August 3rd, 1919

Race Riots End in Chicago, Illinois, with 38 Dead

During the Great Migration, Chicago, Illinois, was a popular destination for many black migrants leaving the South in search of economic opportunity and escape from racial violence. The city’s black population swelled from 44,000 in 1910 to 109,000 in 1920, joining thousands of whites who relocated to Chicago in search of work. Many black newcomers settled next to neighborhoods of European immigrants on Chicago’s south side, where industrial jobs were plentiful. Although they had escaped the Southern brand of racial violence, blacks in Chicago still faced racial animosity due to overcrowding, employment disputes with whites, poor relations with police, and segregation enforced by custom rather than law.

In the 1910s, segregation in Chicago was not as strict or legally regulated as in Southern cities, but beaches were informally segregated by custom. On July 27, 1919, a black youth named Eugene Williams drowned at a Chicago beach after a white man struck him with a rock for drifting to the “white” side of the ocean. Responding police declined to arrest the rock thrower and instead arrested a black man for a minor offense. Blacks protested the arrest and racial confrontations ensued, sparking violence that lasted until August 3, 1919.

During the riots, white mobs entered black sections of Chicago’s south side and set fire to more than 30 properties. Police repelled an attack against Provident Hospital, which served mostly black patients, and 6000 national guard troops were called in to restore order. At the riot’s end, 23 blacks and 15 whites were dead, 537 people were injured, and about 1000 people were left homeless.

(African American being stoned by whites during 1919 Chicago race riot.)