The "Red Summer" of 1919
Civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson used the term "Red Summer" to describe the summer of 1919. Violent and bloody race riots engulfed towns and cities across the nation. The worst riot was in Chicago, where blacks and whites battled on the streets for five days in July.
The 1919 race riots were precipitated by the growing tensions between blacks and whites over the stability of white neighborhoods and white men's jobs. Riots took place in rural sections of Arkansas; small towns in Texas; Charleston, SC; Knoxville, TN; Tulsa, OK; Washington, DC; and Omaha, NE. The bloody riot in Chicago began when a black teenager floated onto a white beach and was attacked. Gangs of whites spread their attacks to blacks passing through white neighborhoods, and the local Chicago police did nothing to stop the brutality. In response, blacks attacked whites passing through or near black ghettoes. A cooling rainstorm and the Illinois National Guard restored order after five hot days of intense fighting.