During the summer of 1919 so many Black men, women and children were murdered by violent white mobs simply for the color of their skin, they dubbed it “Red Summer.” Unfortunately, many history books don’t even make mention of the tragic events that took place in cities across the nation, reported USA Today.
In Maryland, New York, Washington, Chicago, etc. Black people were lynched, shot, beaten to death and burned alive. Homes and businesses were burned to the ground and many Black families fled the only homes they’d ever known.
Had it not been for Black publications and reporters, the Red Summer would have gone largely undocumented. Today there is no national observance or memorial to honor the lives lost, many museums have not included it in their collections and many Americans don’t even know the horrific race riots happened.
According to the USA Today, the riots were largely covered up by mainstream society because it contradicted the “nice narrative” that America was “making the world safe for democracy” after World War I. After fighting to save the country, Black American WWI veterans had to come home and fight for their lives.
Saje Mathieu is a history professor at the University of Minnesota. He said the Red Summer gave traction to the American Civil Rights Movement that we know and love because “the people who were the icons of the civil rights movement were raised by the people who survived Red Summer.” Black Americans stood up more against white supremacy and new activists were born.
Today, there is more information available about the Red Summer. Cities like Chicago have held commemorations, authors have written more books and scholarship on the subject and a monument has been proposed in Arkansas.
Still, like much Black History, the story has not received its just due.
Written by Isheka N. Harrison