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

Friday, August 1

By Friday morning, Lorenzen’s cautious optimism had become a near-universal conviction. While most did not go as far as an article from the Associated Press declaring the riot over, everyone seemed to agree that the worst of the rioting had come to an end. There was also good news on the transportation front, as workers on the streetcars and L trains voted to return to work.

Governor Lowden told reporters that the riot appeared to have quieted down and the streetcar strike was settled; he planned to go to his farm on the Rock River to take the vacation he had previously postponed. Black workers started to go back to work in the Loop and other parts of the city, though they were still not allowed to return to work at the stockyards. Yet even there, it seemed that progress was being made. An article in the New York Times indicated that Black workers hoped they would be able to return to the Yards on Monday, while a story in the Chicago Daily News reported that the police and packers were working on a scheme to make that possible. They planned to assign police officers to guard the L stations that Black workers would use, while several militia companies, backed up by more police officers, would be assigned to the area around the stockyards. The meat packers assured everyone they expected no trouble, characterizing the plans as a precaution.

And when the Chicago Evening Post reported that the meatpackers were debating whether they should allow Black workers to return to the Yards at all, Swift & Co. quickly issued a statement denying the report.

Before he left town, Lowden announced that on the recommendation of the Rev. Johnston Myers, the white minister of the Immanuel Baptist church near the Black Belt, he was considering creating a race commission composed of leaders from Chicago’s Black and white communities. The commission would investigate the causes of the riot and make recommendations about how to end racial tensions in the city.

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