Thursday, February 25, 2010

1919 Chicago Race Riot

From the reading "The Southern Diaspora" and our discussion in class today I was particularly interested in how the 1919 Chicago Race Riot was portrayed in newspapers (especially in comparison to how the Los Angeles rights were later portrayed by the media, which I will hopefully be able to blog about in our L.A. section). I found two articles, one from The Manchester Guardian newspaper, which is actually a British newspaper that ran the story on the 1919 Chicago riot, and a present day article from the Chicago Tribune which recounts the story of the riots.

The first article:

was published on July 30, 1919 and recounts the riots by suggesting that it is the fault of the mass migration of African-Americans into cities that this riot broke out. “The conflict in Chicago is evidently a by-product of the negro exodus from the Southern States”. Furthermore, as our reading suggests, this article focuses on carnage, citing how many people have been killed and including a picture of a policeman carrying away the body of a dead man, which added to the sensationalist angle of the article. Interestingly, this article very clearly states the problem to be, “the invasion of white districts by a coloured population”. This article also sites the education of African Americans as a danger when they write, “the younger generation has been acquiring education, and many thousands of negro soldiers are returning to civil life with an altered outlook and enlarged ambitions”. Lastly it sites economic motive as a point of contention between whites and blacks.

The second article:,0,1206660.story

takes a very different approach to the incident as it as a post-civil rights movement outlook on history. The article starts by describing the incident in terms that are highly sympathetic to the black teenager who was killed in Lake Michigan, using the term “invisible line” and giving him identity by naming him. The article also strives to display examples of violence on both sides. As a cause of tension, the article sights the growth of the African population (due to the Great Migration) because they were promised “employment and dignity”. Lastly they sight the violence of whites against blacks who moved into their neighborhood thereby victimizing he who had been once the problem.

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