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“The Problem” and “Family Histories”: Charles Johnson Analyzes the Causes of the Chicago Race Riot

As U.S. soldiers returned from Europe in the aftermath of World War I, scarce housing and jobs heightened racial and class antagonisms across urban America. African-American soldiers, in particular, came home from the war expecting to enjoy the full rights of citizenship that they had fought to defend overseas. In the spring and summer of 1919, murderous race riots erupted in 22 American cities and towns. Chicago experienced the most severe of these riots. The most detailed and sober reporting of the causes of the 1919 Chicago race riot came retrospectively from the interracial Chicago Commission on Race Relations. The Commission published a seven hundred-page report in 1922, The Negro in Chicago. Charles Johnson—a Chicago Urban League official, the associate executive secretary of the integrated commission, and the principal author of its report—hoped that by thoroughly describing the sentiments and living conditions of African Americans and the similarities between European immigrants and recent black migrants to Chicago, the report would generate sympathy for the city’s black community. Filled with photographs, charts, and maps, The Negro in Chicago carefully dissected Chicago’s racial problems, including black and white antagonism over housing, jobs, and crime.

The Problem

The relation of whites and Negroes in the United States is our most grave and perplexing domestic problem. It involves not only a difference of race—which as to many immigrant races has been happily overcome—but wider and more manifest differences in color and physical features. These make an easy and natural basis for distinctions, discriminations, and antipathies arising from the instinct of each race to preserve its type. Many white Americans, while technically recognizing Negroes as citizens, cannot bring themselves to feel that they should participate in government as freely as other citizens.

Countless schemes have been proposed for solving or dismissing this problem, most of them impracticable or impossible. Of this class are such proposals as: (I) the deportation of 12,000,000 Negroes to Africa; (2) the establishment of a separate Negro state in the United States; (3) complete separation and segregation from the whites and the establishment of a caste system or peasant class; and (4) hope for a solution through the dying out of the Negro race. The only effect of such proposals is to confuse thinking on the vital issues involved and to foster impatience and intolerance.

Our race problem must be solved in harmony with the fundamental law of the nation and with its free institutions. These prevent any deportation of the Negro, as well as any restriction of his freedom of movement within the United States. The problem must not be regarded as sectional or political, and it should be studied and discussed seriously, frankly, and with an open mind.

It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery was introduced, expanded, and maintained in the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and that they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.

Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance; and every citizen, regardless of color or racial origin, is in honor and conscience bound to seek and forward its solution.

Centuries of the Negro slave trade and of slavery as an institution have created, and are often deemed to justify, the deep-seated prejudice against Negroes. They placed a stamp upon the relations of the two races which it will require many years to erase. The memory of these relations has profoundly affected and still affects the industrial, commercial, and social life of the southern states.

The great body of anti-Negro public opinion, preserved in the literature and traditions of the white race during the long, unhappy progress of the Negro from savagery through slavery to citizenship, has exercised a persistent and powerful effect, both conscious and unconscious, upon the thinking and the behavior of the white group generally. Racial misunderstanding has been fostered by the ignorance and indifference of many white citizens concerning the marvelous industry and courage shown by the Negroes and the success they have achieved in their fifty-nine years of freedom.

The Negro race must develop, as all races have developed, from lower to higher planes of living; and must base its progress upon industry, efficiency, and moral character. Training along these lines and general opportunities for education are the fundamental needs. As the problem is national in its scope and gravity, the solution must be national. And the nation must make sure that the Negro is educated for citizenship.

It is of the first importance that old prejudices against the Negroes, based upon their misfortunes and not on their faults, be supplanted with respect, encouragement, and co-operation, and with a recognition of their heroic struggles for self-improvement and of their worthy achievements as loyal American citizens.

Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal, and that their interests in the common good are identical; that relations of amity are the only protection against race clashes; that these relations cannot be forced, but will come naturally as the leaders of each race develop within their own ranks a realization of the gravity of this problem and a vital interest in its solution, and an attitude of confidence, respect, and friendliness toward the people of the other race.

