The Red July of 1919
On July 21, 1919 the Wingfoot Express burned and crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank building. The very next day a child was murdered coming home after playing in a nearby school yard. Just five days later, the murderer confesses to the senseless crime and on that same day, a black swimmer was murdered at a south side beach which triggered race riots that shook the country.
The horror of the Chicago Race Riot helped shock the nation out of indifference to its growing racial conflict.
Chicago Tribune, July 8, 1917
BY HENRY M. HYDE.
Half a million Negroes came north in the last two years.
This great movement Is not primarily or even largely due to the efforts of northern employers and labor agents.
Speaking broadly, the Negroes have come north for the same reasons that, before the great war in Europe, led 1,000,000 immigrants a year to cross the seas from Europe. The black men have left the mouth because they have been led to believe they can better their lIving conditions and make more money in the north.
Persuaded by Own People.
The chief agents in persuading the Negroes to come north have been their own newspapers and national associations of Negroes already living In the north, and letters written back home by Negro laborers who are now working in northern cities.
Big corporations, through advertisements and labor agents, have given impetus to the movement, but they have not been the controlling or even a very large faction.
In the first place the Negro race ham finally found a voice and has become race conscious on a large scale. It will surprise many people to learn that Negroes own and edit more than 100 newspapers and magazines, Which circulate almost exclusively among members of their own race.
Almost every issue of these Negro papers which are published in the south contains articles telling how black men and women from their own localities have gone north, where they are earning from $15 to $25 a week, as opposed to from 60 cents to $1.25 a day, which are prevailing wages on southern farms.
Back with Pockets Full,
In almost every issue, also, will appear the qf some individual Negro who has come back from his northern Job. on a visit, with his pockets full of money.
To every southern Negro settlement, also, come letters from the men who have gone out from it to better paid work in thc north. These letters also tell that there are no Jim Crow railroad cars in the north and that Negroes are not compelled to sit In the rear seats of the street cars.
Up here In the north they let us vote and the -white and black- are mighty nice to us.
So Others Come North.
So other Negroes come north. And they will continue to come so long as the war bars the flood of immigration. Some southern states have attempted to stop the drain of Negro labor by passing various laws. They might as well attempt to stop the rising tide by legislation. The only way they can atop it is by paying the Negro better and by, at least, giving him accommodations in his separate street and railroad cars and In the schools for his children.
Union labor leaders, who strongly object to the incoming of the Negro. are also likely to find that he will continue to come and, probably, in increasing numbers as more and more northern men are from industry to fill the ranks ot the army. From the purely union standpoint it would seem wiser to attempt the organization of the colored laborers rather than to stir up bitter feeling in attempting to fight the inevitable.
In All Northern States.
The fact that the Negro covers ali the northern states from the Atlantio coast to the Mississippi river In a single wave of almost equal density is an indirect proof of the fact that It is really the result of a great natural economic movement, no matter how much it may have been stimulated by the efforts of employers to get labor to fill their otherwise empty shops.
In Pennsylvania, chiefly employed on the railroads and in the great steel plants, more than 100.000 southern darkies are working. In Ohio there are at least, 35,000 more Negro voters than there were a couple of years ago. Illinois, New York. and all the other states between have theIr proportionate share.
Almost all of tlhe Negroes who have come north are men who were born and bred to farm labor. They come from remote cotton plantations and farms and most of them know no trade other than that of the farm laborer. Nine-tenths of them have never lived in a city or even a large town. They come from a country where prohibition—so far, at least, as the Negro is concerned—is enforced.
At home they have never voted and they know nothing of politics or of political affairs. Down south they have practically lived out of doors or in lIttle cabins open to the winds and the sunshine. under conditions which do not make necessary the strict observance of the laws of sanitation and health.
Then He Loses His Head.
In a northern cty they suddenly find themselves earning twice as much money as they ever earned before: they are compelled to live crowded together in dark and insanitary rooms; they are surrounded by constant temptations in the way of wide open saloons and other worse resorts; they find a complete absence of all restrictions as to their use of street and railroad cars; they are courted by both black and White politicians.
No wonder that in a vast number of instances the recent Negro immigrant loses his head completely.
