Daniel Hoskins with guns deposited at the Gregg County Courthouse, in Longview, Texas, following a race riot during the Red Summer. (Library of Congress)
Many people died during the summer and fall of 1919 because of race riots in cities across the country that occurred in more than three dozen cities, including Chicago and a rural county near Elaine, AK. In Chicago, from July 25-August 3, a race riot was ignited when a black teen was stoned to death after crossing an invisible boundary between a segregated part of the Chicago beaches. The riot left 38 people dead, more than 500 injured, and 1,000 black families homeless when their homes were burned down. In Elaine, AK, five whites and twenty-five to fifty Blacks were killed after black sharecroppers attended a farmer’s union meeting to get better pay for their cotton crops. A shooting incident at the meeting escalated into mob violence because of tense racial relations and increasing concern about labor unions at the time, according to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.
Online Resources About the Summer of 1919
A digital archive, map, and timeline of riots and lynchings across the United States in 1919
The Chicago History Museum and the DuSable Museum of African American History come together to remember the historic events of the summer of 1919. Featuring artists and historians, this event recalls the 1919 race riots that forever changed Chicago’s sociopolitical atmosphere. As we reflect on their tragic legacy, we honor the life of Eugene Williams and others affected by police brutality and segregation.
Meet at Margaret T. Burroughs Beach, 3100 South Lake Shore Drive
Free and open to the public. No RSVPs needed.
Nancy Villafranca – Chicago History Museum, Director of Education
Erica Griffin – DuSable Museum, Director of Education
Julius L. Jones
Lethal Poetry, After School Matters, DuSable Museum
Momma Kemba as Ida B. Wells
Avery R. Young
Red Clay Dance Company
4:15–5:00 p.m. FLOAT
FLOAT by Jefferson Pinder and A.J. McClenon is a simple act in the remembrance of the riots of that summer a hundred years ago. Over 100 participants will peacefully drift across a historic invisible racial barrier using inflatables, reactivating and reclaiming a site of violence. While the participants are floating in the lake, at the exact time in which Eugene Williams was stoned to death in the water, a soundscape will draw the participants and the audience into a shared meditative moment.
STREETS OF FIRE: Young people wearing hoods and masks have vandalized, looted, and burned communities throughout the UK. But what are they protesting?
With the view of a glamarous royal wedding quickly receding in the rear view mirror, London and other British cities erupted in violence this week after a 29-year-old black man was shot by police in a north London neighborhood Saturday night and peaceful protests were allegedly ignored. This has led to the natural assumption that the chaos happening in the United Kingdom is the direct result of racial unrest. But is that a safe assumption?
Did racial tensions fuel the riots?
It’s impossible to tell, said Kurt Volker, a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations, in an interview with Mother Jones. “In addition to youth unemployment, I’d also have to point to a general sense of unease,” said Volker. “With austerity cuts, controlling the debt, watching what’s happening in the Euro zone. It’s just gotta be very unsettling for people. You take this element of great uncertainty, and it has somehow turned into this.”
Yes, said Lola Adesioye at The Grio. “This has been a long time coming,” said Adesioye. “This violence is as a result of, among other things, unexamined racial issues, a crumbling sense of community among black people with no real leadership, unresolved class issues, social exclusion coupled with a lack of opportunities, a deep recession in addition to an extremely high cost of living, a new government who has been cutting back on services for youth, disenfranchised young people, and a dependency culture all rolled into one.”
Not so fast, said The Guardian. Data journalist Matt Stiles created a map correlating the riots with poverty, but another article dismissed the notion that any one racial group dominated the violence. “As multi-ethnic areas from London to Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol burned, a myth was being dispelled: that so-called ‘black youths’ are largely behind such violence,” the article said. “In Tottenham on Saturday many of those who gathered at the police station to protest against the shooting of Mark Duggan were, like him, black. But others were Asian and white. By the following day, as the looting spread to other north London suburbs, there appeared to have been a slight shift in the demographic, which started to look younger. In Enfield most of those who gathered in the town centre were white. The youngest looked about 10-years-old.”
If it’s not racial, then what’s driving it?
It’s part of a worldwide response to economic unrest, CNBC reported, but “politicians from both the right and the left, the police and most residents of the areas hit by violence nearly unanimously describe the most recent riots as criminal and anarchic, lacking even a hint of the antigovernment, anti-austerity message that has driven many of the violent protests in other European countries,” countered The New York Times, noting nonetheless that one million British young people between ages 16 and 24 are officially unemployed.
The prime minister promised a show of force. “Britain will not allow a culture of fear to take over the streets, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Wednesday, saying police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannons if necessary,” NPR reported this morning. “We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order onto our streets,” Cameron was quoted as saying in a televised statement. “Nothing is off the table.”
On the Bright Side …
Not everyone was freaking out. “Hundreds of people gathered in Twitter-organized crews to sweep up broken glass, clean vandalized buildings and show the world — and themselves — that their city is about more than mindless destruction,” The Associated Press reported. “By the time the volunteers gathered in Camden, most of the shattered glass had been swept up, the damaged windows patched. A group headed by subway for the worse-hit Clapham area across town. If violence strikes again, they said, they would do it again on Wednesday.”