tv 1919 Red Summer Racial Unrest CSPAN July 2, 2021 9:52am-11:15am EDT
pennsylvania, designed after the french vessel that brought major general lafayette back to the united states in 1780. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span 3. >> urgist and author cameron mcwhirter and historian sage mathieu discuss what's known as the red summer of 1919 a months' long period of racial unrest and violence against african-americans, including world war i veterans in multiple cities and states. the national world war i museum and memorial, national archives at kansas city and greater kansas city black history study group co-hosted this event. the national world war i museum provided the video. >> and this evening we're pleased to have two distinguished speakers,
scholars, with us in dialogue about the red summer of 1919. we will have a discussion between our guests followed by a brief q&a should there be time for us to do that. i'm so please tonight to introduce two of our friends and colleagues, the first being dr. sage mathieu. dr. mathieu is an associate professor of history at the university of minnesota, she's currently or just finishing up her faculty fellowship at harvard university's warren center for studies in american history. she has a joint ph.d. in history and african-american studies and specializes in 20th century american and african-american history with an emphasis on immigration, war, race, globalization, social movements and political resistance. she's the author of a number of books, one of which is available outside and i would encourage to you grab a copy while you can, but an upcoming book as well
"the glory of their deeds: a global history of black soldiers in the great war era." sage was working on that book as i recall as part of your work at the warren center. are we close to publication? >> i started when i was five. >> she started when she was five so it's almost done. saje is a great friend of ours and we are delighted to have you back here with us again, thank you. please join me in welcoming dr. mathieu. [ applause ] and joining us tonight is the scholar who also has a specialized focus on the red summer of 1919 and the fight of this nation to create a just and equitable society. cameron mcwhirter is a staff reporter for the "wall street journal" based in atlanta, he covers politics, economics, breaking news and other subjects and he's worked in a variety of
countries reports from bosnia, iraq, costa rica and other places and most significant for our purposes he is the author of a compelling text "red summer: the summer of 1919 and the awakening of black america." please join me in welcoming cameron. [ applause ] i want to read to you just a portion from cameron mcwhirter's book. so if you would just listen this really frames, i think, our conversation this evening. just reminds us to silence your devices. so thank you. so a reading from cameron's book. on june 26, 1919, as many as 10,000 whites gathered in a field just outside ellisville,
mississippi, to watch a bound, exhausted and wounded black man named john hatfield as he was hoisted up the branch of a giant sweet gum tree. vendors sold flags, trinkets and souvenir photographs, local politicians delivered speeches, young boys crowded in the tree to look down at the wild-eyed screaming hartfield. it was a country fair, political rally and public murder rolled into one. after world war i black americans fervently hoped for a new epoch of peace, prosperity and equality, but this civil rights moment was not to be. instead, the euphoria of victory evaporated to be replaced by the worst spate of anti-black
violence, labeled the red summer, the riots and lynchings would last from april to november 1919, claiming hundreds of lives. blacks responded by fighting back with an intensity and determination never seen before, introducing the first stirrings of the civil rights movement that would change america forever. friends, please welcome our guests this evening, cameron mcwhirter and saje mathieu. [ applause ] >> well, i'd like to begin by thanking you for being here on such a lovely evening. as cameron no doubt recalls, we are almost to the day at the centenary of the worst of the riots i'd say. >> yeah. >> but the riots had begun at
least in the united states for at least a couple of months. there were -- there are a couple of things that are reminiscent of that summer. for me it's always the weather. it was an incredibly hot weather -- >> very hot. >> -- summer. and one of the things that we historians know is that when there is a spike in the weather -- in the heat, we start smacking each other around, and it's no surprise that most of these race riots occurred during heat waves. >> well, i just came here from chicago where we -- me and many other people were marking the centennial of the chicago riot, which was certainly the worst urban riot in the united states that year, and it started because of the heat, literally because of the heat. people -- there was no air conditioning at that time and five young teenage -- teenage
african-american men snuck through the white neighborhoods of chicago to get to the south side beach and they went swimming and they swam in an area that was sort of near the de facto black beach and the de facto white beach, it was not -- there wasn't legal segregation in chicago, but their raft that they were on, they weren't very good swimmers, drifted into the white beach and that was in this incredibly tense period, that's all that was needed to spark a massive race riot. >> well, that's a wonderful place to start, actually, and that is because one of the things that i argue about this era writ large so not just 1919 but the 19s so and 1920s and truthfully well throughout the 20th century what we see in this instance of these kids, we can't ever forget that they're children, playing outdoors, is
that we are reminded that the very idea of leisure is contested. the very idea of belonging is contested. right? so these children do not belong on that beach because free time is itself segregated, as is the very space where that free time should be spent. so it's not just beaches, right, that are segregated, whether it's officially or by de facto practice, but so, too, sometimes are parks, golf courses, public swimming pools. so in these social -- these social spaces become just as charged as the workplace, neighborhoods, in terms of contested terrains when it comes to belonging for african-americans, especially in urban spaces. >> and i would go farther and say that the smallest -- when the situation was so charged the smallest incident would lead to
tremendous violence and rumor and gossip played a huge role in all of this. in the washington riot which occurs earlier in july of 1919, it occurs when a -- there was a whole frenzy of panic produced by the media, unfortunately, of the belief that african-american men were attacking white women, and a white woman -- we don't know exactly what happened, but a white woman was walking down the street and was jostled by two african-american men walking the other way. we know that happened. >> right. >> but that became -- did you hear about two -- >> absolutely. >> -- men raping a white woman and that leads to mayhem. >> so in 1921 just a couple of years later in the worst of all race riots in american history, the tulsa race riot of 1921, it all begins with people bumping into each other in an elevator, right? ? >> right.