One result of the great war In Europe is that the Negro problem has moved north with a vengeance. And the north does not yet begin to realize it—even with the outrage at East St. Louis1 still sounding its terrible warning.
Chicago Tribune April 5, 1917
Segregation of the Negro population of Chicago into restricted sections by legislative action has been proposed and will be pushed by the Chicago real estate board. At a meeting of realty dealers yesterday a committee was appointed to frame such a bill for the legislature and an ordinance for the city council.
That the contemplated step will meet with the violent opposition of the Negroes as a whole and of others, too, will be expected, according to the realty men who voiced their opinions in yesterday’s meeting.
The occasion for the movement is the migratory flood of southern Negro laborers, who are pouring into Chicago at an average rate of 10,000 a month.
This influx, according to L. M. Smith, J. O. Ackley, and others prominent in the board, will “do more than $250,000,000 damage” to Chicago property.
By various artifices the Negro real estate dealers are charged with “ruining” white residential districts by obtaining leaseholds on one building in every block and then renting the property to Negro tenants. This action, the real estate men say, causes an immediate depreciation in adjoining property values and one by one the white tenants move out.
Seek Big District?
There is alleged to be an understanding between these real estate men to obtain the whole district between Cottage Grove and State street, and Twenty-second and Sixty-third streets for Negroes. This would affect 300,000 persons. The manner in which they are affecting the “change of complexion” in this district is accomplished by various schemes, it is charged.
Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1919
Two colored men are reported to have been killed and approximately fifty whites and negroes injured, a number probably fatally, in race riots that broke out at south side beaches yesterday. The rioting spread through the black belt2 and by midnight had thrown tyhe entire south side into a state of turmoil.
Among the known wounded are four policemen of the Cottage Grove ave. bus station., two from west side station, one fireman of engine company No. 9, and three women.
One Negro was knocked off a raft at the Twenty-ninth street beach after he had been stoned by whites. The body was recovered, but could not be identified.
A colored rioter is said to have died from wound inflicted by Policeman John O’Brien, who fired into a mob at Twenty-ninth street and Cottage Grove avenue. The body, it is said, was spirited away by colored men.
Drag Negroes from Cars.
So serious was the trouble throughout the district that Acting Chief of Police Alcock was unable to place an estimate on the injured. Scores received cuts and bruises from flying stones and rocks, but went to their homes for medical attention.
Minor rioting continued through the night all over the south side. Negroes who were found in street cars were dragged to the street and beaten.
They were first ordered to the street by white men and if they refused the trolley was jerked off the wires.
Scores of conflicts between the whites and blacks were reported at south side stations and reserves were ordered to stand guard on all important street corners. Some of the fighting took place four miles from the scene of the afternoon riots.
When the Cottage Grove avenue station received a report that several had drowned in the lake during the beach outbreak, Capt. John Mullen assigned policemen to drag the lake with grappling hooks. The body of a colored man was recovered, but was unidentified.
Boats Scour Lake.
Rumors that a white boy was a lake victim could not be verified. The patrol boats scoured the lake in the vicinity of Twenty-ninth street for several hours in a vain search.
John O’Brien, a policeman attached to the Cottage Grove avenue station, was attacked by a mob at Twenty-ninth and State street after he had tried to rescue a fellow cop from a crowd of howling Negroes. Several shots were fired in his direction and he was wounded in the left arm. He pulled his revolver and fled four times into the gathering. Three colored men dropped.
Man Cop Shot Dies.
When the police attempted to haul the wounded into the wagon the Negroes made valiant attempts to prevent them. Two were taken to the Michael Reese hospital, but the third was spirited away by the mob. It was later learned that he died in a drug store a short distance from the shooting.
Fire apparatus from a south side house answered an alarm of fire which was turned in from a drug store at Thirty-fifth and State streets. It was said that more than fifty whites had sought refuge here and that a number of Negroes had attempted to “smoke them out.” There was no semblance of a fire when the autos succeeded in brushing through the populated streets.
Police remove the body of a black man killed during the 1919 race riots.
Partial List of Wounded.
An incomplete List of the wounded is as follows:
POLICEMAN JOHN F. O’BRIEN, Cottage Grove avenue station; white; shot in left arm; taken to his home at 7151 South Michigan avenue.
