cover image A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

Claire Hartfield. Clarion, $18.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-544-78513-7

Taking her title from a line in a Carl Sandburg poem, Hartfield (Me and Uncle Romie) examines a weeklong clash between black and white Chicago residents in August 1919. She plunges readers into the story with a description of the event that sparked the riots, the accidental but racially motivated killing of a 14-year-old black boy at a Chicago beach. Hartfield then provides a detailed history of racial tensions in her native city, highlighting the economic and societal impact of the waves of Southern blacks who migrated north to Chicago between the middle of the 19th century and WWI, lured by the promise of work and educational opportunities. Racial tensions, Hartfield explains, were further fueled by the influx of Irish and Eastern European immigrants, themselves the target of discrimination and scorn (“Chicago was a hotbed of prejudice”). The author bolsters her account of this long-simmering conflict with succinct profiles of various Chicagoans, including abolitionists, meatpacking barons, union leaders, journalists, and politicians. Photos, editorial cartoons, and advertisements further immerse readers in a vivid chronicle with no shortage of contemporary relevance. Ages 12–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Jan.)