All our citizens, regardless of color or racial origin, need to be taught by their leaders that there is a common standard of superiority for them all in self-respect, honesty, industry, fairness, forbearance, and above all, in generous helpfulness. There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities, or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; and an understanding of the facts of the problem—a magnanimous understanding by both races—is the first step toward its solution.

The Negro Housing Problem

Often Negroes from the South said they missed the care-free social greetings and relationships that prevail in the rural South. They thought that people in the North were“colder,” that they did not show sufficient hospitality.

Asked what conditions they would change if they could have their way, the most frequently expressed desire was for more and better housing. Improvement of social, moral, or political conditions followed. Some emphasized the necessity of improving the management of the migrants from the South, whose new-found freedom had led them to become offensive in their conduct. Interviews with migrants, however, indicated that instruction was being received without offense from many social agencies on how to act, dress, and speak in such a manner as not to create unfavorable impressions.

There were some complaints of political exploitation and of being obliged to live in proximity to gambling and vice that were encouraged by political bosses in their neighborhoods.

The inquiry showed that membership in clubs, lodges, and kindred organizations was almost as universal as church affiliation. There were only a few families in which no member had any association with a fraternity or club. . . .

A Group Of Family Histories

The general statistical treatment of these 274 Negro families takes away many of their human qualities. For this reason a selection has been made of various types of Negro families in order that a rounded picture of the whole unit may be given. The family stories that follow include typical migrant Negroes from the South—common laborers, skilled laborers, salaried, business, and professional men. They illustrate the commonplace experiences of Negroes in adjusting themselves to the requirements of life in Chicago.

An Iron Worker

Mr. J-, forty-nine years old, his wife, thirty-eight years, and their daughter twenty-one years, were born in Henry County, Georgia. The husband never went to school, but reads a little. The wife finished the seventh grade and the daughter the fifth grade in the rural school near their home.

They worked on a farm for shares, the man earning one dollar and the women from fifty to seventy-five cents a day for ten hours' work. Their home was a four room cottage with a garden, and rented for five dollars a month. They owned pigs, poultry, and a cow, which with their household furniture, were worth about $800. The food that they did not raise and their clothing had to be bought from the commissary at any price the owner cared to charge.

They were members of the Missionary Baptist Church and the wife belonged to the missionary society of the church and the Household of Ruth, a secret order. Their sole recreation was attending church, except for the occasional hunting expeditions made by the husband.

Motives for coming to Chicago.—Reading in the Atlanta Journal, a Negro newspaper, of the wonderful industrial opportunities offered Negroes, the husband came to Chicago in February, 1917. Finding conditions satisfactory, he had his wife sell the stock and household goods and join him here in April of the same year. He secured work at the Stock Yards, working eight hours at $3 a day. Later, he was employed by a casting company, working ten hours a day and earning $30 a week. This is his present employment and is about forty minutes' ride from his home. Both jobs were secured by his own efforts.

The family stayed in a rooming-house on East Thirtieth Street. This place catered to such an undesirable element that the wife remained in her room with their daughter all day. She thought the city too was cold, dirty, and noisy to live in. Having nothing to do and not knowing anyone, she was so lonely that she cried daily and begged her husband to put her in three rooms of their own or go back home. Because of the high cost of living, they were compelled to wait some time before they had saved enough to begin housekeeping.

Housing experience.—Their first home was on South Park Avenue. They bought about $500 worth of furniture, on which they are still paying. The wife then worked for a time at the Pullman Yards, cleaning cars at $1.50 a day for ten hours' work. Their house leaked and was damp and cold, so the family moved to another house on South Park Avenue, where they now live. The house is an old, three-story brick, containing three flats. This family occupies the first flat, which has six rooms and bath. Stoves are used for heating, and gas for light and cooking. The house is warm, but dark and poorly ventilated. Lights are used in two of the rooms during the day. The rooms open one into the other, and the interior, as well as the exterior, needs cleaning. There are a living-room, dining-room, and three bedrooms. The living-room is neatly and plainly furnished.

The daughter has married a man twenty-three years old, who migrated first to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then to Chicago. He works at the Stock Yards. They occupy a room and use the other part of the house, paying half the rent and boarding themselves. A nephew, who was a glazier in Georgia, but who has been unable to secure work here, also boards with Mr. and Mrs. J-, paying $8 a week. He is now unemployed, but has been doing foundry work. Mrs. J- occasionally does laundry work at $4 a day.

