tv 1919 Red Summer Racial Unrest CSPAN July 2, 2021 2:57pm-4:21pm EDT
yan saje mathieu discuss what's known as the red summer of 1919 racial unviolence 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 even. the national world war i museum provided the video. >> this evening we are pleased to have two distinguished speakers scholars with us in dialogue with the red summer of 1919. we'll have a discussion between our guests followed by a brief q and a should there be time for to us do that. i am so pleased tonight to introduce two of our friends and colleagues. the first being dr. saje
mathieu. doctort doctor is an associate professor of history at the university of minnesota. she's currently just finishing up a faculty membership at harvard university studies for american history. she earned a joint ph.d. in history and african-american studies from -- university 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 you to grab a copy while you can. a upcoming book is the glory of deeds, the history of black solders and the great war era. saje was working on that book as part of your work at the warren center. are you close to publication. >> i started when i was 5. >> she started when she was 5. so really it is almost down.
saje is a great friend of ours. we are delighted to have you back here again. thank you. please join me in welcoming dr. saje mathieu. [ applause ] and joining us tonight is a 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 reporting from bosniaia, iraq, costa rica, and other places. for our urps approximates, most significantly, he is the author of a compelling text, red summer, the summer of 1919, and the awakening of black america. so please join me in welcoming cameron. [ applause ]
i want to read to you just a portion from cameron mcwhirter's book. if you would just listen, this really frames, i think, our conversation this evening. just reminds us to silence your devices. so thank you. reading from cameron's book, on june 26, 199, as many as 10,000 whites gathered in a feels outsidelisville mississippi to watch a bounds 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 hatfield. it was country fair, political rally, and public murder rolled into one. after world war i, black americans officer vennly 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 speight of anti-black violence. labelled 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, producing the first stirrings of the civil rights movement that
would change america forever. friends, please welcome our guest 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 send ten ari of the worst of the roy yachts i would say. but the riots had begun at least in the united states for at least a couple of months. there are a couple of thing that are reminiscent of that summer. for me, it's always the weather. >> yeah, very hot? it was an incredibly hot weather -- summer. one of the things that we historians know is that when there is a spike in the heat, we
start smacking each other around. it's no surprise that most of these race riots occur during heat waves. can you -- >> 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. >> uh-huh. >> literally because of the heat. people -- there was no air-conditioning at that time. and five young 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 we were on -- they weren't very good
swimmers, drifted into the white beach. and that was n 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 at large -- not just 1919, but the 1910s and the 1920s, and truthfully well throughout the 20th century. what we see in this instance of these kids -- we can't ever forget that they are 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 sag grated. it is officially by de facto practice. so, too, sometimes are parks, golf courses, swimming pool -- public swimming pools. so in these -- these social spaces become just as charged as the workplace, neighborhoods in terms of contested terrains when it comes belonging for african-americans, especially in urban spaces. >> 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 wohl role in all 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. >> uh-huh.
>> 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. that's -- we know that happened. >> right -- >> but that became, did you hear about two men raping a white woman. >> absolutely. >> 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 call begins with people bumping into one another in an elevator, right. >> right. >> so these small spaces where, again, the complicated relationship across race, racial lines and across gender lines become amplified. of course 1919 reminds us that violence moves on rumor. violence moves on rumor.
