Fight for Rights: The Chicago 1919 Riots and the Struggle for Black Justice

Black Rights in Chicago Before 1919

It is better for a minority to bear an injustice than for an overwhelming majority to bear an injustice.

Anonymous white Chicagoan 
to the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, 1921

The battles on Chicago’s streets in the city’s 1919 riots were part of a long war that Black people fought for rights and dignity in Chicago. Over the years, those battles were fought in government chambers, newspaper columns, and courtrooms. And they were also fought at work, in shops, in restaurants, and with landlords. Those earlier battles did not cause the 1919 riots in Chicago (too many of the participants in the riots were newcomers to the city for that to be true), though they laid the foundation for what happened in July and August 1919.

That means this story of Chicago's race riots needs to begin well before the people alive in 1919 were born.

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