>> so these small spaces where, again, the complicated relationship across race, racial lines and across gender lines, becoming a separated or amplified. of course, 1919 also reminds us that violence moves on rumor. violence moves on rumor. so it is so often the case that we hear that this happened, that that didn't happen and before you know it no one even remembers why we're fighting in the first place. so kind of like a middle school brawl, right? >> and as a reporter today i can't tell you how -- how constant a problem that remains in terms of trying to deal with whether something is true, whether something actually happened. it's a constant paranoia, fear of journalists. we go to sleep agonizing over that all the time. >> so let's take a step back for people who might not remember or
know what conditions were like at the end of the summer of 1919 -- rather at the end of spring of 1919. >> that's a great -- yeah. >> so we have american soldiers starting to come back -- >> in massive amounts, yeah. >> sometimes 100,000 a month, right? dis gorging from great ships on american -- on coastal -- in coastal port cities. they are concerned about a return to normalcy, whatever that could mean. so whether that's a return to their jobs, return to their families, return to their social standing, return to the actual physical place from whence they came and not everyone wants to go back from whence they came. >> right. >> we are talking about men who are between the ages for the most part of 18 to 30, not the most stable part of our citizenry. but it's true, right?
it's true. >> yes. >> and then an absolutely understudied aspect for me and part of what i write about is that we did not have a language for what today we call ptsd. that these men had been thrown into the worst of the fighting, the worst chaotic of the fighting in the last six months of the war, even though american soldiers did not see the level of destruction that other european troops had experienced over the course of all four years, nonetheless you don't have to be in the trenches for four years to know how destabilizing, how devastating it is to witness your friends being torn to shreds. so we get these guys arriving, right, in philly, in boston, in new york, in newport news n charleston and it's like, thanks for coming out. off you go. and that doesn't even yet include how african-americans felt about this expectation that
after having crossed the atlantic, having having hurriedly established much of the infrastructure that made it possible for the american army to fight in europe, building the camps, building the barracks, building the railway lines, feeding the people, spending hours loading and unloading ships, only to then be treated like gum under -- under one's shoe by their own government -- how they felt -- >> that decommissioning wasn't as smooth as see you later sometimes, sometimes they had to wait around. >> correct. >> that led to young men, charleston is a good example, young men milling around, looking for booze mostly, which was illegal. you know, that riot begins when a bunch of men give five bucks to a guy who says he's going to go get them illegal liquor and like a million other hustlers before and after him, he takes off and never comes back and the soldiers riot.
but i do think -- i mean, you're dead on in everything you're saying. i think it's really important for people -- when i talk to people about 1919 they generally have the impression that america was this victorious power and everything was great and we're about to head into the jazz age and everything is fantastic. in fact, it was a really panicky time for the world, but certainly for america. we had people -- the bolsheviks had taken over russia, anarchists were sending bombs to politicians, there was a record number of strikes around the country, there was a high cost of living was rising so people were having trouble paying their bills, people were coming -- she is soldiers were pouring back into the domestic economy and they couldn't get the jobs they used to have, white and black. >> right. >> and in that frothy mess -- i like to mention there was a
political cartoon at the time of the globe sitting in bed just biting his nails and all these panicky things are flying around his head. influenza was sweeping the world. >> right. >> so it was a really nerve-racking time and in all of that three pretty positive things for african-americans had happened, but because it happened in this frothy chaos they were focal points for anti-black violence. soldiers being the most prominent. >> so we also get -- you know, there's also another ingredient in this frothy mess that you describe and that is that over the course of the war -- i mean, it had started before, but it went from trickle to flood, that is, that african-americans cast down their buckets and headed north, right? they followed the rivers and the railway lines that made it possible for them to vote with their feet as workers.
and so we get an actual departure of african-americans from the south to northern industrial cities. >> in massive amounts, yes. >> to replace the workers that had gone off to war. >> and immigration that's cut off. >> that's cut off. but also it's important to know that this was nonetheless a concrete choice by african-americans to say after almost 50 years of farming with control over their wages that this sharecropping system is not working, right? it's a perpetual cycle of poverty. we cannot, in fact, own and hold on to land. so what will i do? what is the very fundamental exercise of freedom? to move. so we get -- >> one key addendum to that is northern industry turned to the south and it was very advantageous for the owners of factories to have african-americans come up to work for them. first of all, often their wages
were suppressed, secondly, they were sort of inherent union busters because the unions were very reluctant to let african-americans into the unions at that time. so you had this perfect situation for the factory owner, he could divide his factory floor, weaken the unions, bring in cheaper labor, but you're right -- but generally for african americans it was a better situation to get away from jim crow. definitely. >> but it adds to this idea that after the war we have to get those people back into their place, get out of my neighborhood, get out of my workplace, get out of my army, get off my streetcar, get off my beach. so it's a very physical set of contacts. in today's parlance we might refer to these as micro aggressions, but there is a lot of that. one of the things that i enjoy doing with my students is having them look at newspapers from the period and you get all of these accounts, especially in north carolina for some reason, of
white women going around stabbing people with their umbrellas. the reason they do this -- and some black women were also fighting back -- and the reason they do this is because the sidewalk is a contested space and they want to reclaim that as their entitled place. and so black people are to walk in the street with the muck that ran through the streets. what we see are african americans saying i will not be moved. you mentioned some black intellectuals and some other important advancements, organizational advancements that were happening during the war. might you tell us a little bit more about that. >> yeah. well, i mean, this title of this talk is we returned fighting and that was w.e. dubois who was a great intellectual writing for the crisis at that time and he -- he made it clear, loud and clear, that these soldiers who had just fought for democracy and were told repeatedly you're
fighting to change democracy were going to come back changed and were going to come back demanding a different situation than the one they had left. that, i think, played a key role in formulating people's views of what they were expecting when they came back. i think the african-american soldiers encountered -- i have numerous examples of these little incidents in my book, one -- they came back wearing their uniforms often because that's the only clothing they had, but when they would get back to the small towns in the south, they would be spit on, they would be yelled at, they would be threatened and in some cases they were killed. these sort of flare-ups were happening all the time. there was i remember i have in my book there were lots of letters going back and forth in the u.s. railroad administration, soldiers would be coming back sleeping in the berths of their railroad cars to
go home because they were decommissioned and as soon as they crossed the mason-dixon line white men in the cars would stand up and say, hey, they have to go to the colored car. other white men, there is one instance where other white men stand up and say, wait a minute, these guys just fought for us in europe and there is a huge argument that erupts and the railroad has to figure it out and it becomes this really tense moment. there is another -- there is a soldier who i have quoted in the book who recalls people muttering as he walked down the street in his town in arkansas where he's wearing his uniform, you know, he's being uppity, he's trying to rise above his station. he eventually moves to st. louis and says i felt safer in the trenches than i did in arkansas. so this is happening all the time and the intellectuals are capturing this desire to really -- how do we -- well, dubois said it all, we returned
fighting. we fought for democracy there, we're going to fight for democracy here. >> so, you know, again, we have to take a step back and think about how we imagined an african-american, say, in 1913. right? the average american would -- if you say an african-american they're wearing overalls, working on a farm, 90% of african-americans live in the south, an overwhelming majority are farmers of one type or another. so the idea that in just two years of american intervention in the war we would move them from overalls to an officer's uniform with gleaming metals confirming their valor was absolutely incendiary for a lot of american people and stood as a greater challenge to getting them again back in their place. >> right. >> so one of the things we hear is about how the french have ruined our negroes.
