The RED SUMMER refers to the summer and early autumn of 1919, which was marked by hundreds of deaths and higher casualties across the United States, as a result of race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities and one rural county. In most instances, whites attacked African Americans . In some cases many black people fought back, notably in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The highest number of fatalities occurred in the rural area around Elaine, Arkansas , where five whites and an estimated 100–240 black people were killed; Chicago and Washington, D.C. had 38 and 15 deaths, respectively, and many more injured, with extensive property damage in Chicago.
The riots resulted from a variety of postwar social tensions related
to the demobilization of veterans of
World War I
Civil rights activist and author James Weldon Johnson coined the term "Red Summer"; he had been employed as a field secretary since 1916 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1919, he organized peaceful protests against the racial violence of that summer.
* 1 Context * 2 Events * 3 Riots * 4 Chronology
* 5 Responses
* 5.1 Haynes report * 5.2 Press coverage * 5.3 Government activity * 5.4 Arts
* 6 See also * 7 References * 8 Further reading
With the manpower mobilization of
World War I
First Red Scare
Early in 1919, Dr. George Edmund Haynes , an educator employed as director of Negro Economics for the U.S. Department of Labor , wrote: "The return of the Negro soldier to civil life is one of the most delicate and difficult questions confronting the Nation, north and south." One black veteran wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Daily News saying the returning black veterans "are now new men and world men, if you please; and their possibilities for direction, guidance, honest use, and power are limitless, only they must be instructed and led. They have awakened, but they have not yet the complete conception of what they have awakened to." W. E. B. Du Bois , an official of the NAACP and editor of its monthly magazine, saw an opportunity: "By the God of Heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if now that the war is over, we do not marshal every ounce of our brain and brawn to fight a sterner, longer, more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our own land." In May 1919, following the first serious racial incidents, he published his essay "Returning Soldiers":
"We return from the slavery of uniform which the world's madness demanded us to don to the freedom of civil garb. We stand again to look America squarely in the face and call a spade a spade. We sing: This country of ours, despite all its better souls have done and dreamed, is yet a shameful land ...
We return from fighting.
We return fighting."
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
In addition, 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 enquires 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 men—initiated the riot.
* In early July, a white race riot in
...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 statement condemning mob violence and to enforce such military law as situation demands...
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
Will Brown, Victim of Omaha, Nebraska violence
* 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
Based on Haynes' report as summarized in the New York Times, except as noted.
MAY 10 Charleston , South Carolina
MAY 10 Sylvester , Georgia
MAY 29 Putnam County , Georgia
MAY 31 Monticello , Mississippi
JUNE 13 New London , Connecticut
JUNE 13 Memphis , Tennessee
JUNE 27 Annapolis , Maryland
JUNE 27 Macon , Mississippi
JULY 3 Bisbee , Arizona
JULY 5 Scranton , Pennsylvania
JULY 6 Dublin , Georgia
JULY 8 Coatesville , Pennsylvania
JULY 9 Tuscaloosa , Alabama
JULY 10 Longview , Texas
JULY 11 Baltimore , Maryland
JULY 15 Port Arthur , Texas
JULY 19 Washington, D.C.
JULY 21 Norfolk , Virginia
JULY 23 New Orleans , Louisiana
JULY 23 Darby , Pennsylvania
JULY 26 Hobson City , Alabama
JULY 27 Chicago , Illinois
JULY 28 Newberry , South Carolina
JULY 31 Bloomington , Illinois
JULY 31 Syracuse , New York
AUGUST 4 Hattiesburg , Mississippi
AUGUST 6 Texarkana , Texas
AUGUST 21 New York City , New York
AUGUST 30 Knoxville , Tennessee
SEPTEMBER 28 Omaha , Nebraska
OCTOBER 1 Elaine , Arkansas
"We appeal to you to have your country undertake for its racial minority that which you forced Poland and Austria to undertake for their racial minorities." - National Equal Rights League to President Woodrow Wilson November 25, 1919
In September 1919, in response to the Red Summer, the African Blood Brotherhood formed in northern cities to serve as an "armed resistance" movement.
