Race Riot Essay

This essay has a total of 2159 words and 8 pages.

Race Riot

This book review was on the book of Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919. It was a
long-term study done by William M. Tuttle, Jr. Its objective was to make a comprehensive
documentation of the events of 1919 in Chicago. The book dealt with all aspects and
perspectives of the event. The author's objective was to leave no stone uncovered. That
every aspect would be talked about in detail. Some important aspects that he arose
throughout the book are going to be the focal point of this book review.

I think that it would be proper to give a little history about the author. William Tuttle
was a graduate from Denison University in 1959. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from the
University of Wisconsin in 1967. He is a college professor and taught at various
institutions. He has had many other writings in print. He has had his articles printed in
various journals. He also written another book called W.E.B. DuBois: Great Life Observed.
He was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the National Endowment for the
Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. As you can see, Dr. Tuttle was a
very accomplished individual.

I think the first major aspect you get is idea of the riot. He goes into great length
talking about various riots that happened all throughout the nation. However, from reading
it they all seemed to go down the same line. The riots are not like we typically think of
but they are for the same reason. In the books, perspective the killing of a black mostly
started these riots. Black people would then retaliate by rioting. This theme was
recurrent. Usually the papers or word of mouth instigated the riot. Reason for this being
an interesting aspect is the perception of the riots. When whites rioted, it was to
protect dignity and to do the right thing. They had a so-called legit moral purpose for
their actions. As Tuttle states blacks rioting were often seen as ruthless and they are
depicted as animals and should be dealt with. This difference in depiction was interesting
to me. I guess it would lie in the mindset of the people of those prevailing times.

One of the most highlighted points I think that Tuttle makes throughout the book is the
role of the police. You can apply their actions to all of the riots. They definitely
played an important role in these riots. All throughout the book, they were instigators.
They made false reports of blacks and their roles. They also had an important part in
fueling the fire. With their support, the brutal attacks on blacks went on without
repercussions thus inviting more to join in the abuse. Many instances Tuttle states that
the police not only condoned the beatings and killings but also participated in many of
them. He often made the point of police involvement. Like when the two black officers came
to arrest the suspected stoners the other white officers did not allow them to arrest them
and let them go free. These actions put fear into blacks. Tuttle states, "They had
expected little else of a police force which they had come to view as the armed
representative of white hostility"(Tuttle, 33). These actions may explain the resentment
and hatred of police today by many blacks.


There was also a big influx of blacks to Chicago. The numbers of blacks migrating to
Chicago was tremendous. Many reasons Tuttle states are the cause for this. The major one
is just blacks wanting to leave the south. They wanted to leave the segregated south in
hope of a better future. They were tired of the Jim Crow laws, lynching, poor school, and
constant harassment. A black said, "Anywhere north will do us"(Tuttle, 79). Another reason
was jobs. In the time of war, the big manufactories trying to keep up with the needs of
the military were in dire needs of people to work. There were actual labor recruiters
whose job was to go out and recruit blacks to work in the factories. Moreover, when the
opportunity to work opened up blacks took them in full demand. It was a way out of the
south. Massive train system that developed to move the goods also moved blacks from the
south to Chicago. In addition, the probably main factor was the success stories that you
heard coming form various sources. The main being the defender newspaper. "It was the
Defender's emphatic denunciation of the Southern treatment of blacks and its emphasis on
pride in the race that increased its circulation tenfold between 1916 and 1918"(Tuttle,
90). In addition, you heard stories or got letters from relatives that told of the money,
freedoms, and opportunities that the north especially Chicago had. These ideas produce one
of the migrations that this country has ever seen. I am not for sure but I heard now it is
the exact opposite their is a great migration back south for blacks.

As stated before this great influx of black workers was also coinciding with the great
influx of unions. This was a seed of tons of violence. Blacks did not want to join the
union and denounced it very openly. A black worker said "Fuck the union, fuck you in the
[union] button"(Tuttle, 109). This enraged the white organizers. This many of the times
ended up in bloodshed. Many of the workers on both sides were coming to work armed with
guns and knives. This hostility came towards the union for some of the unions fault. It
was said "No matter how expert a colored man may be it is said that it is next to
impossible for him to secure membership in a union in Chicago"(Tuttle, 114). Because of
this, the only way for blacks to work was as scabs coming across the union strike line.
For most white workers at the time blacks and scabs meant the same thing. As the union
strikes grew, the more blacks were being used as scabs. The more hostility grew among them
and the union workers. As all conflicts of the time, these labor wars soon became race
wars, which left many dead and severely injured. The cure was to unionize the blacks'
workers. At first, it was not successful at all. One reason was the rejection in the first
place of the unions. The second is the major lack of understanding of the idea of
organized labor. There was little success in a black union movement but it soon faded
because of lack of equal pay for same skilled union work.

One was the influx of blacks to use to be all white neighborhoods. The black belt of the
inner Chicago was a slum to say the least. The property owners denied all request to do
repairs in the buildings. The police allowed open vice and crime to run rampant in all
parts. This combo led to an environment of disease and violence. Many blacks wanted to
leave the area in search for better housing. This is where the violence can in. The areas
where blacks moved out and the realtors who sold them housing were bomb. It was an attempt
to control the black population by relegating them to live in one geographical area. Also,
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