking plants. With industrial jobs in the stockyards and meatpacking industry opening as European immigration was cut off by World War I, from 1916 to 1919 the Black population in Chicago increased from 44,000 to 109,000, a 148 percent increase during the decade.
Police remove the body of a black man killed during the 1919 race riots. The five days of violence were sparked when a black teenager crossed an invisible boundary between the waters of the 29th Street beach, known to be reserved for whites, and the 25th Street beach, known to be reserved for blacks.
The state militia hold their ground at 47th and Wentworth Avenue during Chicago's race riot of 1919.
The Irish had been established first, and fiercely defended their territory and political power against all newcomers. Post World War I tensions caused frictions between the races, especially in the competitive labor and housing markets. Overcrowding and increased Black militancy by veterans contributed to the visible racial frictions. Also, a combination of ethnic gangs and police neglect strained the racial relationships.
The mounted police round up "stray" African-American's and escort them back to a safety zone during the race riots in Chicago in 1919.
The state militia was mobilized in Chicago at the height of the 1919 race riot.
The state militia march through Chicago during the 1919 race riots.
Heavily armed motorcycle and foot policemen stood at the ready for instant transportation to quell the rioting on Chicago's south side on July 30, 1919. 
William Hale Thompson was the Mayor of Chicago during the riot and a game of brinksmanship with Illinois Governor Frank Lowden may have exacerbated the riot since Thompson refused to ask Lowden to send in the National Guard for four days, despite Lowden ensuring that the guardsmen were in Chicago and ready to intervene.
Troops gather at 47th Street and Wentworth Avenue during the Chicago race riots. 
A soldier tells a man to "back up" during the race riots in Chicago in 1919. The soldiers were in place to keep white people in their own district.
Although future mayor Richard J. Daley never officially acknowledged being part of the violence, at age 17 he was an active member of the Irish Hamburg Athletic Club, which a post-riot investigation named as instigators in attacks on Blacks. In the following decades, Daley continued to rise in politics to become the city's mayor for twenty-one years.
Many houses in the predominantly white stockyards district were set ablaze during the 1919 race riots. The five days of violence were sparked when a black teenager crossed an invisible boundary between the waters of the 29th Street beach, known to be reserved for whites, and the 25th Street beach, known to be reserved for blacks.
People look over the remains of a destroyed building in the Union Stock Yards neighborhood during the 1919 Chicago race riots. Photo dated Aug. 2, 1919.
Members of a white mob run with bricks in hand, during the Chicago race riot of 1919. Photographer unknown.
United States President Woodrow Wilson and the United States Congress attempted to promote legislation and organizations to decrease racial discord in America. Illinois Governor Frank Lowden took several actions at Thompson's request to quell the riot and promote greater harmony in its aftermath.
A man armed with a machine gun sits at the Cook County Jail
during the 1919 Chicago race riots.
Sections of the Chicago economy were shut down for several days during and after the riots, since plants were closed to avoid interaction among bickering groups. Mayor Thompson drew on his association with this riot to influence later political elections.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 
Photographs © copyright Chicago Tribune

1 comment:

  1. Sad. In one hundred years, nothing has changed

    ReplyDelete

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