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Remembering Chicago’s Red Summer of 1919

The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the nation’s Red Summer, was sparked by the killing of Black teenager Eugene Williams on July 27,1919. The riot lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost 500 injuries—events that have shaped the last century but are still not widely discussed.

In 1919, award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing explores the story of the riot and its echoes through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present.

“This collection of poems is meant as a small offering, an entry point into a conversation about a part of our history that I think is worth talking about much more than we do.”
—EVE L. EWING, from the introduction

“Eve Ewing is a poet of limitless possibility. She seems to get sharper and more daring with each book.”

Additional Resources

Listen to NPR’s Code Switch podcast about Chicago’s Red Summer, which features a poem recited by Eve Ewing and an interview with 107-year-old Juanita Mitchell, who was 8 years old in 1919.

Read Block Club Chicago’s profile of Jun Fujita, the photojournalist behind many powerful, disturbing images from the 1919 riots.

Download the 1919 teaching guide written by educator Rabiya Kassam-Clay in collaboration with Eve Ewing and Haymarket Books.