et cetera so often the case that we hear that this happened, that didn't happen, and in the moment nobody remembers why we are fighting in the first place. so kind of like a middle school brawl, right? >> 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 is constant -- it is a constant paranoia, fear of journalists we go to sleep agonizing that all the time. >> 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 -- or rather at the ends of spring of 1919. >> that's great. yeah. >> so we have american soldiers starting to come back from -- >> in massive amounts, yeah. >> sometimes 100,000 a month. right? 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 wins they came. >> right. >> we are talking about men who are between the ais for the most part, between 18 and 30. not the most stable part of our citizenry. but, it's true, right, it's true. >> yes. >> an absolutely understudied aspect for me, part of what i write about is that we did not have a language for what today we call ptsd. that niece men had been thrown into the worst of the fighting, the most chaotic of the fighting in the last six months of the war. even though american soldiers did is 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 sleds. and so we get these guys arriving, right, in philly, and boston, and new york, and newport news and 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, after 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 people, spending hours loading and unloading ships. only to then be treated like gum under one's shoe by their own
government, how they felt. >> that decommissioning by the government wasn't as smooth as see you later sometimes. sometimes they had to wait around. >> correct. >> and that led to young men -- charleston is a classic example. young men milling around looking for booze, mostly, which was illegal. and you know, that riot begins when a bunch of men give $5 to a guy who says he's going to go get them some illegal liquor. and like a million other hustlers before and after him he takes off and never comes back. and the soldiers riot. but do i think -- i mean, you are dead on in everything you are 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 are 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 took 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 -- these soldiers were pouring back into the domestic economy and couldn't get the jobs they used to have -- white and black? -- white and black. >> right. >> in that frothy mess, there was a political cartoon of the globe sitting in bed biting his nails and all of these panicky things were floating around his head. that influenza was sweeping the world. >> right. >> it was a really nerve-racking time. in all that three positive things for african-americans had happened. but because it happened in this frothy chaos, it was -- they
were focal points for anti-black violence. >> so -- >> soldiers being the most prominent. >> we also get -- you know, there is also another ingredient in the frothy mess that you described. >> yeah. >> that is over the course of the war -- i mean, it 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. so we get an actual departure of african-americans from the south to northern industrial cities. >> in massive amounts, yeah. >> to replace the workers who had gone off to war, but also -- >> the immigration that's cut off. >> that cut off. >> yeah. >> also, it is important to know that this was nonetheless the concrete pois choice by african-americans to say, after almost 50 years of farming with
control over their wages that this share cropping system is not working. right? it is a perpetual cycle of poverty. we cannot in fact own and hold onto land. so what will i do? what is the very fundamental exercise of freedom? to move. >> one addendum. one key addendum to that is northern industry turned to the south. it was 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 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 are 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 street car, get off my beach. and so it's a very physical set of context. in today's parlance we might refer to these as micro aggressions, right? 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. you get all of these accounts, especially in north carolina for some reason, of white women going around stabbing people with their umbrellas. and the reason they do this -- and some black women are also fighting back. 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. and 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, i mean, the title of this talk is rereturn fighting. that's w.e. dubois, who is great intellectual writing for the crisis at that time. he made it clear -- loud and clear that these soldiers who had just fought for democracy and were told repeatedly you are fighting to save democracy. we are going to come back changed and we are 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. 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, yelled at, threatened. in some cases they were killed. and these sort of flare-ups were happening all time. i have it in my book, there were lots of letters going back and forth within 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. as soon as they crossed the mason dixon line might men in the cars would say, hey, they have to go to the colored car. others would stands up and say wait a minute they just fought for us in europe. an argument erupts. the railroad has to figure it
out. it becomes this tense moment. there is another. a soldier who i have quoted in the book who recalls people muttering as he walked down the street in his town in arkansas when he is wearing his uniform. he is being uppity, he is 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. individuals are capturing this desire to really -- how do we -- well, dubois said it all, we return fighting. we fought for democracy there. we are going to fight for democracy here. >> 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, you are wearing overalls, they are 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 medals 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 negros. right? there is a lot of concern about americans get -- especially african-americans -- and african-americans have all of these different ways of communicating their refusal to return to this -- place. >> it is funny you mention
taste. >> uh-huh. >> when my book came out i went on a book tour. i was in baltimore on a radioshow with a journalist who had been fortunate enough to interview the last living world war ii veteran who was african-american. all he talked about was eating escargo. >> french. >> that was a thrill, the french people were coming to fight for them. >> i have a friend who calls me every three months to ask me how my book is coming. i am like look, you are oppressing me at this stage. we talked about how the french ruined the african-americans. one of the things that the african-americans do to conote and telegraph their awakening very much like the title of your work is that they start to throw
french words into their everyday parlance, everyday interactions so as to again change the positionality that they have. you wouldn't say how is it going? you would say hello cher. the other thing that african-american men, and this will drive southerners bat-shit crazy. forgive my term, but that's what it was. >> that's a medical term. >> they would name their daughters in particular with french names. this friend who called said oh, my god i realize that all of my great aunts have names like joycelyn or julie. and this was again to say i have been completely transformed by my contact with france. and that transformation is the cite 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 for -- and for many decades it was the only monument to the
african-american solder in the united states. it is a rugged solder with a rifle and a by net facing south. i don't think that was unintentional. but he's looking right at the south, just arrr. >> when we are very familiar with muhammad ali's stance during the vietnam war and he says a sleet congress has never done anything to me. it is important to remember that 54 years before that americans were saying the exact same thing. they were prepared. a. friendship ran develop a newsman from the period, he earns the dubious distinction of being declared by j. edgar hoover as the most kang rouse negro in america. he says, i'm absolutely prepared to fight in alabama, but not in france. i have no particular battle there. so i value democracy. what we see after the war is that that same vision comes back. we are very familiar with, we
return fighting, a short but absolutely powerful jab penned by w.e.b. dubois. but there is another famous poem from the period and that is if we must die by a jamaican both claude mckay. that both's last lines f we must die let it about with our backs pressed to the wall. indicting but fighting back. becomes so transgressive after world war i that he is of course brandsed a communist and almost they consider deporting him, et cetera. but in world war ii, churchill returns to that -- [ no audio ] -- to go into. he's a railroad porter in 1919. he's traveling with his friends,
. they are going from town to town. every time the door opens for them to go to their hotel that night they don't know if there is a riot. rumor and newspapers, which were usually a day late, were all the information they had. they started running to their hotels. he started carrying a gun. he was very terrified. and he -- he's so nerve racked by all of this that one he goes into the bathroom of one of the railroad cars and skrauls out this sonnett, if we must die. he comes back and reads it to their friends, some of them start crying. and he sends it off to this little magazine which publishes it. then it is published all over, especially among the african-american press. >> yep. >> it never mentions race. the poem doesn't ever mention race. >> yeah. >> but everybody knew what it was. to the point where there were white senators in the senate
saying this is is a dishes. >> absolutely. >> 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. the summer of 1919 is also a period when americans are afraid of their own shadows. right? that's part of that return to normalcy, or this frenetic need to return to normalcy. we -- 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. right, the bolshevik next door.