there is a lot of concern about americans -- especially african americans, suffering from a kind of contagion from having seen french democracy, from having tasted a life with fewer social and legal barriers. and african americans have all these different ways of communicating their refusal to return to -- >> it's funny you mentioned taste because when my book came out i went on a book tour and i was in baltimore and i was on a radio show with a journalist who had been fortunate enough to interview the last living world war ii veteran in baltimore who happened to be african-american. the man was very old by the time he interviewed him and all the man talked about was eating eschar goe and wine and bread and everybody was being so nice to him and just giving him food all the time. >> so french. >> right. and that was the experience that -- i mean, the french people were thrilled that people were coming to fight for them. >> okay. so there are a couple of things here. i have a good friend we were
having a conversation, he calls about every three months to ask me how my book is coming and i'm like, look, you are oppressing me at this stage. anyway, we were talking about how the french had ruined the americans, right, the african americans. one of the things that african americans do to connote and telegraph their awakening, very much like the title of your book, is that they start to throw french words into their every day parlance, their every day interactions. so as to, again, change the position alt that they have. you wouldn't say, hey, how is it going you would say hello cher. the other thing that african-american men do and this will drive southerners bat shit crazy, forgive me medical, but that's what it was -- >> that's a medical term. >> yes. they would name their daughters in particular with french names. and so this friend who called said, oh, my god, i realize that all of my great aunts have named like jocelyn or julie and this
was, again, to say i have been completely transformed by my contact with friends. and that transformation is the site of the conflict in the summer of 1919. >> in the walking tour that we just gave in chicago we began the talk at a victory monument and for many decades it was the only african-american -- monument to the african-american soldier in the united states. it's a very rugged soldier with a rifle and a bayonet facing south. and i don't think that was unintentional. >> right. >> he is looking right at the south. >> so when we're very familiar with muhammad ali's stance during the vietnam war and he says, you know, a vietcong has never done anything to me. he uses different language. >> yes. >> it's important to remember that 50 years before that african-americans were saying the exact same thing. that they were prepared, a. phillip randolph an african-american newsman from the period, he earns the dubious
distinction of being the declared by j. edgar hoover as the most dangerous negro in america. he says, i'm absolutely repaired to fight in alabama, but not in france. i have no particular battle there, though i value democracy. what we see after the war is that that same vision comes back. we're very familiar we return fighting, a short but absolutely powerful jab penned by w.e.b. dubois, but there's another famous poem by the period "if we must die" by claude mckay. that poem's last lines, if we must die let us be with our backs pressed to the wall dying but fighting back, becomes so trans depressive after world war i that he is, you know, of
course branded a communist and almost they consider, you know, deporting him, et cetera, but in world war ii churchill returns to that very language in order to galvanize britain. >> it's important -- claude mckay -- the anecdote is important to go into. he is a railroad porter in 1919 and he's traveling with his friends as a lot of young black men at the time, he is a railroad porter and they're going from town to town and every time the door opens for them to go to their hotel that night they don't know if there is a riot. again, rumor and newspapers which were usually a day late were all the information they had. so they started running to their hotel cars, run to go their hotels, he started carrying a gun. he was very terrified and he -- he's so nerve racked by all of this that one day he goes into the bathroom of one of the railroad cars and skrauls out
this sonnet if we must die. he reads it to his friends, some of them start crying and he sends it off to a magazine that publishes it and it's published all over especially by the african-american press and it never mentions race. the poem doesn't ever mention race, but everybody knew what it was about. to the point where there were white senators in the senate saying, you know, this is seditious. >> absolutely. >> this is -- i think it was included in hoover's reports about, you know, sedition, because fighting back was seditious. >> yes. in fact, a threat to democracy at its core. >> right. >> in fact, let's talk about sedition because the summer of 1919 is also a period when americans are afraid of their own shadows, right, and that's part of that return to normacy or this frenetic need to return to normalcy. we are worried that having exposed ourselves to europeans
and their provincial wars that we will, in fact, bring back that kind of instability in the united states. so all of a sudden everyone is a potential communist. the ball gentleman vic next door. it becomes suspicious to speak german in public. in iowa they try to pass a law making english the official language of the state when the country has no official language. all of a sudden we vk very worried about not only bolsheviks within our mix but how they would get into the minds of otherwise naive african-americans. >> that plays a role throughout 1919 over and over again as these riots erupt the media coverage is not sometimes -- it's very, very poor and they
are -- a lot of these rumors that are flying around end up in print and then it gives it a slidity that causes a lot of problems. one of them is that there are communists operating among the negroes and they're causing problems. there was very little evidence that that was the case at all and certainly the leading organization of that year was the naacp, which their position was pretty simple, which was we're american citizens and we deserve the same rights as every other american citizen and we are going to fight to do that in the courts, when and how we vote and where we live and what jobs we have and where our educational opportunities are, and against open violence against african-americans. so we're going to fight on those fronts, and that was considered seditious. that was considered, you know, to the point where texas shut down the naacp and when the
naacp head at the time came to visit austin to try to unravel this mess, a white man, he was beaten in broad daylight into a bloody pulp by a mob that included a judge and other law officials. so it really -- if you read -- there was a big report that hoover -- for the attorney general produced that year and it has tons of communist material at the first portion of it and a lot of anarchist quotes and then it just switches suddenly, very awkwardly to the modern reader, into just publication -- you know, african-american quotes -- quotes from african-american publications that are -- i mean, we would read them today and think, well, yeah, they should have equal rights. i mean, it's very -- it's very jarring. >> that's still contested today, actually. >> but at the time -- yeah, but at the time it was just this really contested thing.
