This week in history: Riots of 1919 make front page

In 1919, riots broke out in Chicago after a Black teen drowned when a white man on a South Side beach hit him with a rock.

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Armed National Guardsmen and African American men stand on a sidewalk during the 1919 race riots in Chicago.

Armed National Guardsmen and African American men stand on a sidewalk during the 1919 race riots in Chicago.

Chicago History Museum/The Jun Fujita negatives collection/Distributed by the Associated Press

As reported in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

On Sunday, July 27, 1919, a white man threw a rock at a Black teen floating in Lake Michigan. The rock hit 17-year-old Eugene Williams in the head, and he drowned. The incident led to five days of violence, mainly targeting Chicago’s Black community.

The next day, the Chicago Daily News ran the headline, “300 armed Negroes gather; New rioting starts; Militia next.”

“Three hundred Negroes were reported at a late hour this afternoon to have congregated at South State and 35th streets,” the front-page story said.

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The chief of police met with prominent Black leaders, the report said, to assure them that he “would do his utmost to protect the Negroes,” who had been terrorized by white mobs the day before.

That terror, noted in the report, included two stabbings as well as violence on public transportation.

A group of white men stopped street cars and “compelled colored passengers to get off, chasing them out of the neighborhood,” the report said. Conductors began warning Black passengers against “riding beyond Wentworth avenue for fear they would be seriously injured.”

A historical marker near the site where a black teenager was killed at 29th Street beach, setting off five days of rioting in Chicago.

A historical marker near the site where a Black teenager was killed at 29th Street beach, setting off five days of rioting in Chicago.

Noreen Nasir/Associated Press

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