it becomes suspicious behavior to read a german newspaper or speak german in public. in idaho they try to pass a law making english the initial language of the state. of course it is not. the country has no initial language. all of us become worried not only about bolsheviks within our midst 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 sometimes is 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 solidity that cause as lot of problems. one of them is, you know, that there are communists operating among the negros and they are causing problems. there is 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 n the courts, when we vote, where and how we live, in our jobs and what our educational opportunities are. and against open violence against african-americans. so we are going to fight on those fronts. and that was considered sedition. that was considered 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. then it switchly suddenly, very awkwardly to the modern read into just publication, african-american quotes -- quotes from african-american publications that are -- i mean, we would read them today and think yeah, they should have equal rights. >> that's still contested today, actually. >> at the time time -- yeah, but at the time it was this really contested thing. >> hence the name red summer. it means we are literally seeing red for the blood running through the streets. but it's also because of all the -- 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 challenge the core of an american racial hierarchy that worked, less us not forget as well for the north as it did for the south. so -- well, james weldon johnson, tell us. i shall bring him up on the screen. >> yeah, i -- i developed -- as i was researching the book, i developed this man crush for this guy. >> here he is. >> he's an awesome dude. he's one of those people you start reading about, and it's almost like you don't believe it. like, he spoke fluent spanish. he was a diplomat. he was a lawyer. he wrote continue pan alley music with his brother. he wrote lift every voice and sing which is considered the african-american national anthem. he wrote poetry. he wrote a novel. he wrote amazing essays. he is doing all of this amazing work and deboy taps him in 1917
and says i want you to come to the naacp and work with me. and that organization had been founded after a riot in springfield, illinois. and it was dominated primarily by white do-gooders from in the new york area. mostly. it was not an african-american-led organization at that time. and james weldon johnson says, well, i might do it. but i don't know -- it might hurt my writing if do i that because i won't have time. he said, rereally 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 giving speech after speech after speech. and he's recruiting all over the south, which was a place where they did not have a lot of members. he -- you can read his speeches and you think, well, this is malcolm x, and you read another speech, and this is martin
luther king. and he is 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 it's advocating in the united states. and then on the right is of course w.e.b. dubois, another sort of renaissance man in many ways, although far more insufferable than james weldon johnson. >> didn't suffer fools gladly. >> he did not. we talked about this briefly, what is meant by the red summer. blood. boings, fires, peel being set on
fire. rage. these are worrisome daily occurrences for americans. and seemed to indicate that the war has crossed the pond, right. >> -- that the war has been moved onto the lands of the united states. race riots in fact 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 near death, whose life has greater value in 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. as a result, we see a lot of fighting and racialized violence. we also get a lot of violence in european port cities where both colonial soldiers and
african-american soldiers and white soldiers are pouring in at alarming rates. and, you know, with a great sense of urgency. in 1718 we start to get these race riots in western france, to a lesser extentmer sales in the south. we get them after the war in welsh and liverpool camps where al ayed troops and american troops are stockpiled and waiting for the ships that could carry them home. with ports frozen, those ships can't go as quickly as possible. with influenza striking so many soldiers, we are very concerned about putting 10,000 soldiers on one ship and having so many die at sea or so many get sick along the way, which certainly happened. this concern about american contact, and to another extent,
south african contact. a lot of white south africans and white southerners who are in europe start these riots. 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 strife. but when you have no rules you have people who don't know their place and hence we have to get involved in have these riots. it is very interesting reading. and then we have all of this fighting that occurs on the very ships bringing back these veterans. in the case of canada, and its black soldiers, there are so concerns about this fiery mood that they have their black soldiers remove their uniforms while at sea. i want to say the last thing about uniforms. one of the reasons that black soldiers are encouraged to keep their uniforms for 30 to 90 days after returning is so that a grateful nation can we stow its