>> okay. so -- hence the name red summer, right. >> right. >> red summer means that we are literally seeing red as james weldon johnson who you will tell us about in just a moment suggested for the blood running through the streets, but it's also because of all the red scare, the communists were everywhere, and this idea that they would in particular target african-americans and, again, infect them with these notions that challenged the core of an american racial hierarchy that worked, let us not forget, for the north as it did for the south. james weldon johnson tell us, i shall bring him up on the screen. >> yeah, i developed as i was research the book i developed this -- >> here he is. >> -- man crush for this guy. he is an awesome dude. he's one of those people you start reading about and it's almost like you don't believe
it. he spoke fluent spanish, he was a diplomate, he was a lawyer, he wrote tin pan alley music with his brother, he wrote "lift every voice and sing" which is considered the african-american myles. he wrote poetry, wrote a novel, wrote amazing essays and is doing all this have amazing work and dubois taps him in 1917 and says i want you to come to the naacp to work with me. that organization had been founded after a riot in springfield, illinois, and it was dominated primarily by white do-gooders from the new york area. it was not the -- an african-american-led organization at that time. james weldon johnson said, well, i might do it but i don't know -- it might hurt my writing if i do that because i won't have time. he said, we really need you. so he does join and it
completely hurts his writing. he can't produce anything because he's too busy. 1919 that guy is all over the country give speeches after speeches after speech. he's recruiting all over the south which was a place where they did not have a lot of members. you can read his speeches and you think, well, this is malcolm x and you read another speech and this is martin luther king. he's tackling all the issues that later become what the civil rights movement has to deal with in the '50s and '60s. >> we have other people whose voices are very important. on your left is monroe trotter, he is a journalist from boston and he is very active in, for example, denouncing birth of a nation and the kinds of violence that its advocating in the united states, and then on the right is, of course, w.e. best
dubois, another sort of renaissance man in many ways, although far more insufferable than james weldon johnson. so we talked about this briefly what is meant by the red summer, blood, bolsheviks, bombings, fires, people being set on fire, rage, these are all very worrisome daily occurrences for americans and seemed to indicate that the war has crossed the pond, right? that the warring mood in europe may well have reached the united states albeit fueled by different things. it's very important to remember that race riots did not occur just in the united states, that, in fact, they had started in europe as early as 1915. they begin in my research in european medical hospitals because what a wonderful -- i mean, what an obvious place to see contested terrain. when wounded, when you're dead,
whose life has greater value, the white soldier or the black soldier? do we segregate our hospitals or not? the british, the french, the germans all had stances on this and as a result we see a lot of fighting and racialized violence. we also get a lot of violence in european fort cities where both colonial soldiers and african-american soldiers and white soldiers are pouring in at alarming rates. you know, with a great sense of urgency. so in 1718 we start to get race riots namely in western france, to a lesser extent in the south. we get them immediately after the war in welsh and british military camps, chiefly in liverpool, cardiff but also as far as glasgow where allied and american troops are stockpiled
and waiting for the ships that could carry them home. with ports frozen the ships can't go as quickly as possible. with influenza striking so many soldiers we're very concerned about putting 10,000 soldiers on one ship and having so many die at sea or so many, you know, get sick along the way which certainly happened. this concern about american contact and to another extent south african contact. so a lot of white south africans and white southerners who are in europe start these riots and in the european press we get a lot of accounts of these soldiers saying things -- or their representatives saying things like, well, you europeans thought you were so great and incapable of racial strive, but when you have no rules you have people who don't know their place and hence we have to get involved and have these riots. it's very interesting reading. then we have all this fighting that occurs on the very ships bringing back these veterans. in the case of canada and its black soldiers, they're so
concerned about this fiery mood that they have their black soldiers remove their uniforms while at sea. i just want to say one last thing about uniforms. you know, one of the reasons that soldiers are allowed to -- and, in fact, encouraged to keep their uniforms for 30 to 90 days after returning is so that a grateful nation can bestow its gifts and its thanks, right? and those thanks could be anything from food to sex, to booze to words, and so when we have -- when we require that soldiers take away or when we're ripping off their uniforms, it's in part to say we owe you no thanks. what did you do to erase the contributions by these soldiers? there are multiple root causes. i'm going to move quickly because we want to hear your questions. it's a fight over labor, it's a fight over housing especially in urban spaces, it's a fight over racial equality and civil
rights. whose rights, who gets to define this democracy. and of course the time honored tradition because it works so well, interracial sex, a universal paranoia because it also requires us to think about white women or just women writ large and their sexual choices. if she's with someone who is not you that means she chose hopefully that someone who is not you and that alone could be a contested movement. so this is just a quick list and not even a full one of the various locations where we see race riots in 1919. hawaii, mexico, trinidad, tobago, british honduras, jamaica, portuguese, africa, the list is long. common factors in my research, heat and leisure contested, we started with that, migration and housing krurchls, veterans returning to these cities, labor union communists something that
cameron just touched and of course the creation of transnational black alliances, the naacp is international but there are lots of other -- >> marcus garby really starts to take off that year. one thing i would point out, you had mentioned share croppers. >> yeah. >> share croppers are the quintessentially downtrodden class in american history and certainly the -- to the point where lennon is writing to the communist polit pure row why can't we recruit more people -- more black people in the south to join our cause? but in 1919, you know, this he would invariably be ripped off when they would go to weigh their cotton at the cotton gins but that year because there was such a high demand for cotton, cotton prices were through the roof, they were actually doing fairly well relatively. so you see a lot more sharecropper families buying land, you see a lot more share
croppers buying cars. these are bones of contention, these are flash points. did you see that black guy driving down the street in a brand-new car? when i begin my book with a small riot in the middle of -- not even a town, just there's a small black church in a part of georgia, very rural to this day part of georgia and when the mob riots they burn the church down, they kill several people and they destroy the man they're trying to seek's cars, they destroy his cars, it's a very important point for them. >> because cars then like now are the second largest expenditure that anyone will make, except that it's one of declining value. >> when the white mobs move into the ballot belt of chicago and riot and destroy the place, they make a point of destroying vitrolas, taking them out and
