The 1919 Chicago Race Riots: A Brief Look at The History of Racial Tension In Chicago | History Matters (Video)

In 1919, Chicago as a city was changing. There was a migration surge from the north which brought more Melanated people to the city. Between 1910-1920 the Melanated population went from 44,000 to more than 109,000. These made white citizens uneasy because they felt more Melanated people meant fewer resources and opportunities for them.

This already brewing tension came to a head when a Melanated teenager named Eugene Williams was stoned to death while swimming at Lake Michigan beach because white citizens claimed he swam in a “Whites only” part of the lake. After police refused to arrest the man responsible for the attack, a crowd began to form and the Melanated citizens became upset and a fight broke out. For the next 5 days, white citizens went through black neighborhoods looking to brutally harm any Melanated person they could find.

However, what was different about these attacks was the response from the Melanated citizens, that fought back with a vengeance and showed their willingness to die for what they believed in. That summer was dubbed the “Red Summer” because, throughout the united states, there were 25 race riots in different cities. By the end of the riots in Chicago, there were 38 people dead (23 black,15 white), 537 injured, and 1,000 Melanated families left homeless. The race relations in Chicago would not get any better in the foreseeable future. The south side of Chicago, which was considered the “Black belt” because most of the Melanated population lived there got considerably worse after the riots.

Even though, then president, Woodrow Wilson declared that white citizens were primarily responsible for the riots he did nothing to systematically empower the Melanated citizens after it was over. Many people look at the violence and crime that takes place in Chicago and blame it solely on the members of the community without factoring in the decades of systemic oppression created by the dominant white society. Watch a quick video about the events below!!



















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