How they live.—The cost of living includes rent $25; gas $5.40 a month; coal $18 a year; insurance $9.60 a month; clothing $500 a year; transportation $3.12 a month; church and club dues $3 a month; hairdresser $1.50 a month. Little is spent for recreation and the care of the health. The family carries insurance to the amount of $1,700, of which $1,200 is on the husband.

The meals are prepared by the wife, who also does the cleaning. Greens, potatoes, and cabbage are the chief articles of diet. Milk, eggs, cereals, and meat are also used. Meat is eaten about four times a week. Hot bread is made daily, and the dinners are usually boiled.

Relation to the community.—The whole family belongs to the Salem Baptist Church and attends twice a week. The wife is a member of the Pastor’s Aid and the Willing Workers Club, also the Elk’s Lodge. The husband is a member of the Knights of Pythias. He goes to the parks, bathing-beaches, and baseball games for amusement. The family spends much of its time in church and helped to establish the“Come and See” Baptist Mission at East Thirty-first Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. They have gone to a show only once or twice since they came to the city. During the summer they spend Sunday afternoons at the East Twenty-ninth Street Beach.

Heavier clothes were necessary because of the change of climate, and more fresh meat is used because of the lack of garden space and the high cost of green vegetables.

The wife thinks that northern Negroes have better manners, but are not as friendly as the colored people in the South. She says people do not visit each other, and one is never invited to dine at a friend’s house. She thinks they cannot afford it with food so high. She thinks people were better in the South than they are here and says they had to be good there for they had nothing else to do but go to church.

She feels a greater freedom here because of the right to vote, the better treatment accorded by white people, the lack of “Jim Crow” laws. She likes the North because of the protection afforded by the law and the better working conditions.“You don’t have an overseer always standing over you,” she remarked.

Life here is harder, however, because one has to work all the time.“In the South you could rest occasionally, but here, where food is so high and one must pay cash, it is hard to come out even.” The climate is colder, making it necessary to buy more clothes and coal. Rent also is very much higher here. They had to sell their two $50 Liberty bonds.

Economic sufficiency.—With all this, Mrs. J- gets more pleasure from her income because the necessities of life here were luxuries in Georgia, and though such things are dear here there is money to pay for them. Houses are more modern, but not good enough for the rent paid. They had to pay $2 more than the white family that moved out when they moved in.

Sentiments on the migration.—Mrs. J- says “some colored people have come up here and forgotten to stay close to God,” hence they have“gone to destruction.” She hopes that an equal chance in industry will be given to all; that more houses will be provided for the people and rent will be charged for the worth of the house; and the cost of living generally will be reduced. She does not expect to return to Georgia and is advising friends to come to Chicago.

A Factory Hand

In his home town in Kentucky, Mr. M- was a preacher with a small charge. Now, at the age of forty-nine, in Chicago, he works in a factory and is paid $130 a month. He has an adopted son, twenty-three years of age, who is an automobile mechanic in business for himself, drawing an income of $300 a month.

Mr. M- might still be a preacher on small salary but for the intervention of his wife. He came to Chicago about 1900. His wife came from Nashville, Tennessee, in 1902, and they were married in 1904. Mrs. M- felt that she was too independent to“live off the people” and persuaded her husband to give up the ministry. He got a job as foreman at a packing-house, where he earned $25 a week for a ten-hour day. Next he worked for the Chicago Telephone Company, and finally secured the position with a box-manufacturing company which he now holds.

Family life.—The M-s have adopted three children, having had none of their own—the adopted son already mentioned, an adopted daughter now twenty years of age, and another foster son of thirteen. The latter is in a North Side school. The girl is in a normal school in Alabama. Both Mr. and Mrs. M- completed high school. All speak good English.

Wife and husband have separate banking accounts. Living expenses for such a large family are, of course, heavy. For example, the bills for food aggregate from $42 to $45 a week, and more than $200 a year is paid in insurance premiums. Frequently a woman is hired to come in and help with the housework. Food in good variety is used. Illness prevented adding to the bank accounts during the year of 1920. An operation performed on Mrs. M- cost $650 and the illness of Mr. M- and the daughter consumed between $900 and $1,000.