smashing them in the street because they were expressions of wealth. >> it's why they burn down churches, it's why they burn down -- i mean, they talk about, you know, bombing caravans where people would -- white people would drive through black neighborhoods and, you know, sorts of a string of cars and just throwing bombs around or throwing oil and then setting things ablaze. this is a map of some -- and here it's very important to say just some of the places that witnessed a level of violence that warranted -- that ultimately made it on to the pages of local newspapers, right? but it's estimated that between 34 and 37 outright riots occurred in 1919 alone and these little -- these sites do not account for the daily micro aggressions that are fueled by the same kind of ire, by the same contest of space. >> and also just open -- i mean, there are a lot of lynchings that took place in the south that we will never know about. >> right. even during the war itself. so speaking of lynchings, this
is a map of lynchings -- you know, just in the south but it's important to remember that they didn't occur just in the south. >> and they weren't all african americans. >> absolutely not. >> the vast majority were, but they weren't all. >> they were oftentimes jewish, italian, labor activists, they were -- >> hispanic. >> hispanic, they were homosexuals sometimes, there were women which we forget, and lynching isn't the only way that people are -- that it is made clear for a people that they are -- their lives are in danger. banishment, sun down towns, et cetera. you know, we have to remember that between 1917 and easily 1927 african-americans are on the run for a different set of reasons. this is a short but by no means
complete list of some of the key race riots that we get in the immediate years after the war. so, yeah, july 27 to august 3rd, 1919, this is when chicago is aflame over these race riots. here is just an example of the chicago defender's front page. interestingly, they couldn't publish the paper because they were cut off from -- penned into their neighborhoods. please. >> the owner of the defender has to drive the paper to a place in indiana where they eventually publish it. >> so if you were to look at the newspaper and the dates that i just showed, you would get a sense that nothing, in fact, happened. you have to look in the middle of august to find the retelling of this rash of riots. of course, this was international news, not just chicago news. but this is another chicago newspaper the broad ax an
african-american newspaper. one of the things that i write about in my work is how the summer of 1919 really changed the military presence in african-american communities. when we have the race riot in omaha, tanks are brought in, machine guns are brought in, tanks are the emblem of world war i. tanks are the thing that we associate with no man's land in northern france, not downtown omaha. right? and so here i find this photo, you know, just absolutely delicious in its potential. what is happening between these two guys, right? and then there is the child on the side who is like, this is juicy. he's probably a little kid selling newspapers. >> right. >> but nonetheless there is the lunchroom which we know, right, in the '60s will become a site of civil rights protest, and who stands down?
who stands down? here, you want to talk about chicago? these are images of chicago. >> that might be washington. >> okay. >> but it's important to note that, you know, after the chicago riot the african-american community desperately wanted the militia to come in because they were besieged and there really was no food or water getting into -- and medical supplies. provident hospital the leading african-american hospital there was overwhelmed and the nurses and the staff were exhausted. they needed people to be -- to bring supplies in. >> and it's 100 degrees. >> yeah, and, again, remember, it's boiling hot. there are white gangs moving up and down the perimeter of the african-american area and there are black gangs moving within it looking for white victims. it becomes this chaotic place where they just want order
restored and when the militia finally shows up they do exactly that, they restore order very quickly. they point bayonets at the white mobs, the white mobs vanish. >> so here is a truck delivering milk and bread in chicago and it has to be with armed guards. but we can't forget that even if that is a good military presence, right, a safeguard, in a broader national political culture that sees african americans as a criminalized population, we forget that these weapons are not there to keep african-americans in place, but rather to protect them. these become images that afterwards represent a harder -- or a higher level of violence perhaps needed to put african americans where they belong. >> let's take chicago as a
classic example but it really reshapes the city of chicago's politics i would argue to today. to today. but you have this hardening of neighborhoods. this is my neighborhood, this is your neighborhood. there's -- >> it's balkanized. >> yes, and that was already there but it really hardens. there's strong belief that -- he was definitely a member of one of the gangs but that the original richard daly, the mayor of the city of chicago, was actually in the riots participating, which if anybody knows chicago that wouldn't be too surprising. >> and so what are we -- what are we as like center your inner white midwesterner for a moment or any american, maybe even more so southern, what are we afraid of? this is what we're afraid of. this is what we're afraid of. right? young, healthy african americans who we have decided didn't know
how to use weapons before they went to europe and came back knowing, which of course they did. we trained them on other whites with the intent to kill and told them that they were doing it for democracy. we're very worried that especially with bolsheviks whispering in their ears this could quickly turn against us. that is the anxiety that is being stoked. that is the rumor that is being stoked. and so scenes like this, a parade, in fact, celebrating the soldiers returning in chicago you will note the named griffins -- are they griffins, lions, i don't know, at the chicago public library. >> lions. >> this could take over the south. so a very firm hand is needed. these kinds of posters meant to encourage african-american enlistments during the war, african americans pointing their bayonets at white people who are afraid.
this is exactly what we have to erase in the black memory. >> we should go to questions. >> yes. >> i'm going to read a little quote from chester franklin who was an editor at the call in kansas city at the time and he wrote -- he wrote an article called the new negro in capital letters and he wrote in that article, in that essay, we believe that self-preservation is the first law of nature. wait, this was later. he wrote that the time of cringe something over. and that really sums up the red summer. that really captures his -- the message of african-american leaders in the press over and over again. but i want to point out one other thing. okay. so there was a journalist, a black journalist named roy otley and he writes a memoire and includes a portion of covering the red summer and he was in
chicago and he names -- he discusses an african-american veteran who had just come back from france, he doesn't name him, but he writes about him and he man is on a trolley car and suddenly a -- he doesn't know what's happening and suddenly a mob that comes up and attacks -- starts attacking him and trolley cars moved on electrical lines so all you had to do was pull the cord off and it was dead so that's what they do, he has to run out and he's running. suddenly a man who was coming home from work, he worked at a factory, he's running for his life. he loses his coat, he's terrified and the crowd is screaming get the "n" word. get the "n" word. they're chasing him. he finally escapes when he sees comiskey park on the south side of the baseball stadium, he knows he's made it to the safe area and he says the injustice of the whole thing overwhelmed me and my feelings ran riot.
