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Anatomy of Four Race RiotsRacial Conflict in Knoxville, Elaine (Arkansas), Tulsa, and Chicago, 1919-1921$

Lee E. Williams and Lee E. Williams II

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781604731903

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604731903.001.0001

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Appendix E

Appendix E

Anatomy of Four Race Riots
University Press of Mississippi

Editorial comment in the Chicago Defender, September 6, 1919, entitled “Mr. Hoyne’s Mistaken View.”

(p.115) State’s Attorney Hoyne it seems is of the impression that black gamblers started the race riots in Chicago. Mr. Hoyne is mistaken. He fails absolutely to grasp the underlying causes in this community. When he charges our people with having brought on the disgraceful happenings centering about the first week of August, he flies in the face of the real facts.

Mr. Hoyne seems to have lost sight of a number of very disagreeable instances immediately preceeding [sic] the actual outbreak of hostilities between whites and blacks. He has forgotten evidently the repeated bombing of the houses of our citizens, resulting in the destruction of much valuable property. Likewise he overlooks the wanton and inexcuseable [sic] beatings of our people in Washington Park about the middle of June. His memory also proves false when he fails to call to mind that a black man was killed at 54th and Union Avenue, another at 51st and Wentworth Avenue, and still another at 57th and Lafayette Avenue. All of these things happened prior to the outbreaks of the latter part of July and the first of August.

Has our State’s Attorney forgotten that not a single miscreant responsible for these murders has been apprehended? Is it to be wondered at that in the face of such laxity on the part of those charged with law enforcement that black citizens, in then-alarm, should have sought and applied drastic measures for their own protection? While it is true that the hoodlum element may have been guilty of many overt acts, it is also true that the respectable element [sic] among our citizens were impelled to go outside of the law to protect themselves and their property when they could see no help from constituted authority.

We can easily understand the indictment of so many of our group. The conduct of the police force, in many instances, lends strong color to the suspicion that they were more or less in sympathy with the white rioters. It is only fair to deduce this from the fact that so many of our people were arrested in striking contrast to the arrest of the few white persons participating in the rioting. Even the grand jury, composed (p.116) of some of Chicago’s leaders in business and society, were forced to take note of this one-sided phase of the situation.

Much of the trouble can be laid at the door of the so-called athletic clubs west of Wentworth Avenue, from which, it appears, raiding parties were sent into the territory occupied by our people. Bands of these gangsters had swept through Washington Park and adjoining neighborhoods, attacking old and young alike. Several months ago we had occasion to call attention to these clubs as breeding spots for crime. And we believe we are safe in saying that much of the trouble leading up to the riots might have been avoided had these gang rendezvouses [sic] been closed. If our fighting State’s Attorney would push his probe in the direction of these “clubs,” he would go far toward striking at the real source of the race rioting in this community.

In this connection too much cannot be said in praise of the splendid body of men who made up the August grand jury. They were fearless in searching out and publishing the real truths. They were evidently imbued with a high sense of justice and determined to see fair play at all hazards. They were absolutely justified in their “strike,” and an honest and fair investigation will reveal facts absolutely sustaining their position.

We are not condemning the State’s Attorney for his attitude towards gambling houses and other disreputable resorts in the Second Ward. We believe as he does, that rotten political conditions are responsible for these evils. We know that for the last four or five years the Second Ward has been the dumping ground of much of Chicago’s moral and social garbage, both white and black. And more power to his hand in any effort which he may make at cleaning it up. We must insist, however, that in his public statements of the cause of the riots he shows a woeful lack of information.

Editorial comment in the Chicago Defender, August 2, 1919, entitled “Reaping the Whirlwind.”

The recent race riots at Washington resulting in the death of a number of white and black citizens, followed by similar (p.117) occurrences in Chicago, are a disgrace to American civilization. One does not have to seek very far to find the underlying cause. It is not chargeable, as some writers think, to the general unrest now sweeping the world. Nor are we witnessing anything new in these disgraceful exhibitions of lawlessness. America is known the world over as the land of the lyncher and of the mobocrat. For years she has been sowing the wind and now she is reaping the whirlwind. The Black worm has turned. A Race that has furnished hundreds of thousands of the best soldiers that the world has ever seen is no longer content to turn the left cheek when smitten upon the right.

The younger generation of black men are not content to move along the line of least resistence [sic] as did their sires. For his awakening, however, the color madness of the American white man alone is responsible. Not content with inflicting upon him every form of humiliation that could be devised at home, he carried his infamous color propaganda to Europe. With the close of the war the returning soldiers brought back the most harrowing tales of abuses at the hands of the American military contingent. These stories have been carried broadcast over the land and have inflamed our people as few things could have done.

We have little sympathy with lawlessness, whether those guilty of it be black or white, but it cannot be denied that we have much in the way of justification for our changed attitude. Under the promise of a square deal our boys went cheerfully into the service of the country hoping that the aftermath of the struggle would find our people in an improved social and industrial condition. All of our speakers and writers held to this view and kept it consistently before our youth as an inducement to enlistment. Industrially our position has undoubtedly been benefited by the war. Socially it has grown decidedly worse. On all sides we have been made to feel the humiliating pressure of the white man’s prejudice. In Washington it was a case of “teaching us our place.” In Chicago it was a case of limiting our sphere to bounds that had neither the sanction of law nor sound common sense. In both cases we resented the assumption. Hence the race riots. (p.118)