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Red Summer

June 20, 2021

A white gang looking for blacks during the Chicago race riots of 1919, Author “The West Virginian” (PD)

Some 25 race riots took place in 1919, after the end of WWI [1].  Acts of domestic terrorism, which included lynchings by white supremacists, occurred in over three dozen cities across the nation [2][3].

Though the Chicago riot (with 38 dead, and over 500 injured) is considered the worst of these, the largest number of fatalities actually occurred in Elaine, AK where as many as 100 – 240 black people and five whites were killed.

The Great Migration

By 1919, an estimated 1 million African Americans had fled segregation in the South for northern cities, in what became known as the Great Migration.

Dashed Expectations

Unfortunately, WWI was followed by an economic slump.  Black veterans returning home from the war expected improved treatment and greater opportunities, given their service to the country.  White veterans found work scarce.

Labor unrest – with blacks often hired as strikebreakers, and fears of a Bolshevik uprising similar to that in Russia just two years earlier – heightened tensions.  The media further fanned the flames.

Red Summer

Author and civil rights activist, James Johnson coined the phrase “red summer” for this tragic period.  It is a tragedy we must not repeat.

Ours is a nation built on diversity.  That is our strength.  It is, also, our vulnerability.  There are fissures between groups, fault lines through our society, that those interested in dividing us for their own ends can exploit.

We must not fall prey to such exploitation.

Almost any group can lay claim to grievances (some more legitimate than others).  Whatever our ethnic or racial background – assuming the concept of “race” exists at all – we are and must remain brothers.

[T]ribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil…but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good…For there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2: 9-11).

[1]  Wikipedia, “Chicago race riot of 1919”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_race_riot_of_1919.

[2]  Wikipedia, “Red Summer”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Summer.

[3]  History, “Red Summer of 1919:  How Black WWI Vets Fought Back Against Racist Mobs” by Abigail Higgins, https://www.history.com/news/red-summer-1919-riots-chicago-dc-great-migration.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

19 Comments
  1. Thank you for sharing this, Anna. You have just given me a big piece of the puzzle to my family’s history! My paternal grandfather would have been 12 years old in 1919. His absent father was white, his mother and siblings were black. I was told that my grandfather, who could ‘pass for white,’ ran away from home at the young age of twelve, in order to live in the white world. With these horrible race riots going on at the time, it’s no wonder he did that!

  2. Amen! You’re right to point out that “race” is a spurious term. Thanks, Anna, for this look back in history and forward as we work and pray for peace.

  3. Thanks for illuminating that scripture from Rom. 2… it impacted me in a new way. Blessings and joy in the Lord!

  4. Thank you very much for researching and reporting this so thoroughly. I wish you the best, dear Anna, Marie

    • Thank you for your kindness, Marie. It is always good to hear from you. With love, A. ❤

      • Thank you for your kind words. I am allways glad to hear from you. With love, Marie

  5. Thanks for an informative and thought-provoking piece, Anna. Winston Churchill’s words are as true now as then:, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

  6. There is more genetic difference in the color of our eyes than in the pigmentation of our skin!
    “We are all actually the same color . . . from our melanin; we’re just different shades of the same color. Just because you don’t have as much melanin as I do, don’t you dare think God does not love you as much as he loves me, just because He gave me more!” (Vodde Baucham)

  7. You know the devil and his hosts are at work when ALL it takes to rouse the hatred of one person against his brotherman is some beautiful PIGMENT on their skin!

  8. Thank you for the timeline, Anna.

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