Protests and appeals to the federal government continued for weeks. A letter in late November from the National Equal Rights League appealed to Wilson's international advocacy for human rights: "We appeal to you to have your country undertake for its racial minority that which you forced Poland and Austria to undertake for their racial minorities."
The report by Dr. George Edmund Haynes of October 1919 was a call for national action; it was published in The New York Times and other major newspapers. He noted that lynchings were a national problem. As President Wilson had noted in a 1918 speech: from 1889–1918, more than 3,000 people had been lynched; 2,472 were black men, and 50 were black women. Haynes said that states had shown themselves "unable or unwilling" to put a stop to lynchings , and seldom prosecuted the murderers. The fact that white men had been lynched in the North as well, he argued, demonstrated the national nature of the overall problem: "It is idle to suppose that murder can be confined to one section of the country or to one race." He connected the lynchings to the widespread riots in 1919: "Persistence of unpunished lynchings of negroes fosters lawlessness among white men imbued with the mob spirit, and creates a spirit of bitterness among negroes. In such a state of public mind a trivial incident can precipitate a riot. "Disregard of law and legal process will inevitably lead to more and more frequent clashes and bloody encounters between white men and negroes and a condition of potential race war in many cities of the United States. "Unchecked mob violence creates hatred and intolerance, making impossible free and dispassionate discussion not only of race problems, but questions on which races and sections differ."
Headline of The Gazette, Elaine, Arkansas, October 3, 1919
In mid-summer, in the middle of the Chicago riots, a federal official
The New York Times that the violence resulted from "an agitation,
which involves the I.W.W. ,
In response, some black leaders such as Bishop Charles Henry Phillips of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church asked black people to shun violence in favor of "patience" and "moral suasion." Phillips opposed propaganda favoring violence, and he noted the grounds of injustice to the black people:
I cannot believe that the negro was influenced by Bolshevist agents in the part he took in the rioting. It is not like him to be a traitor or a revolutionist who would destroy the Government. But then the reign of mob law to which he has so long lived in terror and the injustices to which he has had to submit have made him sensitive and impatient.
The connection between black people and
The Times saw "bloodshed on a scale amounting to local insurrection" as evidence of "a new negro problem" because of "influences that are now working to drive a wedge of bitterness and hatred between the two races". Until recently, the Times said, black leaders showed "a sense of appreciation" for what whites had suffered on their behalf in fighting a civil war that "bestowed on the black man opportunities far in advance of those he had in any other part of the white man's world". Now militants were supplanting Booker T. Washington , who had "steadily argued conciliatory methods". The Times continued:
Every week the militant leaders gain more headway. They may be divided into general classes. One consists of radicals and revolutionaries. They are spreading Bolshevist propaganda. It is reported that they are winning many recruits among the colored race. When the ignorance that exists among negroes in many sections of the country is taken into consideration the danger of inflaming them by revolutionary doctrine may apprehended.... The other class of militant leaders confine their agitation to a fight against all forms of color discrimination. They are for a program on uncompromising protest, "to fight and continue to fight for citizenship rights and full democratic privileges.
As evidence of militancy and Bolshevism, the Times named W. E. B. Du Bois and quoted his editorial in The Crisis , which he edited: "Today we raise the terrible weapon of self-defense ... When the armed lynchers gather, we too must gather armed." When the Times endorsed Haynes' call for a bi-racial conference to establish "some plan to guarantee greater protection, justice, and opportunity to negroes that will gain the support of law-abiding citizens of both races", it endorsed discussion with "those negro leaders who are opposed to militant methods".
