Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2376 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Chicago Race Riot 1919

Racial strife is often considered one of the most foundational sources for violent acts in the cultural history of the world. Yet, at the base of racial strife are usually political/economic issues of subjugation and superiority. Several events of importance mark the racially charged past and present of modern America. Within that set of events are positive and negative occurrences that drive change. Scholarship on racial strife is often focused upon progress and ends with marking points of change, such as the several legal accomplishments associated with the civil rights movement.

It is as if the progress of any group is somehow linear and basically historically significant because of a paper trail that exists in law but not necessarily in action. Proof of the fallacy of this argument is the contention that many of the necessary changes for Blacks in the United States occurred upon the passing of the emancipation proclamation at the close of the Civil War. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality the constitutional change only began a long and arduous process of demanding change. This process is peppered with destructive and even deadly periods of conflict, including but certainly not limited to the Chicago 1919 Race Riot.

This work will analyze the importance of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. The work will begin with a contextual analysis of the preceding years, placing the events of the riot within the context of the Chicago environment.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Assignment

It will then build a short but comprehensive timeline of events in the Chicago riots. Ending with an analysis of the perceived effects of the events, to demonstrate a more comprehensive understanding of the event and its place within the history of the city and also the nation. Contrary to historical analysis that focuses mainly on the legal change that so often marks the fundamental end to legitimate protest which brings about change, this work will focus on a dark event to develop a theory that change is not driven by law but by positive and negative social events which make people rethink their position of relative safety in their environment.

Some of the most foundational markers of change are those associated with the negative reality of social change. Of the most important of those seemingly negative events are the race riots, which have occurred within the context of change. Analysis of the mob mentality is a favorite of sociologists, but the events where it occurs are not necessarily interesting to historians. The most important in the opinion of a few, as a basis for an anomalous even that marked demands for change is the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. The Chicago race riot is anomalous in that the event did not exhibit a one sided disturbance, the riot included the participation of both races.

The context of the race riots in Chicago is often ignored, as it is compared with other sociological movements in the civil rights movement that altered history.

Yet, the truth is that Chicago holds and importance place within the U.S. culture and also contained many social factors that were specific to the town.

Had those events not taken place the riot would not have occurred, in Chicago. In many works the reasons for the riots occurrence are conjectured upon. One work of this nature outlines a list of eight reasons for the event. Those eight reasons according to Walter White are: race prejudice, economic competition, political corruption and exploitation of the negro voters, police inefficiency, newspaper lies about negro crime, unpunished crimes against negroes, housing, and reaction of whites and negroes from war.

Though there are many people who would argue the ranking of White's list there are few who dispute his list's points. Yet, within this work the relative importance of three of the preliminary factors will be focused upon, racial prejudice, economic competition, and housing. Though other issues listed by White are important and specific to Chicago, the major issues, affecting the entire population of Chicago are the three dissected from White's longer list. White's appointment of cause as high stress over the war is certainly true of the entire nation. While political corruption and exploitation of the negro voters in Chicago clearly demonstrates a specific demonstration of the difficult context of the town it effected only some of the population and occurred elsewhere as well. Police inefficiency, newspaper lies about negro crime, and unpunished crimes against negroes are clearly important and fearful contributors to the event there is little evidence that such occurrences did not happen in a greater extreme in Chicago than in other cities in the U.S. At this time.

Though the same could be said of the other three points, racial prejudice, economic competition, and housing the extreme state of affairs within the previously notoriously racially tolerant Chicago are unprecedented in the history of Chicago and in the history of most cities. Chicago had an extreme upsurge in the black population of the city in rapid fashion. "Since 1915 the colored population of Chicago has more than doubled, increasing in four years from a little more than 50, 000 to what is now estimated to be between 125,000 and 150,000."

Almost all of this growth occurred within a very specific area of the city. "Most of them lived in the area bounded by the railroad on the west, 30th Street on the north, 40th Street on the south and Ellis Avenue on the east. Already overcrowded this so-called "Black Belt" could not possibly hold the doubled colored population." There had previously a limited amount of blacks living within white neighborhoods but the overcrowding in the black-belt led many to believe this would greatly increase as the individuals and families began to demand space elsewhere.

Now, Chicago as has been said before had a notoriously fair attitude toward colored citizens, yet many of these things changed after 1915 as the influx of blacks began to become very evident within the city. Racial strife had occurred periodically from July 1917 to the eruption of the race riot in late July of 1919. As noted by Tuttle, in Contested Neighborhoods and Racial Violence: Prelude to the Chicago Riot of 1919, there were several bombings that mark a collective of police inadequacy, and an overall fear on the part of the white population, when limited purchases of homes occurred by blacks in white neighborhoods.

The Harrison and Austin bombings were not isolated occurrences. From July, 1917 to the eruption of the less than 26 bombs were exploded at isolated black residents in once all-white neighborhoods and at the offices of certain realtors who had sold to the blacks. Over half of these bombs were exploded during the tense six months leading up to the riot. According to press the single most important cause of the riot was housing.

There is also a great deal of evidence that the bombing events and the events that surrounded them went virtually unnoticed by the police or other majority community members. "Out of the interracial conflict over housing there arose in the black community a marked lack of faith in the willingness and ability of the police to provide impartial protection."

This lead to the formation of opinions that blacks would have to rely upon their own vigilance to protect themselves and their families. In addition to the influx of blacks from the south many southern whites migrated at the same time, trying to gain some of the wealth of the city, as compared to the still recovering south.

The intrinsic hatred of the negro brought by the southern whites flavored the historically racially tolerant city. The tension also led to the formation of white property owner's groups that were not only hostile to blacks but helped form coalitions to strengthen the already strict laws of spatial segregation.

The housing crisis also stimulated the formation of property owners' associations avowedly hostile to blacks. The threats of these organizations avowedly hostile to blacks. The threats of these organizations and the bombings accentuated the blacks' racial solidarity, thus retarding even further the possibility of interracial accord through mutual interchange.

The already strained relations between blacks and whites, was growing in collectivity with the formation of these groups as they built their rhetoric and created more heated stands on the subject.

The employment situation is also contentiously important to the pre-riot situation. "Chicago was expanding with such rapidity after 1870 that the black influx, though proportionately large, little more than kept pace with the flood of white immigrants." In a very comprehensive rhetorical analysis by C.K Doreski, From News to History: Robert Abbott and Carl Sandburg Read the 1919 Chicago Riot, there are telling messages of the economic and employment strife of the growing Chicago.

Black laborers were in high demand, but tensions at the neighborhood level exacerbated a long-held animosity between Irish and the black workers. Continental expectations of social and economic opportunity carried home by African-American veterans brought pressures to bear… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Chicago Race Riot of 1919" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Chicago Race Riot of 1919.  (2004, December 5).  Retrieved September 24, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Chicago Race Riot of 1919."  5 December 2004.  Web.  24 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Chicago Race Riot of 1919."  December 5, 2004.  Accessed September 24, 2020.