gifts. right? and those thanks can be anything from food to sex, to booze, to words. so we when -- when we require that soldiers take away or when we are ripping off their yoomps it is 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. it is a fight over labor. it's fight over housing, especially in urban spaces. it is a fight over racial equality and civil rights. who is right? who gets to define this democracy in and of course the time honored tradition interracial sex, the universal paranoia because it also lets us think about white women, or women at large and their sexual choices. i mean if she is with someone
who is not you, that means she chose hopefully someone who is not you. that alone can be a contested moment. this is just a quick list, not even a full one of the various locations where we see race riots in 1919. hawaii, meks ka, trinidad tobago. portuguese africa. the list is long. common factors in my research -- heat and leisure. contested. we started with that. migration and housing crunches. 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 darby really starts to take off that year. >> right. >> one thing i would point out. you mentioned share croppers. >> yeah. >> share croppers are the quintessentially drown trodden
class in american history. and, certainly, the -- to the point where lenin is writing to the communist pal bureau like why can't we recruit more black people in the south to join our cause. but in 1919, you know, they would invariably be ripped off when they would go weigh their cotton at the cotton gins. but that year because there was such a high demands for cotton, prices were through the roof they were actually doing fairly well relatively. so you see a lot more share cropper families buying land. a lot more share croppers buying cars. these are bones of contention. these are flash points, because here -- did you see that black guy driving down the street? a brand-new car? when i begin my book with a small riot in the middle of -- not even a town. but just there is a small black church in a part of georgia, a
very rural, to this day, part of georgia. and when the mob riots they burn the churn down, kill several people and destroy the man they are trying to seek's cars. they destroy his cars. a very important point for them. >> cars then, like now, are the second largest expenditure that anyone will make, except that it is one of declining value. >> when the white mobs move into the black belt of chicago and riot and destroy the place, the make a point of destroying victrolas, taking them out and smashing them in the street. because those were -- they were expressions of wealth. >> it's why they burned down churches. it's why they burned down -- i mean, they talk about, you know, bombing caravans where people would -- white people would drive through black neighborhoods throwing bombs around. and pouring oil and setting things ablaze.
this is a map of some -- here it is very important the say just some of the places that experienced the level of riots that made to it the pages. these sites do not account for the daily micro aggressions fueled by the same types of ire. >> and there were lots of open -- there were many lynchings in the south that we will never about. >> and during the war itself. speaking of lynchings, this is a map of lynchings. you know, just in the south but it is important to remember that they didn't consider just in the south. and -- >> they weren't all african-americans. >> absolutely not. >> well, the majority -- the vast majority were, but they weren't all. >> they were oftentimes, jewish,
italian labor actactivists, the were -- >> hispanic. >> -- hispanic. they were homosexual 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 their lives are in danger, right? banishment, sundown towns, et cetera. 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, annual 27 through august 3rd, 1919, which 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. >> right. >> because they were cut off from -- pinned into their neighborhoods. >> if i may. >> please. >> the owner of the paper has to drive to a place in indians where he eventually publish it. >> if you look at the paper on the dates that i show you would get no idea of this. you have to look later. 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 social with no-man's-land in
northern france, not downtown omaha. right? 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 lunch room, which we know, right n the '60s would become a site of civil rights protests. and who stands down? who stands down? here, do you want to talk about chicago? these are of chicago. >> this is -- that might be washington. >> okay. >> but it is 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 watering getting into -- medical supplies, provident hospital, the leading african-american hospital there, was overwhelmed and the nurses and the staff were exhausted. and they needed people to bring supplies in. >> and it's 1 russian degrees. >> 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. and 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, white mobs vanish. >> 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 n a broader national political culture that sees african-americans as a criminalized population, we forget that these weapons are not there to keep 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 long. >> well and that really -- let's take chicago as a classic example. but it really reshapes the city of chicago's politics i would argue to today. but you have this hardening of neighborhoods. this is my neighborhood, this is your neighborhood. there is -- >> it is balkanized. >> yes, and that balkanization was already there. but it really hardens. there is strong belief that he was definitely a member of one of the gangs but that the