POLICEMAN JOHN O’CONNELL, same station; white; knocked down and beaten.
POLICEMAN JOHN CALLAHAN, same station; white; beaten and bruised by mob.
POLICEMAN THOMAS J. GALLAGHER, same station; white;
EDWARD HAUSER, white; 4347 S. State street, cut about legs and face.
ARTHUR CARROLL, white; 2979 Prairie avenue; head bruised by stone.
JAMES CRAWFORD, colored, 2959 Federal street, shot through abdomen; probably will die; taken to Michael Reese hospital.
CHARLES CORMIER, white, 2839 Cottage Grove avenue, shot in head by stray bullet.
WILLIAM LONG, white, 2215 S. State street; cut in head and back.
JOSEPH WIGGINS, colored, 2417 Wabash avenue, beaten about head.
PHIL GRIFFIN, colored, 912 East Thirty-third street, shot in both legs.
GEORGE STAUBER, white, 2904 Cottage Grove avenue, beaten and cut.
HERMN RABISOHN, white, 1804 South State street, bruised by missles.
JOHN O’NEIL, white, 1828 West Thirty-fifth street, wtruc on head by brick.
WALTER CARSON, white, same address, face cut by rock.
WILLIAM CHEESHIRE, white, 3529 South Hermitage avenue; stabbed in face; taken to Provident hospital.
ANTON DUGO, white, 627 East Twenty-fifth street; shot in leg; taken to St. Anthony’s hospital.
WILLIAM SCOTT, colored, 3611 Vernon avenue; scalp wounds.
MISS MAMIE McDONALD, white, 3901 Emerald avenue; head cut by brick.
MISS FRANCES McDONALD, sister, same address; back injured by rock.
MISS GLADYS WILLIAMS, white, 2818 Indiana avenue; face bruised by stone.
MELVIN DAVIS, colored, 2816 Cottage Grove avenue, beaten while waiting for Halsted street car.
HARRY SPEEZ, colored, 3142 West Fifteenth street, knocked unconscious by whites at Thirty0first and Halsted streets.
LEWIS PHILLIPS, colored, 452 Eats Thirty-ninth street, shot in groin while riding in Thirty-ninth street car; taken to Provident hospital.
FRANK WALLS, shite, pipeman of Engine company 9, struck in neck by rock.
EVELYN BOYDE, white, 530 West Twenty-seventh street, hit on face and hip by stones.
FRANCES BOYDE, sister, same address, knocked down by rock.
LEWIS B. KNIGHT, white, 6400 Dorchester avenue; beaten about head with club.
Shot at His Window.
Charles Cromier was sitting in his window at 2839 Cottage Grove avenue watching the clashing mobs. A stray bullet lodged in his head and he fell back into the room. Spectators saw him being helped to a chair by a woman.
Racial feeling, which had been on a par with the weather during the day took fire shortly after 5 o’clock when white bathers at the Twenty-ninth street improvised beach saw a colored boy (Eugene Williams) on a raft, paddling into what they termed “white” territory.
A snarl of protest went up from the whites and soon a volley of rocks and stones were sent in his direction. One rock, said to have been thrown by George Stauber of 2904 Cottage Grove avenue, struck the lad and he toppled into the water.
Cop Refuses to Interfere.
Colored men who were present attempted to go to his rescue, but they were kept back by the whites, it is said. Colored men and women, it is alleged, asked Policeman Dan Callahan of the Cottage Grove station to arrest Stauber, but he is said to have refused.
Then, indignant of the conduct of the policeman, the Negroes set upon Stauber and commenced to pommel him. The whites came to his rescue and then the battle royal was on. Fists flew and rocks were hurled. Bathers from the colored Twenty-fifth street beach were attracted to the scene of the battling and aided their comrades in driving the whites into the water.
Negroes Chase Policeman.
Then they turned on Policeman Callahan and drove him down Twenty-ninth street. He ran into a drug store at Twenty-ninth street and Cottage Grove avenue and phoned the Cottage Grove avenue police station.
Two wagon loads of cops rolled to the scene, and in a scuffle that ensued here Policeman John O’Brien and three blacks were shot.
