Some of Carl Sandburg’s reports on racial tensions, originally written for publication in the Chicago Daily News, were collected in The Chicago Race Riots, July 1919 (1919). The riots started July 27 at the 29th Street beach and lasted through August 3. Eugene Williams was the first youth killed. Before it was over, twenty-three African Americans and 15 whites were dead, and another 537 people were wounded (342 black, 195 white). Sandburg provides an account of the escalation of violence that led to the rioting, and he also describes the inadequate housing situation of African Americans. The book begins (page 1):
"The so-called race riots in Chicago during the last week of July 1919, started on a Sunday at a bathing beach. A colored boy swam across an imaginary segregation line. White boys threw rocks at him and knocked him off a raft . He was drowned. Colored people rushed to a policeman and asked for the arrest of the boys throwing stones. The policeman refused. As the dead body of the drowned boy was being handled, more rocks were thrown, on both sides. The policeman held on to his refusal to make arrests. Fighting then began that spread to all the borders of the Black Belt. The score at the end of three days was recorded as twenty negroes dead, fourteen white men dead, and a number of negro houses burned.
The riots furnished an excuse for every element of Gangland to go to it and test their prowess by the most ancient ordeals of the jungle. There was one section of the city that supplied more white hoodlums than any other section. It was the district around the stockyards and packing houses."
Learn more about the 1919 Riots:
"The Chicago Race Riot of 1919" from Jazz Age Chicago.
"Carl Sandburg, The Chicago Race Riots, 1919" from the Encyclopedia of Chicago.
"Race Riots" from the Encyclopedia of Chicago.
"Gangs and the 1919 Chicago Race Riot" from University of Illinois Chicago.
"1919: The Race Riot" from Northwestern University's Homicide Chicago 1870-1930.
Jeffrey S. Adler, "'Halting the Slaughter of the Innocents,': the Civilizing Process and the Surge in violence in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago," in Social Science History 25.1 (2001) p.29-52.