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Racial Discrimination

Essay by   •  March 14, 2013  •  Essay  •  1,133 Words (5 Pages)  •  811 Views

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"I wish to explore the complexity of race riots as not just an act of racially motivated large-scale violence but..." this was my original hypothesis, which as narrowed down in time scale as it was ended up being extremely broad. However, after reading more about the Chicago race riots I noticed how I would narrow down this "complex nature." As I continued to read about the race riots I notice a recurring and perplexing thing about Chicago in 1919, the neighborhood mentality that existed. One word kept coming up as I read, "black belt." Finally, I decided this needed inquiry. I found preliminary information on the "black belt" and read about how a large section was literally cleared out for migrants of the Great Migration. This caused me to wonder the effect this had on creating the conditions for the race riot. I consider this topic more specific and much more collegiate than studying the "complex nature."

During the summer of 1919 the United States erupted in racial violence. From Mississippi to Connecticut and Nebraska to Washington, D.C. the streets in large cities filled with angry rioters both black and white. By the end of the summer hundreds of people would lay dead. The riots were not homogeneous but unique as the cities that spawned them.

The causes of the red summer riots were multifarious; they resulted from the many changes going on in the United States. World War I had ended in Europe and many European immigrants flocked back to their mother countries to see what became of their families. Simultaneously, The Great Migration brought many African Americans north to find better jobs. Many of these migrants from the south were war veterans, proud of the service to their country. Their veteran status helped embolden them to claim all the rights white citizens had claimed for generations. However, debate over how to interrupt the fourteenth amendment, ratified fifty years prior, was still raging and many southern states were circumventing it to deny African Americans equal rights. Meanwhile, The fifteenth amendment was also under attack, via the use of poll taxes and other various methods of voter suppression, thus denying African American's the right to vote. Many African American's left the south for a chance at the "American Dream" of equality. African Americans that weren't leaving the south because of segregation or disenfranchisement were leaving because of more sinister outwardly racist phenomenon such as lynch mobs. Immigrants decided to head to the industrial centers of the north. A large number of these immigrants decided Chicago was their destination; after all it was the second biggest city in the country at the time and offered a seemingly "equal" shot for everyone.

Chicago was a cosmopolitan destination where people from many ethnicities worked and lived side-by-side. The plethora of immigrants were creating an industrial capital in the Midwest. The city was a mecca for jobs; it was the center of railroad traffic in the United States, it was the home of major manufacturing companies, and the heart of the American meat packing industry. However, as was shown in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, a novel about the horrors of the meat packing industry, not everything about Chicago was what it seemed. The city suffered from many ills, labor unions grew stronger and with so many immigrant

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