History Essay Example on Chicago Race Riot of 1919

Published: 2022-09-19
History Essay Example on Chicago Race Riot of 1919
Type of paper:  Book review
Categories:  Race American history Civil rights
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 842 words
8 min read

In 1919, Chicago experienced the worst riot in American history. The riot resulted from racial clashes between the white population and the black people. The Chicago race riot occurred when World War I had just ended in November 1918 as the black and white soldiers returned home from the war. After the war, the black people expected to be elevated to acquire jobs, which they were not able to get as a result of racialism (Tuttle, 1970). The American economy continued contracting hence forcing the blacks and whites to compete for the same jobs. The competition for jobs led to racial tensions that erupted in 1919. This paper will discuss the factors that caused the Chicago race riot of 1919 based on William Tuttle's views and perspectives. By identifying the factors, it would be essential to uncover some of the events that took place during the riot.

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Factors that caused the Chicago race riot of 1919

Tuttle (1970) asserts that racial prejudice was one of the causes of the Chicago race riot of 1919. During the period, there were bombings of houses occupied by the blacks. Even though several attacks took place in Chicago, the police were not ready to arrest and convict the persons involved in the crimes. Another case in which the racial prejudice was evident was the murder of African-American boy, Eugene Williams. He was stoned to death by the rowdy whites for swimming in the waters reserved for whites. The murder triggered the Chicago race riot of 1919 as the black people wanted to hit back and considered the period as the ideal time for revenge.

Additionally, Tuttle (1970), affirms that the gangs were fighting for boundaries. In essence, the whites wanted to move to the western and southern areas of Wentworth Avenue. The white gang aimed at ensuring that the territory was clear. They attacked the blacks using guns and knives hence inflicting injuries and fatal wounds on them. As the police turned a blind eye on the prejudices and atrocities, the riots escalated. In essence, criminal negligence of the police officers and authorities in Chicago contributed to the race riot. The police did not take any action against the perpetrators, which made it difficult to contain the riots. The blacks in Chicago got angered and grieved by how events unfolded as the authorities could not protect them. The white people meted hostility on the blacks with no exception to their officers. The blacks stood firm to defend their people who were being subjected to this kind of inhumanity. They were armed to attack the white gangs who could try to get into their territory as they were aware of the adverse consequences of confrontation (Tuttle, 1970).

Another cause of the riot was economic competition. The contraction in the U.S economy caused the blacks and whites to compete for the same jobs. The competition resulted in racial tensions as the white people felt that they were the ones to get the jobs. Furthermore, housing was a factor that led to the Chicago race riot of 1919. The population of African-Americans who settled in the South of Chicago increased significantly. These people bordered Irish Americans who had been living in the region. The groups competed for housing thereby causing racial tensions. These led to poor relationships with the neighbours (Tuttle, 1970). The tensions continued to grow, and more blacks lost their lives to the white gangs who followed them to their areas of residence. However, as the riots escalated, the white people were in great danger since the trains ceased running. They were forced to traverse hostile neighbourhoods while going to work.

Importantly, the newspaper lies about crimes led to an escalation of the race riot. For instance, some newspapers reported that 155 were injured in the attacks as compared to 151 blacks who met a similar fate (Tuttle, 1970). The news was misleading and showed a sense of hatred on the blacks aimed at making them look bad even though the white gangs were the ones killing and maiming the black people. In other news, it was reported that the blacks had broken into the national armoury and made away with ammunition to use in the race riots. This was not true but just a mere fabrication. The white dailies insinuated that the black people attacked and killed some white men. These rumours and false accusations made the two sides to continue fighting with the aim of revenging on the atrocities (Tuttle, 1970).


Racial discrimination and prejudice have existed in most parts of the United States. However, Chicago experienced the worst racial attacks during the race riot of 1919, which left a large number of people dead, some wounded while others became homeless. The authorities could not contain the situation since they were on the side of the whites. They did serve the population comprising of different races with equality. Racialism and race riots would have been prevented if the authorities took the responsibility to protect all the citizens regardless of the skin colour.


Tuttle, W. M. (1970). Race riot: Chicago in the red summer of 1919 (Vol. 82). Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

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