Riot calls were sent to the Cottage Grove avenue station and more reserves were sent into the black belt. By this time the battling had spread along Cottage Grove avenue and outbreaks were conspicuous at nearly every corner.
Meanwhile, the fighting continued along the lake. Mis Mame McDonald and her sister, Frances, had been bathing with a friend. Lieut. Runkle, a convalescing soldier. A colored woman walked up to the trio and made insulting remarks, it is said.
Runkle attempted to interfere, but the colored woman voiced a series of oaths and prompthly struck the soldier in the face. Negroes in the vicinity hurled stones and rocks ar the women and both were slightly injured.
The Zvonirir club at 2903 Wentworth avenue, which was wrecked by the rioters.
July 29, 1919
Reserves Called Out.
In less than a half hour after the beach outbreak, Cottage Grove avenue and State street from Twenty-ninth south to Thirty-fifth were bubbling caldrons of action.
When the situation had gotten beyond the control of the Cottage Grove police, Acting Chief of Police Alcock was notified. He immediately sent out a call to every station in the city to run all available men to the black belt.
Before they arrived colored and white men were mobbed in turn. The blacks added to the racial fueling by carrying guns and brandishing knives. It was not until the reserves arrived that the rioting was quelled.
Illinois Soldiers on the Job—Marching to Armory.
Fourth Infantry Reserves En Route Over State Street Bridge Yesterday Afternoon to North Side Headquarters.
July 29, 1919.
Whites Arm Selves.
News of the afternoon doings had spread through all parts of the south side by nightfall, and whites stood at all prominent corners ready to avenge the beatings their brethren had received. Along Halsted and State streets they were armed with clubs, and every Negro who appeared was pummeled.
Lewis Phillips, colored, was riding in a Thirty-ninth street car, when a white man took a pot shot from the corner as the car near Halsted street. Phillips was wounded in the groin and was taken to Provident hospital.
Melvin Davies, colored, of 2816 Cottage Grove avenue, was waiting for a Thirty-fifth street car at Parnell avenue when he was slugged from behind. His assailants disappeared.
These Negro policemen appeal for law and order. Detective Sergeants Middleton and Scott drive through riot area urging members of their race to get off streets and go home. July 28, 1919.
Soldiers from the state militia talk with a man during the Chicago race riots of 1919.
Heavily armed motorcycle and foot policemen stood at the ready for instant transportation to quell the rioting on Chicago’s south side on July 30, 1919.
July 29, 1919
July 30, 1919
The subsidence of the rioting was evident from a comparison of the map of the affected district published in The Tribune yesterday and the one shown herewith.
White children outside an African-American residence they have set on fire.
July 30, 1919
Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1919, Page 12
FOUR POLICEMEN TO FACE BOARD IN RIOT CASES
Chief of Police Garrity’s Investigation of the disturbance on the beach at Twenty-ninth street on July 27, out of which the recent race riot grew. resuited yesterday in the filing of four sets of charges with the city civil service commission.
Patrolmen Daniel M. Callaghan, Dennis S. Keating and Dominick Feeney, all of the Cottage Grove avenue station, were charged with neglect of duty in that they failed to arrest George Stauber, who is alleged to have thrown stones at a colored bather (Eugene Williams). Patrolman Richard Sinnott is charged with having shot a colored boy in the leg.
The final hearing in the court martial of Private Edgar D. Mohan, who killed George Fleming with a bayonet during the riots, will be held tonight.
Walter Like, Amos Like and Lee Alexander, colored, will be placed on trial before Judge Pam today, charged with shooting two policemen, Harry Costello and Michael Mulane.
Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1919, Page 8
Four policemen charged with failure to perform their duty in connection with the recent race riot were exonerated by the civil service during the day. They are Daniel M. Callaghan. Dominick Feeney. Richard Dlnnott, and Dennis S. Keating. The men were accused of refusing to arrest a citizen at the Twenty-ninth street bathing beach who had thrown a stone at a Negio boy who was drowned. The incident was held to be the inception of the riot. The men introduced witnesses to prove that they were not on duty at the beach at the time.
The state run militia patrols the streets of Chicago.
August 1, 1919
July 31, 1919, photograph shows the corner of 36th and State Streets, in the heart of the riot area.
