Chicago Race Riot, 1919

The Chicago race riot was a major racial conflict that began on July 27,1919 and ended on August 3, 1919. During the riot, dozens died and hundreds were injured. It was considered the worst of the approximately 25 riots during the “Red Summer of 1919”, so named because of the violence and fatalities across the country. The combination of prolonged arson, looting and murder made this the worst race riot in the history of Illinois.

According to official reports, the turmoil came to a boil after a young African American was struck by a rock and died at an informally segregated beach. Tensions between groups arose in a melee that blew up into days of unrest.

The tensions in Chicago were caused mostly by competition among ethnic and racial groups, especially in the labor and housing markets. The combination of thousands of African Americans migrating from the South and thousands of people newly immigrating from Europe with many settling in Chicago’s South side.

Competition for jobs in the stockyards and meatpacking plants caused friction with the ethnic Irish who had already been established in the area and defended their territory and political power against all comers.