original richard daley, 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 as -- like center your inner white, midwestern for a moment, or any american, maybe more so a southerner. what are we afraid of? this is what we are afraid of. this is what we are afraid of. right? yonge healthy african-american who we have decided didn'tknow 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 are very worried that, especially with bolsheviks whispering in their ears, this could quickly turn against us. that is the anxiety that is
being stoked. this 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 famed griffins -- are they griffins? lions at the chicago public library. >> griffins. >> this could take over the south. so a very firm hand is needed. these kinds of posters meant to encourage african-american enlist men during 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. >> but i want to -- i am going the read a little quote from chester franklin an editor at the call in kansas city. he wrote an article called the new negro in capital letters. he wrote in that essay, we
believe that self preservation is the first law of nature. this was later. he wrote the new negro, the time of cringing is over. that really sums up the red summer. >> yeah, yep. >> that really captures his -- the message of american leaders in the press over and over again. but he -- i want to point out one other thing. okay. so there was a journalist, a black journalist named roy otley. he writes a memoir, includes a portion of covering the red summer. he was in chicago. he names -- he discusses an african-american veteran what had just come back from france. he doesn't name him, but he writes about him. and the man is on a trolley car and suddenly -- he doesn't know what is happening. suddenly a mob that comes up and attack -- starts attacking him. trolley cars moved on electrical
lines. all you had to do was pull the cord off and it was dead. that's what they do. he has to run out. suddenly, a man wofs coming from work, he worked at a factory, he is running for his life. he loses his coat. he is terrified and the crowd is screaming get the -- n word. chasing him. and he finally excapes when he sees cumiskey park on the south side, the baseball stadium, he knows he has made to it the xavier. he says the unjustice of the whole thing overwhelmed me and my feelings ran riot, had the ten months i spent in france been nall vein? what had i done to deserve such treatment. must a negro always suffer because of his skin. there is an n word, let's get him. those words continued ringing in my years. then he described seeing a white
man in his neighborhood. he says, my first impulse was jump him and beat him up. he was so angry about what had happened. again, this was a guy who was just fighting to make the world better for democracy. that's what happened. >> it's a fight that continues. it begins -- it is amplified in 199 but by no means ends in 1919. >> all racial problems ended at that time. didn't you people know that. >> it is all over. on that fine note we would love to open up the floor to your questions. and we are happy to say if you are. >> yeah, afterward, if anybody wants to ask us anything. any questions would be great. >> 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 miccing, or i am happy to come to you as well. coming to you, michael.ing, or o
you as well. coming to you, michael.ng, or i you as well. coming to you, michael.g, or i you as well. coming to you, michael.mic, or i am happy to come to you as well. coming to you, michael. >> thank you for this great piece of history. i have got two questions to ask, but i am only going to ask one not to be selfish and i am trying to figure out which one i want to ask. you mentioned j. edgar hoover, fbi, and how our organizations were scrutinized and demonized then. 100 years ago. recently, a year or two ago the fbi put out a report about it was either black extremist something -- black identity politics or something like that. 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. >> oh, okay. 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 am looking at the surveillance
records -- and they are not just in the united states. the french, the british, the canadians, the jamaicans, they are all very, very concerned about the movement of ideas and the movement of black bodies that incorporate he's ideas, r? so there's this whole sort of set of paperwork, new language that develops during the war and even more so afterwards. and so sometimes i feel like the best thing that ever happened to african-american newspapers and black intellectuals was j. edgar hoover because he's so obsessed he keeps everything, what he hears -- >> for historians, anyways. >> yeah, that agents are constantly collecting papers that we would not have anymore but for their surveillance in these papers. i tell my students we might well revere muhammad ali and malcolm x and romanticize who we think these men were, but neither of
them could 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 a have a xenophobic kind of concern about them. and at the end of day refuse to believe they are african-americans own critiques about how democracy fails them in their daily lives. i hope that answers your question. 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. their assessments of what's really happening in the streets
of chicago during the riot are way off. and a lot of the rumors that were spread that, you know, 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 slaughterhouse, they put that in their reports, and those are not -- that never happened. neither of those things happened, so there's 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. and especially in the case of france because they're like, well, i have to have a purpose. i spent the war focusing on germans and now let's 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 these riots were taking place.
