Racial tensions exacerbated by the economic aftermath of World War I reached a boiling point across the country in the summer of 1919, also known as the “Red Summer”. Starting in May and extending until October, the riots hit Charleston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and dozens of other cities.
On July 27, 1919, an African American teenager named Eugene Williams was stoned to death in Chicago’s Lake Michigan for swimming over to the “whites only” section. His death escalated racial tensions in the City of Chicago into a full-blown riot between Bridgeport and the Black Belt neighborhoods that lasted five days. There were 38 casualties and hundreds more were injured. The homes of many black families were destroyed in arson attacks.
“So this boy got hit with a brick, and he went down and he never come back up. So the riot was started. They didn’t bother any white folks. They started arresting, whipping Negroes, the police was, whipping Negroes, said the Negroes started the riot…Newspaper didn’t carry too much of it, and then when they started to carrying it, they told all lies about it, as many lies as they could.”
Fighting during the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 was concentrated between the Bridgeport and Black Belt neighborhoods.