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1919, The Year of Racial Violence
How African Americans Fought Back


  • Date Published: January 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107061798

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About the Authors
  • 1919, The Year of Racial Violence recounts African Americans' brave stand against a cascade of mob attacks in the United States after World War I. The emerging New Negro identity, which prized unflinching resistance to second-class citizenship, further inspired veterans and their fellow black citizens. In city after city - Washington, DC; Chicago; Charleston; and elsewhere - black men and women took up arms to repel mobs that used lynching, assaults, and other forms of violence to protect white supremacy; yet, authorities blamed blacks for the violence, leading to mass arrests and misleading news coverage. Refusing to yield, African Americans sought accuracy and fairness in the courts of public opinion and the law. This is the first account of this three-front fight - in the streets, in the press, and in the courts - against mob violence during one of the worst years of racial conflict in US history.

    • Puts African Americans at the center of the narrative by telling the stories of 'ordinary heroes' who took up arms to repel mobs
    • Looks beyond the riots to trace the long arc of black resistance, from the streets to the media to the courts
    • Is the first work to document the US government's attempts to disarm African Americans and to obstruct their legal right to obtain weapons to defend themselves during this period
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Decades before the Black Power movement brought a national spotlight to armed self-defense, African Americans waged a multi-front battle to protect themselves and their communities from white supremacist violence. This powerful book captures the high cost and high stakes of the War for Democracy brought home. By turns devastating and inspiring, it sets the new standard for exploring African Americans' struggle for safety, truth, and justice in the aftermath of World War I.' Adriane Lentz-Smith, Duke University, North Carolina

    'David Krugler's 1919, The Year of Racial Violence continues the narrative of the tradition of armed resistance in the Black freedom struggle. Most of the recent scholarship on armed resistance focuses on the Civil Rights Movement. Krugler's excellent research focuses on the armed defense of the 'Red Summer' of 1919 and how Black people also utilized their newspapers and litigation strategies to assert their humanity. This is a contribution to the documentation of Black agency in the face of white supremacist violence and lynching during arguably the most dangerous period of our sojourn in the United States.' Akinyele Umoja, Georgia State University

    'With meticulous research and narrative force, David Krugler has produced a brilliant account of one of the most turbulent and bloody years in American history. As he powerfully demonstrates, African Americans, in the face of horrific nationwide racial violence, used every tool at their disposal to fight back and preserve both their citizenship and humanity. 1919, The Year of Racial Violence is a landmark achievement.' Chad Williams, Brandeis University, Massachusetts

    'Krugler adroitly diagrams how and why African Americans fought back during attacks by whites in the watershed year of racial violence in his study covering an important chapter in race relations in the US … it is clear that Krugler understands that there are lessons to be learned from discussing and debating the country's unpleasant past. He reveals that African Americans who literally fought to safeguard their property and lives expressed their patriotism by demanding the American dream as warranted by the Constitution. African Americans fought for democracy in Europe during WWI and expected equality when they returned. Many whites in the South and North were dismayed by this threat to the racial status quo. In addition, Krugler covers the inequity African Americans received through arrests and in the courts as compared to whites involved in the 1919 riots. Students of US history who want a better understanding of race in the twentieth-century US need to read Krugler's superb examination. Summing up: essential.' R. D. Screws, Choice

    'Captivating and well written, this account details the three-pronged approach of African Americans toward [the 1919] riots: 'the fighting in the streets, the battle for truth in the press, and the struggle for justice in the courts'. In other words, they fought back in the streets, pressed for accuracy in the field of public information, and sought justice in the judicial system … The conclusion provides an excellent and impressive survey of black resistance through the 1960s, including comparisons between the armed black resistance of 1919 and the 1960s … a definitive account of racial violence in 1919 and crucial reading for those interested in the tragic race riots of that year.' Elizabeth Gritter, The American Historical Review

    'In detailed and lively prose, Krugler narrates the valiant and unwavering efforts of ordinary African Americans, the black press and black churches, local chapters of the NAACP, and white allies in defense of the black community - that defied racial custom and white intimidation … charts new ground, chronicling the stories of African Americans' long tradition of armed resistance. This seminal book should find a readership among specialists, and graduate and undergraduate students.' Shannon King, The Journal of American History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2015
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107061798
    • length: 348 pages
    • dimensions: 231 x 157 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • contains: 25 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. World War I and the New Negro movement
    2. 'We return fighting': the first wave of armed resistance
    3. Fighting a mob in uniform: armed resistance in Washington, DC
    4. Blood in the streets: armed resistance in Chicago
    5. Armed resistance to the courthouse mobs
    6. Armed resistance to economic exploitation in Arkansas, Indiana, and Louisiana
    7. 'It is my only protection': federal and state efforts to disarm African Americans
    8. The fight for justice: the arrests and trials of black and white rioters
    9. The fight for justice: the death penalty cases
    10. Fighting Judge Lynch
    1919's aftermath and its importance in the black freedom struggle.

  • Author

    David F. Krugler, University of Wisconsin, Platteville
    David F. Krugler is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.

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