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 you were talking about in 1919? was there one incident in each one of those places or -- >> excellent question. so i had to speak through it when i listed different factors, and this is where cam is going to have -- this is his wheel house. each place has a different kind of manifestation of its anxiety, if you will. in port cities i think we'd agree soldiers and sailors play a particular role. in chicago and 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 --
>> i mean, there's -- i start my book in this small town in georgia, but of course there were incidents before that. but that incident gains the attention of the naacp in new york. then the naacp has a giant forum on trying to push for federal lynching legislation in new york. then charleston, there's a big riot in charleston caused by sailors. and then it starts to really gain steam. and there are incidents -- >> we have a pointer. >> oh, my god. >> here we go. >> is this going to work? okay. wow, look at me. charleston is really the first major urban riot, and ironically it's actually the 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's not repeated. so then you have incidents start to pop up all over. knoxville is a terrible one. arizona is very interesting where buffalo soldiers are brought to a fourth of july paw raid, and it becomes a shootout when they go out drinking. and white men don't like that they're coming into their bars. but really when you start to have washington, d.c. in mid-july and then chicago a week after, that's 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 -- i found german and japanese newspaper
articles where they're saying this is the leading democracy in the united states -- i mean the world. what's happening? and a kind of german paper that actually said this is insane what's happening over there and someday they might even have a black president. horrific. but anyway it just starts roiling the entire country. and as we point out at the beginning newspaper after newspaper headline, banner headlines every day panicked everyone. >> so that's 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 violence we see as well. and elaine, arkansas, is the worst. it's increasingly referred to as, you know, a pogrom, the kind of violence we were seeing with
jews in southern russia and ukraine. >> yeah, that happens in september in -- now i did it. >> too much tech. >> there we go. i fixed it. yeah, elaine, arkansas, is really basically a massacre. >> yes. put plainly. and so part of the reason why there's that amplification is because oh, my god, you heard what happened in d.c.? so when a little thing happens in chicago it's like everybody has to get involved. and then as we -- with each race riot means a greater response to it and more people in the streets. and there are accounts of, you know, people especially here, women fighting each other off with pots and pans. right, and what dedo i tell my students this not only describes a real frenzied kind of violence on the street but it means that grandma's taken to the street. and we know when grandma gets
involved it's about to get messy, right? 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 our next question on the right. >> the map doesn't show anything happening in missouri or kansas. is that because nothing happened or because it was just very low-key? >> i think it's safe to say there was probably tension here but there were not massive race riots. kansas city had a very vocal and interesting african-american press, which i used for my book. but they did not have an incident like you had in omaha. why? pure luck. >> but also by the end of -- like by 1919, certainly by the fall of 1919 we start to realize
that these riots are messy. they're easy fodder for our enemies. so the europeans who barely could suffer wilson to begin with are like, well, well, if it isn't mr. democracy. >> kind of with them on that one. >> right, can't even handle his own mess. so that's 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. if it means increasing our police force we will because we can't return to business. so we get -- if we look only for these little fabulous orange explosions, then we miss all the other ways of like women stabbing each other on sidewalks, right, and peoples homes being bombed, these small scale exercises of violence that are, again, fueled by the same kinds of commitment. >> and i'll come back here and i'll give a four-hour lecture about why woodrow wilson is a
terrible president if you want. but just two sentences, i mean -- well, more than two. but he was throughout this mess as this roiled across the country he's focused on the league of nations. and this is embarrassing. but you have african-american leaders and others writing him, pleading with him you've got to say something here. you've got to interject. and i only found one speech where he makes a passing reference to these troubles are messy and we really shouldn't do that while he's on the stump for the league of nations. but he would not take any serious action. >> yes? >> our next question comes from the back. >> okay. >> i was also really interested in this map and also the list of riots. what i'm interested in is really the language of it. when i hear the word "riot", you know, it's not clear kind of who the good guys and bad guys are. but i was wondering the examples
you give it kind of sounds more like white terrorism as posed to, you know, a black riot or any group. >> which was language used at the time, by the way. >> just kind of wondering what really was the nature of all those. were there bad people on both sides, or is this really just a terrorism and then a defense or an uprising kind of thing? >> overwhelming amount of violence that summer that was anti-black violence are initiated. there were many instances were blacks fought back and fought. there were no instances that i can think of where blacks initiated the violence. i think people tend to be -- so people tend to think of they are different and you bring up a good point. but i think people get hung up on the terminology a lot of -- i