had the ten months i spent in france been all in vain? what had i done to deserve such treatment? i lay there trying to imagine how the innocent victim of a southern mob must feel. must have negro always suffer him because of his skin? there's an "n" word let's get him. he later sees a white man in his neighborhood and he said my first impulse was to jump him and beat him up because that's what had been -- he was so angry about what had happened. he was fighting to make the world safe for democracy and that's what happened. >> you know, it's a fight that continues. it begins -- it's amplified in 1919, but by no means ends in 1919. >> no, all racial problems ended at that point. >> of course. it's all over. >> don't people know that? >> it's all over. so with that on that fine note we'd love to open up the floor to your questions and we're happy to stay if you are.
>> yeah, afterward if anybody wants to ask us anything. but any questions would be great. >> so we can't see you very well because of the light. camille has the mic. >> you are welcome if you are able to come down to either mic or i'm happy to come to you as well. all right. i will come to you, michael. >> thank you for this great piece of history. i've got two questions to ask, but i'm only going to ask one, not to be selfish and i'm trying to figure out which one i want to ask. you mentioned j. edgar hoover, fbi and how our organizations were scrutinized and really demonized then. that's 100 years ago. recently maybe a year or two ago the fbi put out a report about -- it was either black extremists something -- black identity politics or something like that. so in your -- as a historian do
you think that the black community is still being looked at that way by our government? >> are you asking me? >> both of you. either. >> well, you know, sometimes -- you have to develop a sense of humor when you work on war and genocide as i do and so sometimes when i'm looking at the surveillance records and they're not just in the united states, the french, the british, the canadians, the gentleman may cans, they are all very, very concerned about the movement of ideas and the movement of black bodies that incorporate these ideas. so there is this whole sort of set of paperwork and new language that develops in -- during the war and even more so afterwards. so sometimes i feel like the best thing that ever happened to african-american newspapers and black intellectuals was j. edgar hoover because he is so obsessed that he keeps everything, you know, that he hears -- >> well, for historians any
ways. >> yes. his agents are constantly collecting papers and some that we would not have anymore but for their presence in these surveillance records. so i think, you know, i tell my students that we might well revere muhammad ali and malcolm x. and romanticize who we think these men were, but neither of them to get on a plane today if they were alive because they would be considered muslim radicals, right? so i think that there is still a concern and an anxiety about what black people think and a need to explain it away, to blame -- to have a xenophobic kind of concern about them and at the end of the day like refuse to believe that they are african americans' own critiques about how democracy fails them in their daily lives. so i don't think that -- i mean, i hope that answers your question. >> i think -- >> i don't think it's stopped or
will anytime soon. >> i would point out also a lot of this critique in -- a lot of these reports that i read early on, the fbi was not official, but they were starting to create this sort of group under mitchell palmer, but they're really bad. like their assessments of what's really happening in the streets of chicago during the riot are way off. you know, a lot of the rumors that were spread that african americans had broken into the armory and were stealing 10,000 guns and whites were murdering hundreds of people and dumping them into this creek behind the slaughter house, they put that in the reports and those are not -- that never happened. neither of those things happened. so there is a lot of bad assessment that's just -- that wasn't some great surveillance work. >> right. sometimes it's blatant job protection. >> yeah. >> i'm serious. i'm serious.
especially in the case of france. they're like, well, i have to have a purpose, i spent the war focusing on germans and now i have to take what skills i have and use them to demonize a different set of people. >> our next question comes from the center. >> you had a map up earlier and it denoted the various different parts of the south where all of these riots were taking place. >> yes. >> so i want to make sure i'm clear. was there any one definitive incident in all of those locations that triggered it or was it just the overall climate that you were talking about from 1919? was it just one incident in each one of those place as soon as. >> excellent question. so i had to speed through it when i listed different factors and this is really where cam is going to have -- this is his wheelhouse. there are just -- each place has a different kind of manifestation of its anxiety, if you will. in the case of port cities i
think we would agree that soldiers and sailors play a particular role. in the case of chicago maybe omaha, work plays a different role as a stimulant or as a catalyst. when in doubt, always say some white girl got some attention because that one never fails. but, anyway, if you could take this. >> i mean, i start my book in this small town in georgia, but of course there were incidents before that, but that incident gathers -- gains the attention of the naacp in new york, then the naacp has a giant forum, i'm trying to push for federal lynching legislation in new york, then charleston, there is a big riot in charleston caused by sailors, then it starts to really gain steam. there is incidents -- >> we have a pointing. >> oh, my god. >> here you go.