Many houses in the predominantly white stockyards district were set ablaze during the 1919 race riots.
Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1919
Indictments voted by the grand jury yesterday charging thirteen white men with assault to kill and murder, arson, conspiracy, etc., will be returned before Judge Crowe in the Criminal court this morning. They grow out of the recent race rioting, which by tonight will have resulted in charges against sixty-seven persons, seventeen whites and fifty blacks.
Named in New Indictments.
Those to be named in the indictments this morning and the charges against them are as follows:
MICHAEL DREW, GEORGE SOUTHWICK, GEORGE MURPHY, EDWIN NELSON, and WILLIAM BAER, white, charged with conspiracy, carrying concealed weapons, and assault to kill Everett Martin, colored, at Sixty-ninth and Halsted streets, July 29.
HARRY SHERLOCK, CARL JOHNSON, FRED BRISSA, and WILLIAM GEARY, charged with arson and conspiracy in connection with the burning of the home of John Cappoge, colored, of 5432 South La Salle street on July 30.
GEORGE STAUBER, charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of Eugene Williams, colored, at the Twenty-ninth street beach on July 29.
CLARENCE JONES, white, charged with assault to kill Frank King, colored, in a restaurant at Wabash avenue and Adams street, July 29.
JOSEPH QUATTROCHI, white, charged with assault to kill Daisy Richardson, colored, of 1829 West Lake street, in front of 908 Laflin street on July 29.
JOHN SHEEHAN, white, charged with assault to kill William Stewart, colored porter, in Hofferman’s saloon at 4541 South Halsted street on Aug. 2.
Forty More Indicted.
Forty other persons, four of them white, were named in indictments returned before Judge Crowe yesterday morning on charges ranging from carrying concealed weapons to assault to murder.
The white men, the first to be indicted in the indicted in the investigation, are Charles Schuh, Stanlet Holy, alias Murphy, Frank Proszowski, alias Kapula, and Frank Melewic. They are charged with assaulting with intent to kill Fedrico Gonzales, a Mexican, whom they had mistaken for a Negro. The assault occurred July 30 at West Forty-seventh and South Halsted streets.
The following colored were indicted for assault to murder:
Alfred Kirk, William Brown, Alonzo Estling, Homer Ware, Arthur Alexander, and Joseph Sanders. Sanders has three charges of assault to murder and one of carrying concealed weapons against him. Several other colored men were charged with conspiracy to riot.
All of these indicted yesterday will be arraigned for pleading next Tuesday before Judge Crowe. At that time the dates of their trials will be set.3
Cook County Office of the Medical Examiner Case No. 5559
Victim—Williams, Eugene – Colored – Age 17 – Drowned at 29th St. beach; due to exhaustion on account of being unable to come to land due to throwing of stones during riot between whites and negroes, over use of said beach. This case was the direct cause of the race riots. Geo. Stauber, one of the rioters, who was accused of having thrown a stone which supposedly struck deceased and caused his drowning, was indicted by August G.J. on charge of manslaughter. 3rd Pct. May 27, 1920.
Defendant—George Stauber was acquitted by Judge Kavanaugh. Jury trial, [RACE RIOT CAUSE]
There were 23 blacks and 15 whites who were killed and the final injury toll was 342 blacks and 195 whites.
In the aftermath of the rioting, some suggested implementing zoning laws to formally segregate housing in Chicago, or restrictions preventing blacks from working alongside whites in the stockyards and other industries. Such measures were rejected by African-American and liberal white voters, however. City officials instead organized the Chicago Commission on Race Relations to look into the root causes of the riots and find ways to combat them. The commission, which included six white men and six black, suggested several key issues —including competition for jobs, inadequate housing options for blacks, inconsistent law enforcement and pervasive racial discrimination—but improvement in these areas would be slow in the years to come.
President Woodrow Wilson publicly blamed whites for being the instigators of race-related riots in both Chicago and Washington, D.C., and introduced efforts to foster racial harmony, including voluntary organizations and congressional legislation. In addition to drawing attention to the growing tensions in America’s urban centers, the riots in Chicago and other cities in the summer of 1919 marked the beginning of a growing willingness among African Americans to fight for their rights in the face of oppression and injustice.4
Excerpted from The Negro in Chicago, A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot, by The Chicago Commission on Race Relations, 1922.