was thinking about this as i flew in here actually because this has been bugging me. but people want to see history often as it's hitler versus gandhi and that's not -- everybody involved in all these things is a human being. and if you're a human being and people are marching down your street breaking pintoes, you might pick up a brick. and there were people who were in chicago who fought back or there were black gangs because you know why three blocks over there were white gangs. and so when all the trouble started, they started causing violence, too. and if you were on the wrong side of that color line, you were going to get it. but at the same time elaine, arkansas, was as i said a massacre. and the lynching in aliceville, mississippi, was horrific. >> you know, i would say it's
even more specific. i think we miss a lot when we use a white-black binary because in the case of east st. louis which happens a little bit earlier, but also we see it in chicago, white women are just as involved. and they're just as violent. and they're just as engaged in making -- leaving their stamp in this white-black battle. and so if we look at these riots through the lens of gender, my students get very uncomfortable. that's not lady-like. i thought these girls were in jazz clubs getting lit. but, no, they are very involved. women are very, very powerful in the klan and other white supremacist organizations. i mean, the klan isn't the worst really. it just isn't. my favorite is the national association for the advancement of white people, which is a real thing. it comes later but it's a real
thing. and so women -- children are involved in this fighting. older people are involved in this fighting. it's a neighborhood brawl -- >> if you're gathering a mob in mississippi it's going to be a different mob than you gather in chicago. as i mentioned in the book they did a really precise drill down of what happened in chicago unlike a lot of these other places. so you really get to see so these gangs would include a jewish kid, an irish kid, a german kid and they could all then become "white." >> correct. and sometimes it's soldiers. so it's not just one factor. and that's part of what makes these battles so complicated. and at the same time so telling. >> but that's majority
anti-black initiated. >> this will be our second to last question. >> okay. >> you mentioned arkansas and mississippi, i think, and some terrible things happened. i really want to know what those things were. what happened in arkansas? what happened in mississippi? >> well, arkansas was, you know, i was talking about sharecroppers and how they did relatively well that year. so the price of cotton was through the roof. so a lot of -- a lot of sharecroppers in various parts of the south started to try to organize to create a collective where they would go to the cotton gins and say this is our price. they started to have meetings. and they're holding a meeting in hoopsborough, arkansas, which isn't even a real town at a building there and white police show up and shooting starts. and some white officers are killed.
well, that's -- that sets off a white posses roaming the county killing people for days. they then rounded up a bunch of african-american sharecroppers, 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 the 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 pleasure of raising a teenager? okay. i'm in the trenches. so there's nothing more cocky than a teenager who gets their first paycheck, right? because now they think you don't have the same power over them
because they don't need your wallet. and whether you like it or not it changes how you respond to that said teenager. so it's a useful and my students who are themselves teenagers think about how worrisome this would have been. this is when african-americans are not allowed to challenge a white person in court. never mind in court, in public. so the fact they were trying to gain control over the value of their labor, how bolshevic. by saying not only has cotton gone up, but it'll continue to go up because we no longer need cotton for uniform and tents and bandages and et cetera, so we want to make money now. what we start to see especially in these small rural areas the landownership is real and huge, but it's not so gigantic it would have destabilized the
southern economy. but it doesn't take a lot to make it seem like it's an idea that might catch on. i'm sorry, one second. 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 buildings -- so when you build your church, when you add an attachment to your home, when you get that other car. and what we get with just as much veracity after world war i is an urge to erase, burn to the ground these tropes of success, modernty, again squeezing 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
build to the preacher to build a church? so we need that church to go. and why the church? because it's where meetings were held. and oftentimes in small towns it's where the guns were stashed. so, again, in '63, '64, birmingham and other locations were attacking black churches because they had already been sites of protests for over 50 years. >> i didn't want to miss your question regarding mississippi, so i won't go into the long story because it's horrific. but a man was -- it's important and i focus on -- i give a full chapter to it because there are many lynchings that take place that year. but that lynching was particularly horrific. all lynchings are horrific, of course. but a man was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. i don't know if you've ever heard of that. yeah, that's a constant accusation they would make, right? we don't -- we'll never know if it was true or not because he
ran away because they were going to kill him. posse found him, shot him fatally, but then they brought a doctor in, kept him alive for 24 hours so that they could lynch him and let everyone know to come to the party. and that was -- >> very common. >> among their little -- it was unique it was like -- this is published in the newspaper. not there was a lynching yesterday, there will be a lynching tomorrow. come to the lynching. to the point where the naacp sent emergency telegrams to the governor of mississippi saying you have to stop this. this is an extra judicial killing. this man hasn't even been accused of a crime. and the governor's response is, well, if you're going to rape a white woman, what are you going to do? forgetting the fact that the man -- there was no trial let alone there wasn't even accusation formally made in court and they proceeded to then shoot him to bits and sold pieces of his body.
