Guide The Chicago Race Riots: July, 1919

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Promise Negroes Protection. Chief of Police [John J. He assured them that he would do his utmost to protect the negroes.

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Two stabbing affrays this afternoon ushered in what the police said would be a renewed outbreak of rioting, which began with the coming home in groups and gangs of colored and white workers. Preparations were being made by the police to cope with any new violence in the south side districts. Henry Lee, colored, was assaulted and stabbed in the back at Throop and 31st streets by three white men. Policemen found him lying in the street with three wounds in his back. A short time later the police were called to South State and West 35th streets where a gang of negroes had attacked Thor Schneiderbeck, white, 6th avenue.

Schneiderbeck suffered serious injuries in the abdomen. Riots Break Anew; Raid Cars. One riot call after another was received, and patrol wagons were kept busy all morning. A gang of white men who had gathered at Canal and West 26th streets held up street cars on the 26th street line and compelled colored passengers to get off, chasing them out of the neighborhood.

Their attitude toward the negroes became so menacing that street car conductors warned colored passengers from riding beyond Wentworth avenue for fear they would be seriously injured. Negro Hit with Brick. Thomas Byrd, colored, South Park avenue, was pulled from a street car and struck with a brick. He suffered bruises on the head. A call for the police was sent in and three men were arrested. Charles Hammerstein was charged with having hurled the brick, while J. Milosvice and Sam Morelli were charged with disorderly conduct.

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Several white men attacked three colored passengers of an east bound 31st street car at South Halsted street this afternoon, injuring all three of them. Michael Laffey, 19, Loomis street, was arrested as the ringleader. Those attacked were: John Davis, Aldine square, scalp wounds; Mrs. Turner, a colored health department inspector, living at Winnemac street, was attacked by five white men at south Halsted and 35th streets. He was reading a newspaper when they charged.

Chicago Race Riots

However, when the men saw his star they turned around and tried to get away. Turner chased them and captured one of the men, who gave his name as Henry Rosin, 19 years old, Fuller street.

A riot call was sent to the Deering street station and Rosin was taken into custody. Mayor Thompson May Take Hand. It is expected that Mayor Thompson will confer this afternoon with south side political leaders who are supposed to be in close touch with the racial situation in the 2nd and 5th wards, and it is possible that if the disorders continue he will have a statement to make before the day is over. It is known that one city hall leader considers the situation so critical that he intends to make a special appeal to the mayor to take action.

George F. Harding Jr. When asked what he would suggest as the best means of quelling the disturbances, he replied: "Let the police do their duty. They should handle the situation firmly and show no favoritism toward white or black people. Arrest All Who Violate Laws. The riot raged against a backdrop of post-WWI tension. African-American soldiers had returned home from Europe expecting to enjoy the fundamental freedoms they had fought to defend.

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Instead, they faced blatant discrimination and growing racial prejudice. Many whites resented the growing numbers of black Southern migrants and aggressively sought to protect their neighborhoods and factory jobs from the newcomers. Anger over political corruption, a sagging economy and a housing shortage fueled the racial maelstrom. The riot also exposed the rampant racism in the ranks of the Chicago police. All-white "Athletic Clubs" provided leadership for gangs of heavily armed hoodlums who roamed the streets hunting for blacks to abuse, maim, or kill with little fear of retribution.

Blacks in turn, responded with force making a clear statement that African Americans would no longer be passive victims.

Peter Cole "The Chicago Race Riot of 1919"

The Hyde Park neighborhood just south of the Black Belt, the site of the Columbian Exposition in and home to the University of Chicago, was one of the most intolerant neighborhoods. Property owned by a wealthy black businessman named Jesse Binga was bombed six times.

1919 Chicago Race Riots: A Reading List

Mary Bryon Clarke, another black homeowner in greater Hyde Park, had her properties targeted by bombs three times, even though the previous owners of two of her buildings had run them as brothels. Such outbursts along the border of black and white Chicago fed into a general racial hostility. White newspapers resorted to dialect and minstrel-like scenarios to demean blacks and discredit their claim to housing and job opportunities. These factors did not make the riot inevitable. Once the conflict started, though, they made its escalation unavoidable. As the riot spread, it followed the paths laid out by previous episodes of violence along the emerging boundaries of the Black Belt, or centered on contested areas where blacks were buying and renting property, but were not yet securely established in numbers.

The generalized terror of the rioting emboldened whites to establish a racial quarantine of sorts, using sudden, brutal mob action to lay down a border between white and black Chicago. The police played a crucial role as well. During the first few hours of the violence, 2, officers, out of 3, total, were deployed along the edges of the Black Belt, forming a cordon.

Mapping Chicago’s 1919 race riots

The police claimed they were separating the antagonists, but their strategy left few officers to patrol the rest of the city. The Tuesday morning rampage through the Loop, for example, took place while only two officers were detailed to cover the entire downtown. This proved not to be the case: Much of the worst violence took place within the Black Belt itself. In some cases, white officers rode along with the white gangs to shield them from arrest. In others, when officers responded to attacks on blacks, they failed to collect sufficient evidence from the scene, ensuring that few assailants were prosecuted only 47 people were indicted and signaling that they would turn a blind eye toward most violence.

Although they made up two-thirds of the over recorded casualties, blacks were indicted at double the rate of whites — the first clear instance of racial disparity in city criminal justice, but by no means the last. A week before, in Washington, white soldiers back home from Europe, fought black civilians in the streets for four days in the wake of sensational newspaper accounts of a sex crime. Reporters noted that, unlike in previous race riots, casualties mounted on both sides of the color line — evidence, many said, of a growing black militancy.