In mid-October government sources provided the Times with evidence of Bolshevist propaganda appealing to America's black communities. This account set Red propaganda in the black community into a broader context, since it was "paralleling the agitation that is being carried on in industrial centres of the North and West, where there are many alien laborers." The Times described newspapers, magazines, and "so-called 'negro betterment' organizations" as the way propaganda about the "doctrines of Lenin and Trotzky" was distributed to black people. It cited quotes from such publications, which contrasted the recent violence in Chicago and Washington, D.C. with:"
...Soviet Russia, a country in which dozens of racial and lingual types have settled their many differences and found a common meeting ground, a country which no longer oppresses colonies, a country from which the lynch rope is banished and in which racial tolerance and peace now exist.
The Times noted a call for unionization: "Negroes must form cotton workers' unions. Southern white capitalists know that the negroes can bring the white bourbon South to its knees. So go to it."
Coverage of the root causes of the riot in Elaine, Arkansas evolved as the violence stretched over several days. A dispatch from Helena, Arkansas , to the New York Times datelined October 1 said: "Returning members of the posse brought numerous stories and rumors, through all of which ran the belief that the rioting was due to propaganda distributed among the negroes by white men." The next day's report added detail: "Additional evidence has been obtained of the activities of propagandists among the negroes, and it is thought that a plot existed for a general uprising against the whites." A white man had been arrested and was "alleged to have been preaching social equality among the negroes". Part of the headline was: "Trouble Traced to Socialist Agitators". A few days later a Western Newspaper Union dispatch captioned a photo using the words "Captive Negro Insurrectionists ".
During the Chicago riot, the press learned from Department of Justice
officials that the IWW and Bolsheviks were "spreading propaganda to
breed race hatred." FBI agents filed reports that leftist views were
winning converts in the black community. One cited the work of the
NAACP "urging the colored people to insist upon equality with white
people and to resort to force, if necessary.
J. Edgar Hoover , at the
start of his career in government, analyzed the riots for the Attorney
General. He blamed the July Washington, D.C., riots on "numerous
assaults committed by Negroes upon white women". For the October
events in Arkansas, he blamed "certain local agitation in a Negro
lodge." A more general cause he cited was "propaganda of a radical
nature." He charged that socialists were feeding propaganda to
black-owned magazines such as The Messenger , which in turn aroused
their black readers. He did not note the white perpetrators of
violence, whose activities local authorities documented. As chief of
the Radical Division within the U.S. Department of Justice, Hoover
began an investigation of "negro activities" and targeted Marcus
Garvey because he thought his newspaper
On November 17, Attorney General
A. Mitchell Palmer
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African Blood Brotherhood
First Red Scare
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q New York Times: "For Action on Race Riot Peril," October 5, 1919, accessed January 20, 2010. This newspaper article includes several paragraphs of editorial analysis followed by Dr. George E. Haynes' report, "summarized at several points." * ^ A B Alana J. Erickson, "Red Summer", in Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (NY: Macmillan, 1960), 2293-4 * ^ George P. Cunningham, "James Weldon Johnson", in Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (NY: Macmillan, 1960), 1459–1461 * ^ A B David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (NY: Oxford University Press, 2004), 279, 281–282 * ^ Barnes, Harper (2008). Never Been A Time. New York: Walker & Co. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-8027-1575-3 . * ^ McWhirter, 56 * ^ McWhirter 19, 22–24 * ^ McWhirter, 13 * ^ McWhirter, 15 * ^ McWhirter, 14 * ^ McWhirter, 31–32, emphasis in original * ^ Walter C. Rucker, James N. Upton. Encyclopedia of American Race Riots. Volume 1. 2007, page 92-3 * ^ Rucker, Walter C. and Upton, James N. Encyclopedia of American Race Riots (2007), 554 * ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/2000/raceriot0301.htm * ^ http://www.blackpast.org/aah/washington-d-c-race-riot-1919 * ^ A B C D E Kenneth D. Ackerman, Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties (NY: Carroll & Graf, 2007), 60-2 * ^ New York Times: "Protest Sent to Wilson," July 22, 1919. Retrieved January 21, 2010. * ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: " Chicago Race Riot