Essay Chicago Race Riot of 1919

3038 Words 13 Pages
Unit 4 Paper

On July 27, 1919, a young black man named Eugene Williams swam past an invisible line of segregation at a popular public beach on Lake Michigan, Chicago. He was stoned by several white bystanders, knocked unconscious and drowned, and his death set off one of the bloodiest riots in Chicago’s history (Shogun 96). The Chicago race riot was not the result of the incident alone. Several factors, including the economic, social and political differences between blacks and whites, the post-war atmosphere and the psychology of race relations in 1919, combined to make Chicago a prime target for this event. Although the riot was a catalyst for several short-term solutions to the racial tensions, it did little to
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The aim was to bring a more powerful and neutral force into local situations, but the effect was to concentrate the emphasis on maintaining law and order rather than correcting the conditions that caused the riot. Many Americans felt it was more important to ensure that violence on the scale of the Chicago riot never recur rather than deal with the root causes of racial conflict (72).

The violence of the 1919 riot shocked and divided many Americans. There were those who believed it was necessary to eliminate racial inequalities in order to prevent racial conflicts and those who believed it was necessary to create (or maintain) a racial hierarchy in which each race would know and accept its place (219). It was the latter group that sought rules against the use of violence and focused on the “accommodation” of society to immediate conflicts rather than long-term solutions, such as restructuring society to reduce the level of racial tension. In the United States, the historical pattern of interracial violence, fear and distrust is a result of a class system which recognized white dominance and black inferiority and subordination. This social system was frustrating to the blacks who wished to rise from their subservient status while the white man had to employ force in order to maintain his position of

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