there were postcard made of the event. people gave speeches as we heard from the beginning. so it was really sort of this horrific public display. >> our last questions on the right. >> i mean, i don't mind taking both. it's up to you. >> we will end with this question and then they'll be available in the lobby if you have any additional questions. >> how do you see the cultural climate of the red summer impacting suffrage of african-american women? >> that's a great -- yes, could you repeat your question for the audience, please? and then i'll stall. i'm just kidding. >> how do you see the cultural climate of red summer impacting suffrage of african-american women? >> super. thank you for that. i think that it's important for us to remember that
african-american women and the one who comes immediately to mind isidea b. wells, were also journalists, they were also sounding the alarm. in fact, wells was at the forefront in terms of warning african-americans and the country at large about lynchings and the way we legitimized it or tried to by saying these were necessary acts because of sexual aggression against white women. and so african-american women are during the war lynched oftentimes for defending their husbands. there's a great, great newspaper piece from i believe it's atlanta where on the one hand a woman whose name i'm forgetting right now, 18 years old, is lynched violently. and it's on the same day that we're praising an african-american soldier named henry johnson for having fought off these german trench attacks.
and again, this idea you could be perfectly safe against the worst army at the time, the image of the worst, most violent trancegressive army but not safe in your home trying to dedefend your own husband. so i think african-american women who had very much been involved in the black church, who very much understood the import of suffrage, it's not like they come round at the end to the idea women need a voice in the pollty. they too had been fighting for that voice. they too had been building organizations and networks and alliances that allowed them to articulate their political concerns. african-american women are very involved in prohibition, right? i mean debois for one thing is a tea -- >> i'm absolutely a hypocritical
meat eater. there's no bone i'm all in there, but if there's a bone i'm -- but anyway there were all these other ways black women had been rallying for the lives of their loved ones and understanding that the ballot box is as important. there's an author i enjoy greatly -- david sisellsky, and he writes about a chap named abraham galloway who's this fabulous character. but anyway abraham galloway talks about how he learned civil rights from his black grandmother who as a child would march him down to the voting booth in charleston, and she would pack a gun in her purse to let him know that you need to fight for your right to protect your rights. and the right to vote it an important pillar of reconstruction ideology for african-americans, but it works hand in hand with the gun, with
education, with the church. and so armed resistance is always talked about with african-americans as a kind of point to which -- a point where african-americans get angry in the '60s and just start burn shit down, right? but in actuality why we have to have so much discussion about nonviolence as a legitimate option is because armed resistance was a perfectly viable option. and in 1919 we see this with veterans coming back and making a claim for themselvesads as citizen soldiers prepared to defend not only their immediate lives but also those of their communities. so in chicago, in d.c., in omaha, we get these reports, sometimes exaggerated but oftentimes true of african-american soldiers setting up a perimeter on the roofs of buildings to defend their communities no differently than they would have needed to do in any of the other points
along the western front. >> sort of to your point, there was this -- we've talked about a lot of horrific things that have happened, but the ultimate answer was african-americans weren't going to be stuffed back into that space. in the rural south, and certainly not in the cities of chicago and washington, it didn't work. and for men and women, african-american men and women things had forever changed. and so right after here comes the harlem renaissance, which women participated in. and you just see this -- they're not going back into their station. they're not going back. >> i'll add one last thing and then really i'll be done. and that is that we forget that african-american women were the ones who wrote into
african-american newspapers these columns. so when you look at black newspapers they're always like local news, right? and so they are the ones who are reporting what they're seeing from the window. they are the ones saying i lost my good pan against the head of this kid who thought he could come and burn my house, right? so it is their voices that we see through these newspapers and through organizations even if they're overlooked as women, right, as the intellectual and organizational muscle in variious post-war organizations. but they could not have worked. i mean, madam c.j. walker, uses much of her fortune to support precisely the kind of work including suffrage that you asked about. so thank you again for being here with us this evening. [ applause ]
american history tv on c-span 3, exploring the people and even that tell the american story. every weekend saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war, elizabeth varen and william curts on the their project black virginias in blue about african-american union soldiers fighting for emancipation. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, university
of california riverside professor on the lives of women during the american revolution and the early republic. and sunday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american artifacts, the arrival of the reconstructed french ship at the 18th century port of yorktown, virginia, designed after the french vessel that brought the major general back to the united states in 1780. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span 3. a century ago on may 31st, 1921, racial tensions in tulsa, oklahoma, led to an armed mob of white men marching on the city's predominantly african-american greenwood district. the arrest of a young black man for his interactions with a white woman in a downtown office building triggered the unrest. over the next day the neighborhood known as black wall
street would be the scene of shootings, looting and arson. while official totals put the number kill at 36, historians now believe the total was as high as 300. 35 blocks of the city were left in ruins. next, 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 hanibal johnson whose latest book was black wall street, an american city grapples with its racial trauma. but first we hear from the oldest living survivor of the tulsa race massacre, 107-year-old viola fletcher. here's a portion of her recent testimony before a house judiciary subcommittee. >> i went to bed in my family's home in greenwood. neighbors of tulsa, the neighborhood i fell