Housing experience.—The M-s' first home in Chicago was a cottage in the“Black Belt.” They wanted a large house and found one on South State Street. The neighborhood, however, was displeasing to them, and they moved to the North Side to be near a brother’s children. The house was too small, and they moved again to another North Side address. Again the neighborhood proved distasteful, so they bought the three-story dwelling on the North Side where they now live. It is in good sanitary condition and is supplied with gas. As lodgers they have the wife’s sister and brother, who are actually members of the family.

Community participation.—They belong to the Baptist church. Affiliations of a secular nature include the Masons, the Household of Ruth, the Court of Calanthe, the Eastern Star, the Heroines of Jericho, the North Side Men’s Progressive Club, the Twentieth Century and Golden Leaf clubs, and the Young Matrons and Volunteer Workers. Mrs. M- is president of a settlement club and a member of the Urban League. After coming to Chicago three years passed before she mingled much with people. She had always done community work in her southern home and feels that her reluctance here was due to the fact that she did not know what the northern people were like. She found them friendly enough when at last she did associate with them.

Sentiments on community problems.—They came to Chicago because they had visited here and liked it well enough to come back and settle. Conditions are not all that they would like. They would like to see Negroes allowed to live anywhere they choose without hindrance, they would suppress moving pictures that reveal murder, drinking, and similar acts that lead young people to commit crimes. They would also like to see newspapers abandon their habit of printing articles that are derogatory to the Negro, thus creating prejudice, and of printing items unfit for children. Also they would like to see better homes for Negroes.

For the Negroes, they feel, life in the North is considerably easier than in the South, since they can always get plenty of work and do not have to work so hard as in the South. The mixed schools in the North are especially appreciated because no discrimination can creep in. The general lack of segregation on street cars, in parks, and in similar public places also pleases them. Still they see difficulties for southern Negroes who come North to live and are easily led astray. Southern Negroes are not accustomed to the new kinds of work and are inclined to slight it. This is, of course, unsatisfactory to their employers and accounts in some measure for the frequency with which they change jobs. This may also account for the fact that white people are averse to paying migrants well.

A Railway Mail Clerk

Mr. L- was graduated from the Carbondale (Ill.) high school and the Southern Illinois State Normal School, while Mrs. L- was graduated from Hyde Park High School and the Chicago Normal School. The latter is a music teacher. Before coming to Chicago, Mr. L- was a school principal in Mounds, Illinois, and Mrs. L- also was a teacher. They are northern people, the husband having been born in East St. Louis and the wife in Chicago. They have a daughter, three years of age, and have living with them a niece and nephew, six and five years old, as well as two adult women relatives.

Economic sufficiency.—As a railway mail clerk, Mr. L- earns $125 a month. He owns a house and lot in Carbondale and carries insurance on his life and property. They spend $37.50 a month for rent, about $10 for miscellaneous items, $15 a week for food, $4 a month for gas, $1 for barber’s services, and always $10 a month is added to the family’s bank account.

Housing and neighborhood expenses.—In April, 1919, a flat building south of Sixty third Street, previously occupied by white people, was opened to Negroes. The L-family were the first of the Negroes to move in. A few white families wished to remain and lived in the same building with the Negroes. Mr. L- says: “We objected, as they were not the kind of people we wanted to live with. My sister-in-law acted as agent of the building, and the condition of some of the flats was terrible. The owner was arrogant when the Negroes first came in, but he soon found that we would not be pleased with just anything. He told us he saw that we were particular and wanted things nice, and, said he,‘Seeing that you are that way, I’ll do the best I can for you, as I believe you will take care of the flat.’ The Negroes insisted on the laundry being cleaned and it is now being used.”

The L- family has had three stoves since moving in. After thoroughly renovating the building and making many of the repairs themselves, the sanitary conditions are good, and the owner makes no further objection to maintaining the good order of things.

The white people of the neighborhood objected to having the building occupied by Negroes. White boys of the neighborhood stoned the building, and its tenants were obliged to call upon the police for protection. This antagonism now seems to have disappeared. The white and Negro children play together amicably.