Gangs and “athletic clubs.”—Gangs and their activities were an important factor throughout the riot. But for them it is doubtful if the riot would have gone beyond the first clash. Both organized gangs and those which sprang into existence because of the opportunity afforded seized upon the excuse of the first conflict to engage in lawless acts.
It was no new thing for youthful white and Negro groups to come to violence. For years, as the sections of this report dealing with antecedent clashes and with recreation show, there had been clashes over baseball grounds, swimming-pools in the parks, the right to walk on certain streets, etc.
Gangs whose activities figured so prominently in the riot were all white gangs, or “athletic clubs.” Negro hoodlums do not appear to form organized gangs so readily. Judges of the municipal court said that there are no gang organizations among Negroes to compare with those found among young whites.
The Stock Yards district, just west of the main Negro area, is the home of many of these white gangs and clubs; it is designated as District III in the discussion of the riot growth. The state’s attorney, as already indicated, referred to the many young offenders who come from this particular district. A police detective sergeant who investigated the riot cases in this district said of this section, “It is a pretty tough neighborhood to try to get any information out there; you can’t do it.” A poHceman on the beat in the district said, “There is the Canaryville bunch in there and the Hamburg bunch. It is a pretty tough hole in there.”
There was much evidence and talk of the poUtical “pull” and even leadership of these gangs with reference to their activities in the riot. A member of “Ragen’s Colts” just after the riot passed the word that the “coppers” from downtown were looking for club members, but that “there need be no fear of the coppers from the station at the Yards for they were all fixed and told to lay off on club members.” During the riot he claimed they were well protected by always having a “cop” ride in one of the automobiles so everything would be “O.K.” in case members of the gang were picked up. Another member of the club said hctad been ” tipped off by the police at the Yards to clean out and keep away fromi the usual hangouts because investigators were working out of Hoyne’s and out of Brundage’s offices, and were checking up on the activities of the ‘Ragen’s’ during the riot.”
The foreman of the August grand jury which investigated the riot cases said in testifying before the Commission:
The lead we got to investigate the Forty-seventh Street district was from an anonymous letter stating that Ragen had such influence in the Forty-seventh Street police station that these individuals were allowed to go without due process of law. I didn’t believe that was a fact in this particular instance. We did learn that Ragen was a great power in that district and at the time of our investigation we learned that some of the “Ragen’s Colts” had broken into the police station and pried open a door of a closet where they had a good deal of evidence in the nature of weapons of prisoners concealed, and they got all of this evidence out of there without the police knowing anything about it.
The station referred to is at Forty-seventh and Halsted streets. Gangs operated for hours up and down Forty-seventh Street, Wells, Princeton, Shields, and Wentworth avenues and Federal Street without hindrance from the police.
A judge of the municipal court said in testimony before the Commission:
They seemed to think they had a sort of protection which entitled them to go out and assault anybody. When the race riots occurred it gave them something to satiate the desure to inflict their evil propensities on others.
Some of the “athletic club” gangsters had criminal records. L— W— was accused of being one of the leaders of the gang around Forty-seventh and Wells streets. He himseK said boastfully, “I have been arrested about fifteen times for ‘disorderly’ and never was arrested with a knife or a gun.” Several witnesses said they had seen him during the riot one night leading the mob and brandishing a razor and the next night waving a gun. He was not arrested. D— H—, seventeen years old, was identified as being active in the rioting near Forty-seventh Street and Forrestville Avenue. His defense was that he was not closer to the Negro assaulted than across the street, but because he was arrested the year before for a “stick-up ” people looked “funny ” at him when anything happened. R— C— was accused of having been implicated in the arson cases on Shields Avenue. When his mother was interviewed, she said she knew nothing of the rioting, but said her son was at the time in the county jail, “but not for that.” W— G— was identified many times as having taken part in the arson on Wentworth Avenue. He was indicted for both arson and conspiracy to riot. Two years before the riot he had been arrested for larceny.
