Amid Red Summer ‘Race Riots’ of 1919, Communists Became Scapegoat

On July 27, 1919, a white man threw stones at Eugene Williams, 17, a black boy who had drifted into an unofficially “white” section of a Chicago beach. Williams was floating on a raft and the flaying caused him to slip and drown. When police refused to make an arrest, outrage led to protests and a week of riots as white Chicagoans responded with violence.

Over the next few days, riots broke out between gangs of black and white Chicagoans, concentrated in the South Side neighborhood. By the time the violence ended on August 3, 15 whites and 23 blacks had been killed and more than 500 people had been injured. Some 1,000 black families also lost their homes when they were set on fire by rioters. Later this summer, The New York Times claimed that the real cause of the unrest was “Soviet influence”.

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