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

The Troops in Action

The National Guard continued the defensive approach the police had adopted. Troops drew still more “dead lines” around Black neighborhoods in the city and declared that no one could enter or leave the areas between the lines. Each line was marked by machine guns flanked by soldiers standing guard with their guns out, bayonets at their ends.

Other guardsmen, weapons close at hand, stood nearby or patrolled streets and alleys. One dead line was thrown up around the block from LaSalle Street to Wentworth Avenue, between Fifty-Fourth and Fifty-Fifth Streets, near a Black home that whites had tried to burn down. The guard discovered the whites in the act and chased them down to a nearby square where more whites were gathered. The guard was able to keep the mob from attacking any more Black people, but he could neither capture nor identify the men who tried to burn down the house.

Even with the new dead lines, violent attacks continued. Twenty-four-year-old John McUoid, who was white, was shot in the leg at Forty-Seventh and Forrestville, east of the Wentworth Avenue dead line.

Guardsmen quartered at White Sox Park, just to the west of Wentworth, reported that they fired at two Black men who first threatened and then shot at them. There were apparently no injuries and the two escaped before they could be captured.

Three wagons of police were sent to Fifty-Third and State Streets in response to reports that Black residents were barricaded in several houses shooting at police. After a shoot-out, the police raided the houses and arrested sixty Black individuals. They also seized another “arsenal,” which included four big game rifles, six revolvers, and several knives, as well as some ammunition.

Just before noon, a mob of whites stoned Black homes on Garfield Boulevard and Normal Avenue, several blocks west of the dead line at Wentworth. The mob dispersed as police and a national guard troop advanced on them, and no whites were arrested.

Other incidents suggested that whites were increasingly willing to challenge the police and the National Guard. A white member of the police reserves, Peter Agriostapher, was attacked as he tried to break up a white mob. Several members of the mob drew pistols on Agriostapher and shot at him; one bullet hit him in the neck. The mob quickly dispersed. Surprisingly, given their usual problems with arresting whites after the fact, when the police searched the area later they arrested more than fifteen white suspects armed with guns and knives. Another white mob gathered at Forty-Third Street and Union Avenue and refused to disperse when told to do so by police officer Daniel Cartan. One member of the group, John Ward, shot Cartan. As he fell to the ground, Cartan shot Ward.

While there were stabbings and beatings on all sides of the dead lines, members of the Black community continued to make up most of the victims: Steven Hubbard, who was twenty-nine, and James Scith, twenty-eight, were attacked by whites at Forty-Seventh and Racine. Hubbard was stabbed in the face and neck; Scith was stabbed and beaten with clubs. Fifty-year-old George Brown was stabbed and had his skull fractured at Wallace and Thirty-First Street; nineteen-year-old Wayne Robbins was stabbed in the head and chest about a mile south on Wallace at Thirty-Ninth Street. Lawrence Scmeigner was stabbed at Forty-Seventh Street and St. Lawrence Avenue, just a block from his home. In two separate incidents, George Henderson, was stabbed, and William Northup was beaten so badly his skull was fractured.

At Sixty-Third and Campbell Streets, a white mob seized Richard Duide as he walked down the street. Only the arrival of the troops kept Duide from being hanged from a telegraph pole. Another band of whites attacked Elmer Parker, a Black railroad worker, at State Street and Congress Boulevard. Parker was not as fortunate as Duide. Although he did not die, he was beaten severely before police could get to his aid. A handful of whites beat a third, unnamed Black man at State Street near Twentieth.

Further south, a large mob of whites (one report suggested there were four hundred boys and men) beat still another Black man at Forty-Seventh Street at Vincennes as they rampaged through the area, breaking shop windows.

Two white men who crossed one of the dead lines, Oscar Nelson and John Cuski, were attacked by a Black mob. Both suffered stab wounds, and Cuski had his skull fractured. Max Nutter, a white man who owned a shoe store at Thirty-First Street and Indiana Avenue, was stabbed during a robbery by men who were described as Black looters. The Herald-Examiner reported that another white man, Edward Schader, was stabbed in the shoulder when he tried to prevent a Black man from stabbing a white woman on the Forty-Seventh Street streetcar. Since the streetcar strike was still on and the cars were not running, this incident seems improbable.

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