>> super fancy. >> high tech. >> is this going to work. >> yeah. >> wow. look at me. charleston is really the first major urban riot and ironically it's actually the best actually best handled, because the naval commander, and the mayor of the city immediately work together to shut it down. because, the african-american community was so important and vital to that city that even in the deep south where the civil war began, they shut it down. but, unfortunately, that is not repeated. so then you have incidents starting to pop up all over, and some of knoxville is a terrible one, and brisbee, arizona, and then another one in knoxville where soldiers are brought to a parade, and there is a shootout when they go out drinking, and
white men don't like them to come into their bars, but when you start to have washington, d.c., in mid-july and chicago a week after, that is when everyone in the country is saying, what the hell is going on with our country, and washington is really important internationally, because you have, you know. i found german and japanese in articles that, what? this is the leading democracy in the united states and the world, and what is happening, and this country is having a riot right outside of the white house, and i found a german paper that actually said that this is insane what is happening over there, and someday they might even have a black president. horrific. so, anyways, so it is starts royaling the entire country, and as we pointing out that it was newspaper, after newspaper, and bander headlines that panicked
everyone. >> that is an important place to add two more things here, and that is as the riots moved westward, i see an uptick in the kind of the violence that we see as well. elaine, arkansas, is the worst. >> the worst. >> and it is increasingly referred to as, you know, a program. right, the kind of violence with jews in southern russia and ukraine. >> yeah, that happens in september in -- oops. >> too much tech. >> and elaine, arkansas, is basically a massacre. >> yes. put plainly. and so part of the reason that there is the amplification, is because, oh, my god, you heard what happened in d.c., and when a little thing happened in chicago, it is like everybody has to get involved, and then with each race riot means a
greater response to it, and more people in the streets, and there are accounts of people especially here, women, fighting each other off with pots and pans, and what do i tell my students that this is not only describing a real frenzied type in the streets, but it means that grandma has takentone the street. and we know that when grandma gets involved, it is about to get messy. so, yeah, it is a real, and again, this doesn't even capture the full extent of that summer. so, i hope that answered your question. thank you. >> we'll take the next question on the right. >> the map doesn't show anything happening in missouri and kansas, and is that because nothing happened or because it is very low key? >> i think that it is safe to say that there was tension here, but there were not massive race
riots. kansas city had a vocal and interesting african-american press, i which used for my book that they were not -- they did not have an incident like you had in omaha, and why? pure luck. >> but also by the end of like by 1919 and certainly by the fall of 1919, we start to realize that these riots are messy. they are easy fodder for the enemies, and the europeans who could barely suffer wilson to begin with, and they were like, well, well, well, if it is not mr. democracy, and he can't handle his own mess, and that is not good, and then secondly, this idea that we need to shut them down quickly, and if that means bringing in the military, we will, and if it means increasing the police force, we will, because we can't return to
business, so if we are looking for these fabulous orange explosions, then we miss all of the other ways of people stabbing each other on the sidewalks, and people's homes being bombed, and these small exercises fueled by people's commitments. >> and i will come back here to give you a four-hour lecture of why woodrow wilson is a terrible president, but i will give you two sentences, but more than two, and throughout this mess, as this is roiling throughout the country, he is focused on the league of nations, and this is embarrassing, but you have african-american leaders and others writing him, and pleading with him, that you have to say something here, and you to interject. and i found one speech where he is making a passing reference to that these troubles are messy,
and he made a message on a stump at the league of nations, but he would not take any serious action. >> and the next question is coming from the back. >> i was also really interested in this map and the list of the riots. but what i am interested in is really the language of it. when i hear the word riot who the good guys and the bad guys are. and these examples are like white terrorism as opposed to any riot or group. >> which is language used at the time by the way. >> and just kind of wondering, what is the nature of all of those, and bad people on both sides, or is this a terrorism and a defense uprising kind of thing? >> overwhelming amount of violence that summer that was anti-black violence, and initiated. there were many instances where the blacks fought back.
and fought. there were no instances that i can think of where blacks initiated the violence. i think that people tend to think that they are different and you bring up a good point, but you get hung up on the terminology a lot that like, well, it -- this is, and i was thinking of this as i flew in here actually and it has been bugging me a little bit so i will fire off on this, because people want to see history as it is hitler versus gandhi, and that is not -- because everybody involved in these things are a human being. and if you are a human being, and people are marching up and down the street, and they are putting out your windows, you might pick up a brick. and so there were people in chicago who fought back, and there were black gangs, and why?
because three blocks over, there were white gangs. so if there was trouble, and then you might have violence, too, and if you were on the wrong side of the color line, you were going to get it, but at the same time elaine, arkansas, as i said, it was a massacre, and the lynching in ellensville, mississippi, it was horrific. >> i would even say it is more specific, and we miss a lot when we are using white-black binary, because in the case of east st. louis which happens earlier, but also we see it in chicago, white women are just as involved and just as violent and just as engaged in leaving their stamp in this white/black battle. so if we are looking at the riots through the lenses of gender, my students get uncomfortable, and that is not lady-like.
i thought that these girls were in jazz clubs getting lit. no, they are involved. women are very, very powerful in the klan which gets the resurgence at this time, and other white supremist organization, and the klan is not even really the worst really. my favorite is the national association for the advancement of white people, and it comes later, but it is a real thing. and women, and children are involved in this fighting. older people are involved in this fighting. it is a neighborhood brawl certainly in chicago. >> if you are involved in a brawl in vicksburg, mississippi, it is a different mob than what you will gather in chicago. in my book, i investigated this and we did a drill down in chicago unlike a lot of these other places, and so you can see, and you know, these gangs would include a jewish kid, an
irish kid, and a german kid, and they could all then become white. >> correct. sometimes immigrants, and sometimes soldiers and so it is not just one factor. that is part of what makes these battles so complicated and at the same time so telling. so. >> that is the vast majority is anti-black initiated. >> this is the second to last question. >> okay. >> you mentioned arkansas and mississippi, i think, and some terrible things happened, and i really want to know what those things were. what happened in arkansas, and what happened in mississippi. >> well, arkansas was, you know, i was talking about the sharecroppers and how they did relatively well that year, and so the price of cotton went through the roof, and so various
parts of the south started to organize to create a collective to go to the cotton gins and say, this is the price. they started to have meetings, and holding a meeting in hoopsburg, arkansas, which is not a real town, and white police show up, and a shooting starts, and some white officers are killed. well, that's, that sets off a white posses roaming the county for days, and they then round up a number of african-american sharecroppers and beat them bloody and had them confess to a grand conspiracy that was never really defined that there was a plot to kill every white person in the county. that was challenged by the naacp and others in a very, very long legal suit that eventually led
