JULY 27, 1919

Credit: Wikipedia

A stone-throwing melee between Black and white citizens began after a Black youth mistakenly swam into territory claimed by whites off the 29th Street beach in Chicago. Amidst the mayhem, the youth drowned. His death and the authorities’ refusal to arrest the white man accused of causing the drowning led to racial clashes. 

By the time the violence ended six days later, 38 were dead and more than 500 had been injured. In addition, 1,000 Black families lost their homes to the mob violence. That violence spread across the U.S., and hundreds of African Americans became victims of violence in what became known as “Red Summer.” 

Some victims were among the 380,000 Black soldiers returning from World War I. After winning a victory overseas, these veterans had continued their battle for full citizenship — something that many white Americans resented. 

At the same time, about 1 million Black Americans fled the South for jobs in the North in what became known as the Great Migration. In Chicago alone, the Black population swelled by 148%.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.