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Chicago race riot

Developing Communities Project holds a symposium on the 90th anniversary of the Chicago race of 1919, with community leaders and clergy reflecting on “the work in progress” of race relations in America, on  Monday, July 27, Lilydale First Baptist Church, 649 W. 113th.

As everyone knows, the riot began on July 27, 1919, when a raft carrying some kids drifted from the black section of the 29th Street beach toward the white section.  Eugene Williams, a 17-year-old African American, drowned when he was struck by rocks thrown by a white man; a police officer on the scene declined to assist Williams or arrest the rock-thrower.

Thirty-eight people died and 537 were injured — most of them black — as white gangs rampaged through the Black Belt, committing murder, arson, and looting, over the next several days.  A thousand African Americans were left homeless after their homes were burned down; some got back on the trains they’d come on and returned to the South. It ended when the governor called in the National Guard to set up a perimeter around Bronzeville.

History Matters reprints the July 28 front-page Chicago Daily News article by reporter Carl Sandburg, featuring reactions by black community leaders.  Jazz Age Chicago has a photo of white marauders, bricks in hand, and links to several contemporaneous newspaper accounts.

John Hagedorn’s Gang Research site has a piece on the Irish gangs that were found by an investigating commission to be the ‘”primary instigators” of violence.  The University of Illinois library offers a digitized version of a pamphlet on the riots — urging black and white workers to organize together against economic exploitation — by Mary Marcy, who edited the International Socialist Review (where Sandburg also appeared), published by the Charles Kerr Co. of Chicago.

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Category: Bronzeville, history, race


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