All who discussed gangs before the Commission said that most of the members were boys of seventeen to twenty-two years of age. Witnesses before the coroner’s juries testified to the youth of the participants in mobs. Many of the active assailants of street cars were boys. In the case of the Negro Hardy who was killed on a street car, it was said that the murderers were not over twenty years, and many were nearer sixteen. In the raids in the Ogden Park district the participants were between the ages of fifteen and twenty. The raid just west of Wentworth Avenue, where a number of houses were much damaged, was perpetrated by boys of these ages. The attacking mob on Forty-third Street near Forrestville Avenue, was led by boys of eighteen to twenty-one. The only two hoodlums caught participating in the outrages in the “Loop,” the downtown business district, were seventeen and about twenty-one. Most of those arrested on suspicion in the arson cases were taken before the boys’ court. Negroes involved in many cases as assailants were also youthful. The young Negro boys who killed Lazzeroni were fourteen to eighteen; those who killed Pareko and Perel were about sixteen.
A member of “Ragen’s Colts” is said to have boasted that their territory extended from Cottage Grove Avenue to Ashland Avenue and from Forty-third Street to Sixty-third Street. At Sixty-third Street and Cottage Grove Avenue they were said to have attacked a colored man in a restaurant and thrown him
out of the window. It was reported that trucks of a downtown store, each carrying about thirty men, yelling that they were “Ragen’s Colts” and that “Ragen’s bunch” were going to clean out the community, came to Sixtieth Street and Racine Avenue. Some of the boys who took part in the assault upon Negroes at Sixtieth and Ada streets were reputed to be members of “Ragen’s Colts.” The club, according to some of its own members, operated with automobiles from which they managed to “bump off a number of Niggers.” A truck driver said he had driven some “Ragen’s Colts” to Forty-seventh and Halsted streets, where they “dropped” four or five people, then he drove them back to the “Ragen’s Colts” clubhouse at Fifty-second and Halsted streets. “And, ” he says, ” they had plenty of guns and ammunition.” State’s Attorney Hoyne, however, said that no evidence could be found that “Ragen’s Colts” had a store of arms. Members of the Illinois Reserve Militia reported that they had been threatened by “Ragen’s Colts” that they would be picked off one by one when they got off duty.
One of the most serious cases of rioting in which members of “Ragen’s Colts” were reported to be implicated was the raid upon Shields Avenue, where there were nine houses occupied by Negroes. At 8 : 30 Tuesday evening 200 or 300 gangsters started at one corner and worked through the block, throwing furniture out of windows and setting fires. A white man who owned a house on this street which he rented to Negroes says that after the raid several young men warned him, “If you open your mouth against ‘Ragen’s’ we will not only burn your house down but we will ‘do’ you.”
The Lorraine Club, according to five witnesses, was also implicated in arson and raids upon homes of Negroes. Their operations, according to reports, were on Forty- seventh Street and on Wells Street and Wentworth Avenue between Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth streets. Negroes were chased, guns were fired, windows broken, front doors smashed in, furniture destroyed, and finally homes were burned. All Negro families were driven out. The attack was planned, and news of its imminence spread abroad in the morning. Rioting started in the afternoon of July 29, and culminated late that night. There was no interference from the police at any time. It was said that one of the leaders of the gang who had an express and coal yard carried away furniture in his wagon. Another was recognized as a youth who had shot a Negro woman during the afternoon. They are reported to have attacked an undertaker and friends who came to remove the body of a dead Negro. Three of the rioters were arrested upon the identification of several people, but two were released in the municipal court, and the third had a “no bill” returned before the grand jury. One was released because no witnesses were present to prosecute him. The witnesses said they were not notified.
A member of the Lorraine Club denied that his club had anything to do with this riot, but said it was Our Flag Club that did the “dirty work Our Flag Club is located farther east on Forty-seventh Street near Union Avenue. When John Mills was dragged from a street car at this point and killed, a policeman recognized several of the club’s members in the crowd, but vouchsafed the opinion that they were not part of the aggressive mob, “for they did not run as did the others when the patrol came down the street.” Another policeman said he had never had any trouble with the club.
