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Red Summer of 1919 & Other History America Should Discuss

I see a lot of “slavery is over, black people should move on” rhetoric on the internet. And mostly I roll my eyes & keep it moving. But I notice that people who say these things lack historical knowledge. They don’t know about the Red Summer in which race riots broke out in 36 cities. The government blamed unions, Bolsheviks, & even the NAACP for what happened since it was apparently impossible to blame white Americans for the lynchings, rapes, & general mayhem that triggered the riots. In fact Attorney General Palmer filed a report that faulted black people for fighting back.

“ill-governed reaction toward race rioting…In all discussions of the recent race riots there is reflected the note of pride that the Negro has found himself. that he has ‘fought back,’ that never again will he tamely submit to violence and intimidation. “the dangerous spirit of defiance and vengeance at work among the Negro leaders.”

Mind you, the Red Summer came after the East St. Louis Riots, the Atlanta Race Riots, some 2400 documented lynchings and countless other acts of violence that didn’t receive much (if any) official attention. The Rosewood Massacre, & the destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa followed, and still there was no move on the part of the government to actively change the racial climate in America until the 1960’s. Jim Crow laws (in effect from 1876 to 1965) were the successors to the Black codes that were on the books from 1800-1866, and if think that the Civil Rights Movement fixed everything the day separate but equal was legally abolished? You haven’t been paying attention. Look at America’s track record when it comes to welfare reform (and the mythical Welfare Queen), the War on Drugs that conveniently was more likely to heavily punish black offenders, predatory lending to black homebuyers, treating the pain of black children, & of course police harassment and brutality. America’s got a long way to go, and ignoring the past or the present won’t fix a thing. You want black people to let things? Stop supporting the systems that oppress them.

7 thoughts on “Red Summer of 1919 & Other History America Should Discuss”

  1. Mamzer HaKodesh says:

    Thank you so much for continuing to post historical information on your blog. History/herstory/ourstory is so important to learn, and moreso those that have been suppressed and don’t show up on record books, like ours.

  2. People, Please says:

    A really interesting read, if you aren’t already aware of it, is “Sundown Towns” by James Loewen. I don’t know how people can adopt the “Racism is over, we have a black president” attitude when there are STILL neighbourhoods that actively exclude POCs. It’s going to be a long road.

  3. Tasha says:

    Could not agree more. It makes me angry to think that some of the same people who say “racism is over, move on” are the same ones having blatantly racist conversations when no one else is around. I live in Texas where sometimes it seems they don’t even have the sense or the class to be ashamed of their racism. I’ve had a number of white friends come back and tell me what’s said when no one of color is around….recently a white Lesbian told my fiance she doesn’t date black girls because they’re unclean. This from another oppressed minority who smokes weed that was likely trafficked into this country crammed up someone’s private parts. Right…racism is long gone, at least when we’re within hearing distance.

  4. Sarah says:

    Just finished reading Ida Wells’ autobiography: powerful and detailed story of her persistent campaign against lynch law and many other forms of racism, in both the north and south. Highly recommended!

  5. squeeky says:

    Here’s an article about a survivor of the Tulsa riots who just passed away at the ripe old age of 109—he bore witness to the horror of the riots as a young man:

  6. Water Witch says:

    Good gravy, yes! I would say to neglect these very important events are very deliberate. How much easier it is then to paint blacks as a people that a country went to war to free from slavery (yeah, right) and yet they have not managed to do anything for themselves! Hearing comments like, “Just look at them! They’ve had all this time to “catch up” to mainstream white society and most of them have done nothing at all.” And then go on to compare American blacks with other so-called successful minorities and/or immigrants. I don’t think that anyone wants to admit that there were deliberate and carefully executed methods to keep blacks oppressed because outside of segregation laws, it was something that was built around and supported by the collective ugliness of a group. Who wants to stand up and say that they supported the oppression and deliberate undermining of others? So much easier to blame the victim…as usual.

    It makes my head want to explode.

  7. Frank Lun says:

    Great post… I researched / wrote a history class paper back in junior year of college on “The Red Summer” and I recall being stunned from my comfy white suburban assumptions when I came to the realization that the official history was a lie… we definitely need more of this kind of history and less of the watered-down picture books that kids get today. Keep on writing!

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