Black History: Special Delivery!!
James Weldon Johnson, was the first to call the race riots that occurred during the summer of 1919, “Red Summer”. During this time, race riots broke out across the country due to the growing animosity and tension between blacks and whites. Riots broke out in Arkansas, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Washington, DC, Illinois, and Nebraska. One of the most violent of these riots occurred in Chicago, IL. Riots occurred in over three dozen cities. The riot was started when a black teen, floated onto a white beach. The teen was violently attacked. From there, the beatings spilled over into white neighborhoods; with blacks passing through these neighborhoods being attacked. Chicago police did not intervene to stop the attacks. Blacks then responded by attacking whites that entered their neighborhoods. It would eventually take a rain storm and the Illinois National Guard to regain order after 5 days. It would be in Chicago, Washington, DC and Elaine, AK that the largest number of deaths occurred.
The riots came as a result of tensions between black and white communities after World War I, After the war, there was increased competition between blacks and whites for employment. African Americans wondered if their support for the war effort would result in them being treated better. However, sadly, this was not the case. Civil Rights activist and author, James Weldon Johnson was working for the NAACP at the time as a field secretary and organized non-violent protests against the violence of the riots. Blacks still could not vote, and many were dependent on sharecropping and had limited access to better paying opportunities. Blacks were also subject to violence and harassment frequently.
Many blacks had begun to migrate North in search of better opportunities. However, many whites felt threatened. Many cities across the U.S. had turned into a powder keg of violence from April to October of 1919. James Weldon Johnson used the term “Red Summer” due to all of the bloodshed that occurred. Approximately 52 blacks were lynched during the riots. The violence decreased significantly as the winter of 1919 approached.