Eight members of the Sparklers’ Club were seen at the fire at 5919 Wentworth Avenue, a building in which two Negro families lived. The arson is reported to have been planned in a neighboring cigar store. One of the boys put waste soaked in gasoline under the porch and ran. Two of them threw oil in the building and two others lit it. It took three attempts to make a fire at this place. Each time it was started the Fire Department put it out. Two of the boys are declared to have stolen phonograph records and silverware from the house. A lad not a member of the club was with them at the fire. Afterward one of the boys warned him, “Watch your dice and be careful or you won’t see your home any more.” Six boys were held for arson, in connection with this affair; one was discharged in the boys’ court, and the cases of two others were nolle prossed. In connection with their arrest the ChicagoTribune of August 15, 1919, said:
Evidence that organized bands of white youths have been making a business of burning Negro dwellings was said to have been handed to Attorney General Brundage and Assistant State’s Attorney Irwin Walker Chief of Police Garrity, also informed of the Fire Marshal’s charges, declared several so-called athletic clubs in the Stock Yards district may lose their charters as a result.
A report about the Aylward Club was to the effect that as the Negroes came from the Stock Yards on Monday, a gang of its members armed with clubs was waiting for them and that each singled out a Negro and beat him, the police looking on.
The names of a number of gang ringleaders were reported by investigators. For illustration, L. Dennis, a Negro of 6059 Throop Street, was attacked on the night of Monday, July 28, by a mob led by three roughs whose names were learned and whose loafing place was at Sixty-third Street and Racine Avenue. A mob of thirty white men who shot Francis Green, Negro, eighteen years old, at Garfield Boulevard and State Street had a club headquarters in the vicinity of Fifty-fourth Street and their “hangout” was at the corner of Garfield Boulevard and State Street.
Other clubs mentioned in riot testimony before the coroner’s jury, but not in connection with riot clashes, are the Pine Club, the Hamburgers 5, the Emeralds, the White Club, Favis Grey’s, and the Mayflower. The police closed the clubs for a period of several months after the riot. There were then in existence a number of Negro gambling clubs, and the state’s attorney declared that it was the colored gamblers who “started this shooting and tearing around town,” and that “as soon as they heard the news that the boy Williams was drowned, they filled three or four machines and started out to shoot.”
The foreman of the grand jury which investigated the riots discussing the “athletic” and “social” clubs before the Commission, said:
Most of them were closed immediately after the riots. There were “Ragen’s Colts,” as they were known, concerning whom the grand jury were particularly anxious to get something concrete, although no evidence was presented that convicted any of the members of that club. There were the Hamburgers, another athletic club, the Lotus Club, the Mayflower, and various clubs. These were white clubs.
Asked if they really were athletic clubs, he replied:
I think they are athletic only with their fists and brass knuckles and guns. We had Mr. Ragen before the grand jury, and he told us of the noble work that they were doing in the district, that Father Brian, who had charge of these boys, taught them to box and how to build themselves up physically, and they were doing a most noble work, and you would think that Ragen was a public benefactor. During the deliberations of this grand jury a number of anonymous letters were written with reference to “Ragen’s Colts,” and most of the explanations of the fact that they failed to put their names on these letters were that they were afraid they would lose their lives.
The grand jury included in its report this reference to the gang and club phase of the riot:
The authorities employed to enforce the law should thoroughly investigate clubs and other organizations posing as athletic and social clubs which really are organizations of hoodlums and criminals formed for the purpose of furthering the interest of local politics. In the opinion of this jury many of the crimes committed in the “Black Belt” by whites and the fires that were started back of the Yards, which, however, were credited to the Negroes, were more than likely the work of the gangs operating on the Southwest Side under the guise of these clubs, and the jury believes that these fires were started for the purpose of inciting race feeling by blaming same on the blacks. These gangs have apparently taken an active part in the race riots, and no arrests of their members have been made as far as this jury is aware.
1 The East St. Louis riots (also known as the East St. Louis massacres) of May and July 1917 were an outbreak of labor and race-related violence that caused between 40 and 200 deaths and extensive property damage.
2The Black Belt—Bounded by Roosevelt Road, 55th Street, Wentworth Avenue. and Indiana Avenue, it housed 85 per cent of Chicago’s blacks in 1920.
3Trial of George Stauber—Chicago newspapers (Tribune) did not seem to cover the trial.
4 The Chicago Race Riot of 1919—The History Channel
5 The Hamburgers (Hamburg Athletic Club), had a young leader named Richard Daley.