Encyclopedia ofChicago
Historical Source
Historical Source
C
Carl Sandburg, The Chicago Race Riots, July 1919

 

 

 

Carl Sandburg, The Chicago Race Riots, July 1919

While Illinois did not segregate the races in public accommodations (as southern states did into the 1960s), public beaches in Chicago were clearly segregated. The most tragic result of this segregation was an incident that set off the 1919 Race Riot in Chicago, five days of rioting in which 23 African Americans and 15 whites were killed. On July 27, 1919 a black teenager named Eugene Williams and a few of his friends traveled to Lake Michigan to swim on a hot summer day. They took out a raft between the black beach at 29th street and the white beach at 26th street. A white man threw rocks at the raft, injuring Williams, who could not swim. A police officer at the 26th Street Beach was unwilling to either arrest the man or help Williams, who later died. Carl Sandburg, a reporter at the time for the Chicago Daily News, chronicled the ensuing race riot in The Chicago Race Riot (1919), an excerpt of which is provided here.