Sunday, January 4, 2015

David F. Krugler's "1919, The Year of Racial Violence"

David F. Krugler is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.
He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back, and reported the following:
Page 99 [below left; click to enlarge] takes us to Chicago on February 17, 1919, and puts us right on Michigan Avenue, which was a sea of spectators that day as proud black Chicagoans gathered to cheer the men and officers of the 370th Regiment, Ninety-third Division, which had just returned from service on the Western Front during World War I. The 370th was an all-black unit—the U.S. Army was racially segregated at this time—and the regiment’s combat ferocity had earned its men the nickname of the “Black Devils” from the Germans. As the troops disembark from the La Salle Street station, they greet “the city with a whoop—the kind that caused the blood to curdle in the Germans’ veins.”

It just so happens that p. 99 is the first page of chapter 4 of my book, 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back, which is a study of how African Americans mounted a three-front campaign—in the streets, in the courts, and in the press—to defend themselves against mob attacks, unjust police practices, and biased court proceedings in 1919, one of the worst years of racial conflict in U.S. history. The page vividly captures some of the central topics of my book. We sense these veterans’ pride in their military service and their determination to make America safe for democracy. When Chicago’s mayor, “Big Bill” Thompson, tells the troops and their families and friends that “justice and equality” will soon come, the crowd roars its approval. But in 1919, many white Americans were determined to prevent African Americans from obtaining their constitutional rights and equality of opportunity. An epigraph on p. 99 has a entry from the personal diary of Major General Leonard Wood, who was stationed in Chicago when a race riot broke out that summer: “There has been considerable negro hunting today, and considerable excitement in some sections of the city. Some sniping.” As the chapter that begins on p. 99 explains, the intense violence directed toward African Americans during the riot brought blood to Chicago’s streets, but it also brought sustained armed resistance by blacks, some of whom were the very veterans who had marched down Michigan Avenue in February. (A bonus: because p. 99 starts a chapter, it’s short!)
Learn more about 1919, The Year of Racial Violence at the Cambridge University Press website.

Writers Read: David F. Krugler.

--Marshal Zeringue