Written by on August 14, 2019

Story by Chuck Tackett


“Until the lion has his or her own storytellers, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.”


Recently, while watching Joy Reid of MSNBC’s “AM Joy” show, Ms. Reid and a guest were in a deep discussion. My cell phone rang and I forgot to put the television on “pause.” Her guest mentioned it was the 100th Anniversary of “Red Summer,” and then continued on the discussion of reparations if my memory serves me correctly. I had missed part of the discussion.

I felt my face had an inquisitive perception of it. I never heard of the term “Red Summer.” Since the main topic was reparations, I could only surmise “Red Summer” was a 1919 event that affected the African American diaspora.

“Red Summer” of 1919 marked the growing hostility and hatred of Northeastern and Midwestern Whites towards Southern Blacks migrating from the rural South. The catalyst of this hatred was after World War 1. White males were returning home from war. In their absence, different businesses were utilizing Blacks as a cheaper workforce. Businesses pitted Blacks and Whites against each other. Blacks were often used as scabs (strikebreakers). They would work for less pay. In some instances, Blacks wanted to unionize as well. Black males returning from serving expected to be treated as equals. Whites were not having it. In retaliation, White males marched the streets invading Black sections of the towns, burning down homes, businesses, injuring and murdering Black men, women, and children.

According to the New York Post from reports, they were at least 50 violent riots from Whites across the country against Blacks between January 22, 1919, to November 13, 1919. From what I understand, this is not a complete list. Since this is an article with space limitations, a book would do this subject more justice. I will lightly address 3 of these heinous occurrences

The Washington DC Race Riot: From July 19 to July 24, 1919, White men, many being soldiers in uniform, rioted over the rumor of a Black man being arrested for raping the wife of a White man. White mobs randomly murdered Black people and destroyed Black-owned businesses. The police refused to intervene. A violent summer rainstorm had a huge effect on ceasing tensions along with President Woodrow Wilson mobilizing the National Guard to bring about order. Wilson had not done it immediately, so no Girl Scout cookie for him.

The Chicago Race Riot was from July 27 – August 3, 1919. The cause of the mayhem came to a climax during a heatwave with the murder of the Black teenager, Eugene William,s who accidentally drifted into the White area of an informally segregated beach near 29th Street. There was no rope or any other physical barrier to separate the segregated areas of that beach. A White man threw rocks at Black swimmers resulting in the drowning death of Eugene. Tensions further escalated when the police arrived and that White man was not arrested. Instead, they arrested a Black man. This occurrence further escalated the angry Whites who were already heated toward Black veterans who expected to be treated as equal citizens for fighting in World War 1. A White gang called “The Hamburg Athletic Club” included a 17-year-old Richard J. Dailey, who eventually became the Mayor of Chicago in his elder years. Even though Dailey contributed to the gang violence, it is my understanding he had never had to answer for it.

The Elaine Arkansas Massacre: This event began on September 30 – October 1, 1919. An estimated 100 to 237 Black people were murdered along with 5 White men in Elaine, Arkansas, located in Philip County. This event has been considered possibly as the bloodiest racial conflict in the USA. Historically, the area was cotton plantations worked by slaves. Now in 1919, the descendants of the slaves were illiterate farm workers and sharecroppers, free in name only. The Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America had organized several chapters in Elaine, Arkansas, with about 100 Black farmers as members. White landowners resisted union organizing, often spying or disrupting union organizing meetings. White landowners and Black farmers were supposed to share in the profits at the end of the year, but Whites played games with the farmers in not keeping their end of the bargain. A White sheriff organized a posse of White males to put down what they defined as “Black insurrection.” Other whites from other areas joined in, and the mob grew between 500 to 1000 men. In a confrontation at a church, a deputy and another White male were shot and killed. From my understanding to this day, no one knows who fired the first shot. Regardless, many innocent Black people were viciously murdered by White racists who had the audacity to desire to be treated as equals and to be treated fairly.

The United States has shown, from its inception until now, that racism is as American as apple pie. Reparations are long overdue to Black Americans and Indigenous peoples in this land. It is no surprise that “Red Summer of 1919” is not in the history books and never taught in the schools. As a Facebook post says, “History is always told from the perspective of the oppressor.” Progressive Whites must not remain complacent and join in the fight to correct these wrongs. Most Republicans, as a whole, love to play projection games demonizing Blacks and Indigenous people as either thugs, criminals, or savages. If we all found out the true ALL-INCLUSIVE history of the USA, we would be aware of who has exactly, historically, been a hazy shade of criminal.

Chuck’s Chat operates under an open authority. Opinions and comments are always welcome. Send them

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