Timeline of a Riot: July 27th, 1919

On July 27, 1919, Chicago erupted in one of the most violent riots in the nation’s history. The tensions began weeks, months, even years before the actual riot. Resentment over blacks as strikebreakers, competition for jobs and housing (especially after white servicemen returned home from World War I), and underlying racial discrimination were all key triggers.

Below is a timeline of the Riot’s first day. It began with skirmishes on the 29thStreet beach between black and white beachgoers and ignited after the drowning of Eugene Williams, reported to have been struck with a rock thrown by a white man, causing Williams to slip under the Lake Michigan waters.

Mob running with bricks during Chicago Race Riots of 1919

Members of a white mob run with bricks in hand, during the Chicago race riot of July and August, 1919.

1:00 p.m.

Skirmishes begin between blacks and white swimmers on the 29thStreet Beach

 

2:00 p.m.

A raft of five black ten-age boys mistakenly ventures into white waters

George Stauber, out on a breaker, throws a stone at Eugene Williams, black, who drowns

Black and white beachgoers jump in to save Williams, but to no avail

Wiliiams’ friends bring the black lifeguard and other blacks from the 25thStreet black beach

The blacks demand Officer Daniel Callahan, white, arrest Stauber, but the officer refuses

The blacks beat Stauber

 

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Eugene’s body is recovered

1,000 blacks return to the beach to demand police turn over Callahan and Stauber

Police attempt to disperse the black and white crowd

29th-street-1919

The 29th Street Bridge After Eugene Williams’ Death (Chicago History Museum)

 

6:00 p.m.

Two patrol cars arrive; blacks, including James Crawford, fire at officers

Jesse Igoes, a black officer, returns fire, killing Crawford

 

6:15 p.m.

Beach mob is dispersed, leaving 40 rioters and several policemen injured

The battle spills out into the streets of the South Side

Individual rioters fan out through neighborhoods to draw in more combatants

Fights erupt – rock throwing, shooting, stabbing—around Black Belt and other areas

Cottage Grove Avenue and State Street from 29thsouth to 35thStreet were bubbling cauldrons of action (The Chicago Tribune has this action at 5:00 p.m., but I feel this timing is more correct)

Deputy Chief Alcock sends out a call to every Chicago station to rush available officers to the South Side

Blacks attack whites—4 beaten, 5 stabbed, 1 shot

 

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White “Hoodlums” Storm the Black Belt Looking for Targets. 

 

Dusk

Police and white and black mobs clash at Prairie Avenue and 31stStreet, at State and 35th, and at 37thand Cottage Grove

On 39thStreet, white crowds take potshots at blacks on Streetcars

White gangs beyond the Western edge of the Black Belt attack blacks passing through white neighborhoods

A black man in pummeled with clubs as he waits for a car on Halsted

 

Nightfall

Riots break out across the city, driven mostly by white men and boys

In particular, young men affiliated with Chicago “Athletic Clubs” descend on the South Side

Hundreds of mounted police storm up and down the avenues to disperse warring mobs

Success is limited—confrontations would be broken up only to reignite 2-3 blocks away

Blacks are armed and stand ready to defend themselves; snipers shoot from buildings

escort-man-to-safety-chicagos-1919-race-riot-5

Mounted Police Escort a Rioter 

Shouts and gunfire are heard for many more hours

Few arrests are made

Police focus on transporting the wounded to hospitals

Hospitals work overtime to care for the wounded

 

FINAL TALLY

Whites: 4 beaten, 5 stabbed, 1 shot

Blacks: 27 beaten, 7 stabbed, 4 shot, 2 dead (Including Eugen Williams)

50 whites and blacks seriously wounded

Scores more suffer minor cuts and bruises

(These figures represent a consensus of several sources—listed below)

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 8.28.02 PM

By Monday morning at 3 a.m., the rioting had quieted. Whites, especially the athletic clubs, had invaded the Black Belt using bricks, stones, fists, baseball bats, iron bars, and hammers. Blacks primarily used knives and firearms to defend their neighborhoods from the invaders.

Morning workers commute to work, white business owners in the Black Belt open shops and deliveries are received.

Monday’s papers are more concerned with a murder’s confession of killing a young girl in his building. Little does the city know what violence is yet to come.

 

Sources

1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back; David F. Krugler

City of Scoundrels; Gary Krist

On the Laps of God; Robert Whitaker

Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919; William M. Tuttle, Jr.

Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America; Cameron McWhirter

 

 

 

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