The Red Summer Of 1919

6History tells us, but they don’t, that there has been many horrible acts of terror inflicted upon black people since the year 1619. However, there were never anything like the numerous incidents that happened in what came to be know as the Red Summer. We should know this history and never forget:

Following the violence-filled summer, in the autumn of 1919, Haynes reported on the events as a prelude to an investigation by the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He identified 38 separate riots in widely scattered cities, in which whites attacked black people. Unlike earlier race riots in U.S. history, the 1919 events were among the first in which black people in number resisted white attacks and fought back. A. Philip Randolph, a civil rights activist and leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, publicly defended the right of black people to self-defense.

Also, Haynes reported that between January 1 and September 14, 1919, white mobs lynched at least forty-three African Americans, with sixteen hanged and others shot; while another eight men were burned at the stake. The states appeared powerless or unwilling to interfere or prosecute such mob murders.

“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People respectfully inquired how long the Federal Government under your administration intends to tolerate anarchy in the United States?” NAACP telegram to President Woodrow Wilson August 29, 1919

  • After the riot of May 10 in Charleston, South Carolina, the city imposed martial law. US Navy sailors led the race riot; Isaac Doctor, William Brown, and James Talbot, all black men, were killed. Five white men and eighteen black men were injured. A Naval investigation found that four U.S. sailors and one civilian — all white man—initiated the riot.[11]
  • In early July, a white race riot in Longview, Texas led to the deaths of at least four men and destroyed the African-American housing district in the town.
  • On July 3, local police in Bisbee, Arizona attacked the 10th U.S. Cavalry, an African-American unit founded in 1866 and known as “Buffalo Soldiers.”
  • In Washington, D.C. starting July 19, white men, many in the military and in uniforms of all three services, responded to the rumored arrest of a black man for rape of a white woman with four days of mob violence against black individuals and businesses. They rioted, randomly beat black people on the street, and pulled others off streetcars for attacks. When police refused to intervene, the black population fought back. Troops tried to restore order as the city closed saloons and theaters to discourage assemblies, but a summer rainstorm had more of a dampening effect. When the violence ended, a total of 15 people had died: 10 white people, including two police officers; and five black people. Fifty people were seriously wounded and another 100 less severely wounded. It was one of the few times in 20th-century riots of white people against black people when white fatalities outnumbered those of black people.

The NAACP sent a telegram of protest to President Woodrow Wilson:

…the shame put upon the country by the mobs, including United States soldiers, sailors, and marines, which have assaulted innocent and unoffending Negroes in the national capital. Men in uniform have attacked Negroes on the streets and pulled them from streetcars to beat them. Crowds are reported …to have directed attacks against any passing negro…. The effect of such riots in the national capital upon race antagonism will be to increase bitterness and danger of outbreaks elsewhere. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People calls upon you as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the nation to make a statement condemning mob violence and to enforce such military law as situation demands…

  • In Norfolk, Virginia, a white mob attacked a homecoming celebration for African-American veterans of World War I. At least six people were shot, and the local police called in Marines and Navy personnel to restore order.
  • Starting July 27, the summer’s greatest violence occurred during rioting in Chicago. The city’s beaches along Lake Michigan were segregated by custom. Eugene Williams, a black youth, swam into an area on the South Side customarily used by whites, was stoned, and drowned. When the Chicago police refused to take action against the attackers, young black men responded violently. Violence between mobs and gangs lasted thirteen days, with white rioting led by the well-established ethnic Irish, whose territory bordered the black neighborhood. The resulting 38 fatalities included 23 black people and 15 whites. The injured totaled 537, and 1,000 black families were left homeless. Other accounts reported 50 people were killed, with unofficial numbers and rumors reporting more. White mobs destroyed hundreds of mostly black homes and businesses on the Southside of Chicago; Illinois called in a militia force of seven regiments: several thousand men, to restore order.
  • At the end of July, the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, at an annual convention, denounced the rioting and burning of negroes’ homes and asked President Wilson “to use every means within your power to stop the rioting in Chicago and the propaganda used to incite such.” At the end of August, the NAACP protested again to the White House, noting the attack on the organization’s secretary in Austin, Texas the previous week. Their telegram said: “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People respectfully inquires how long the Federal Government under your administration intends to tolerate anarchy in the United States?”
  • August 30–31, the Knoxville Riot in Tennessee broke out when a white mob gathered after a black suspect was arrested on suspicion of murdering a white woman. A lynch mob stormed the county jail searching for the prisoner. They liberated 16 white prisoners, including suspected murderers. They moved on and attacked the African-American business district, where they fought against the district’s black business owners, leaving at least seven dead and wounding more than 20 people.

At the end of September, the race riot in Omaha, Nebraska erupted when a mob of more than 10,000 ethnic whites from South Omaha attacked and burned the county courthouse to force the police to release a black prisoner accused of raping a white woman. They destroyed property valued at more than a million dollars. The mob lynched the suspect, Will Brown, and burned his body. They spread out, attacking black neighborhoods and stores on the north side. After the mayor and governor appealed for help, the government sent Federal troops from a nearby fort. They were commanded by Major General Leonard Wood, a friend of Theodore Roosevelt, and a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 1920.

  • On October 1, a race riot broke out in rural Elaine, Arkansas in Phillips County. Distinctive because it occurred in the rural South rather than a city, it arose from white minority resistance to labor organizing by black farmers and fear of socialism. Black sharecroppers were meeting in the local chapter of the Progressive Farmers and the Household Union of America. Planters opposed their efforts to organize and tried to disrupt meetings. In a confrontation, a white man was fatally shot and another wounded. The planters formed a militia to arrest the African-American farmers, but the mob got out of hand and attacked black people at random. In the riot, they killed an estimated 100 to 237 black people, and five whites also died in the violence. Arkansas Governor Charles Hillman Brough appointed a Committee of Seven to investigate. The group was composed of prominent local white businessmen. They concluded that the Sharecroppers’ Union was a Socialist enterprise and “established for the purpose of banding Negroes together for the killing of white people.”

That report generated headlines such as the following in the Dallas Morning News: “Negroes Seized in Arkansas Riots Confess to Widespread Plot; Planned Massacre of Whites Today.” Several agents of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation spent a week interviewing participants, but they spoke to no sharecroppers. They also reviewed documents. They filed a total of nine reports stating there was no evidence of a conspiracy of the sharecroppers to murder anyone.

The local government tried 79 black people, who were all convicted by all-white juries, and 12 were sentenced to death for murder. (As Arkansas and other southern states had disenfranchised most black people at the turn of the 20th century, they could not vote, run for political office, or serve on juries.) The remainder of the defendants accepted prison terms of up to 21 years. Appeals of the convictions of six of the defendants went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the verdicts because of failure of the court to provide due process. This was a precedent for heightened Federal oversight of defendants’ rights in the conduct of state criminal cases.

This information was taken directly from:

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Welcome to Thought Provoking Perspectives a blog designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge to broaden the information base with those who share my passion for the written word and the empowerment of thought. View all posts by Thought Provoking Perspectives

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