to supreme court, and those men who were on death row after trials that lasted literally minutes were all exonerated and let go. >> who here has had the great pressure of raising a teenager? okay. i'm in the trenches, and there is nothing more cocky than a teenager who gets the first paycheck, because they think that you don't have the same power over them because you don't have power over the wallet. so it is the same as my students who are themselves teenagers, and think of how worrisome this would have been, because this is when african-americans are not allowed to challenge a white person in court, and not only let alone court, but over their labor and how bolshevik, and by saying not only has cotton gone
up, and not only can it no longer go up, but we need the cotton for the uniforms, and the tents, and for bandages, and et cetera, and we want to make the money now. what we start to see especially in the small rural areas, and the land ownership is real and huge, but it is not so gigantic that it would have destabilize the southern economy, but it is an idea that would catch on. sorry, one second, and so in elaine, what we get are not just these african-americans who try to organize as cotton farmers, but they also have money, and having access to cash is very hard in the southern economy at this time. and we see that there is a success among african-americans in the forms of building your church, and add an attachment to the home, and get that other car and what we are getting with
just as much veracity after world war i is an urge to erase, right, burn to the ground, these trophes of success of modernity, and again, squeeze you back into your place. so i tell my students, pick a date and pick an african-american newspaper, and there is a church going up in flames. why? because after you build your own house, you have money leftover to give to the preacher to build the church? so we need that church to go. and why the church? because that is where the meetings were held, and oftentimes in small towns, it is where the guns were stashed. so in '63 and '64 in birmingham where we were attacking the black churches, because they were signs of protest for over 50 years. >> and i did not want to miss your question of mississippi, and it is a long story, but it is horrific, and a man, and it
is important and i give a full chapter to it, because there are many lynchings that take place, but that lynching is horrific, and all lynchings are horrific, but a man was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, and i don't know if you have heard that, but it is a constant accusation that they would make, right? we'll never know if it was true or not, because he ran away, because they were going to kill him, and the posse found him, and shot him fatality, and they brought in a doctor to keep him alive for 24 hours to lynch him, and have everybody come to the party. >> very common. >> and that is among the -- but it was unique that it was published in the newspapers that it was not a lynch yesterday, but there is going to be a lynching tomorrow, and to the point that the naacp sent a telegram to the governor of
mississippi saying this is an extrajudicial killing, and this man has not been accused of a crime, and the governor's response is well, if you are going to rape a white woman, what do you do, and there was not a trial or accusation formally made in court, and they proceeded to then shoot him to bits. they sold pieces of his body, and postcards made of the event, and speeches made, and so it was really sort of this horrific public display. >> our last question is on the right. >> i mean, i don't mind taking both, and it is up to you. >> well, we will end with this question, and then saje and cameron will be available in the lobby. >> how do you see this as the
impact of suffrage on african-american women. >> that is great, and can you repeat the question for the audience and i will stall. kidding. >> how do you see the cultural climate of red summer impacting the climate of suffrage on african-american women. >> i think it is important for us to remember that african-american women, and the one who comes immediately to mind is ida b. wells, and we are also journalists, and sounding the alarm, and ida b. wells was at the front of alarming americans about the lynchings, and how it was legitimized as acts of aggression against women, and so african-american women are in during the war lynched, and oftentimes for defending their husbands.
there is a great, great newspaper piece from i believe atlanta where on the one hand a woman whose name i am forgetting right now is lynched violently on the same day that we are praising an african-american soldier named henry johnson for having fought off these german trench attack, and so, again, this idea that you could be perfectly safe against the worst army at the time, and the image of the most violent transgressive army, but not safe in your own home defending your own husband, and so african-american women who had been very much involved in black church, and understood the import of sufficient ranl, and it is not that they come around to the idea that women need a voice in the policy, and they, too, had been building
organizations, and alliances that allowed them to convey their political concerns african-american women. and dubois is a tea totaler. >> and he used to drink once in a while. >> well, that is a tea totaler. >> and i'm a hypocritical meat eater. if there is no bone in there, okay, but if there is a bone, ugh. and so the way has that the women had been rallying for the loved ones, and understanding that the ballot box is an important space. there is an author that i enjoy greatly, david sazelsky who is abraham galloway, and he is a character and he learns about
civil rights from his grandmother who would march him down as a child to the voting booth in charleston and she wouz pack a gun in her purse to let him know that you have to fight to protect your rights, and the right to vote is an important pillar of reconstruction ideology for african-americans, but it is working hand in hand with the gun, with education, with the church. and so armed resistanceed about with african-americans as a kind of to which, a point where african-americans get mad in the '60s and just start burning shit down, but in actuality the reason that we have to have violence as a legitimate option is because armed resistance was a perfectly viable option, and in the wrld of 1919 we see this with the veterans coming back, and these it is ven soldiers to
repair not only their immediate lives, but communities, and in d.c. and reports that sometimes exaggerated and oftentimes true of african-american soldiers setting up the perimeters of the buildings to protect their communities no differently than they would have had to do in any of the other points along the western front. >> and in sort of to your viewpoint, there was this -- so that we have talked about a number of horrific things that have happen, but the ultimate answer is that african-americans were not going to be stuffed back into the space, in this rural south, in the certainly not in the cities the of chicago and washington. it did not work. and for men and women, and african-american men and women, and things had forever changed,
and so right after, here comes the harlem renaissance which women participated in, and you just see this not going back into the station. they are not going back. >> i will add this one thing, and then i will be done, and that is that we forget that african-american women were the ones who wrote into the african-american newspapers and these columns, and looking at the african-american newspapers, and they are always like the local news, and so they are reporting what they are seeing from the windows, and they are the ones who say, i lost my good pan against this young kid who thought that he could come burn my house. so it is their voices that we are seeing through the newspapers and through the organizations even if they are overlooked as women as the intellectual and organizational muscle in various post war organization, but they could not have worked, i mean, not, madam
oklahoma led to an armed mob of white men marching on the city's predominantly district of greenwood district. the interactions of a white man and a black man over the next day would become the scene of shootings, looting and arsons. while official totals put the number killed at 36 historians now believe the toll was as high as 300. 35 blocks of the city were left in ruins. next, from earlier today we mark the anniversary and explore the consequences of that day. our guest from the tulsa historical society and museum was local author and attorney hannibal johnson whose latest book is "black wall street #00, an american city grapples with its historical racial trauma" but first we hear from the oldest living survivor from the tulsa race massacre, 107-year