Community participation.—Mrs. L- attends the First Presbyterian Church regularly and Mr. L- is a member and secretary of the board of trustees of the A.M.E. Mission. He is a Mason and a member of the Woodlawn Community Organization, which has the betterment of the neighborhood as its aim. He plays tennis for recreation and goes to concerts and the movies for entertainment. The children in the family have made use of public playgrounds and libraries. Bathing beaches have been sought occasionally, and contacts have been made with the St. Lawrence Mission, a neighborhood institution.

Opinions on race relations.—Mr. L- thinks that agitation is of no assistance to the problem and draws attention to the fact that lack of agitation on the part of newspapers averted a riot in connection with one recent racial disturbance. “Housing is the greatest difficulty confronted by the migrant from the South.” It is his opinion, further, that the Negroes are not understood, that the white people fear them until they become really acquainted with the Negroes. “Contact,” he says,“is the only thing that will help to make conditions better. It is just a question of understanding each other.”

A Mulatto

Mr. A- was born in Chicago and his wife in Helena, Arkansas. He was educated in the Chicago public schools, and his wife attended Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, and afterward the Chicago Musical College.

Mr. A- is light in complexion and is frequently mistaken for a white man. Several years ago, without announcing his race, he obtained work in a label factory and remained for some time until it was discovered that he was not a white man, and therefore the only Negro in the establishment. The officials, being the first to learn his racial identity, decided to keep him as long as no objection came from the other white employees. In a few years he became superintendent of the factory, which position he held for eight years. He was treated as an equal by members of the firm, who visited him at his home and invited him to their club. He was also president of the company’s outing club.

A short time ago he decided to enter business for himself, and both he and his wife took courses in an embalming school. He now has a business with stock and fixtures valued at $10,000.

Economic sufficiency.—His business income affords a comfortable livelihood and a surplus for investment. He has bought one house and built another. These two are valued at $8,000 and yield $90 monthly. He also owns stock in the Pennsylvania Railroad and a fire insurance company, has $300 invested in Liberty bonds and owns a $1,000 automobile.

Community participation.—Mr. and Mrs. A- attend Congregational church services every Sunday and get much pleasure from concerts, lectures, and shows in the“Loop.” Their principal recreation is motoring. Mr. A- is president of an association of business men and of a charity organization. He is a member of several fraternal organizations, contributes to Provident Hospital, United Charities, and the Urban League. His wife is an active committee member of a charity organization.

Opinions on local race problems.—Mr. A- thinks there would be no housing problem if prejudice were not so marked. He mentioned a subdivision east of Stony Island Avenue where it is specifically stated that Negroes are not desired. Homes there are being sold for prices within the reach of Negroes, and he feels that at least 500 Negroes would be glad to pay cash for such homes anywhere in Chicago if they were given the opportunity. He feels that proper protection should be given Negroes against bombers.

A Barber From Mississippi

Mr. D- was a migrant and a member of a party of over a hundred Negroes who left Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in the autumn of 1916.

He was a barber at home and earned an average of $25 a week. Mrs. D- was a good housewife. They owned a house and lot valued at $1,000 and furniture valued at $500. They have two children.

Motive for coming to Chicago.—Mr. D- had always read the Chicago Defender, and usually got in a supply of these papers to sell to his customers and to supply topics for barber-shop discussion. His daughter, then a student at Straight College in New Orleans, was to be graduated that year, and he went to New Orleans to spend a week. While there he worked in a barber shop. He found that the migration was being much discussed. One day a man came into the shop and said he was a representative of a northern industry that was anxious to get Negroes to come North and work for it. He argued that the North had freed the Negroes, but had left them in the South where they had not received good treatment, so that at this late date the North was trying to right an old wrong and was now offering to Negroes a chance to work. On the other hand the Negroes were indebted to the North for their freedom.

When Mr. D- returned home he sold his barber shop and left for the North with his wife and children.

Life in Chicago.—Opening a place of business in Chicago, he called it the Hattiesburg Barber Shop. It is patronized largely by Hattiesburg people who came up in his party. His earnings are larger here, but at first his wife was forced to work in the Stock Yards at $10 a week to help meet the family budget. Occasionally now she works as a hairdresser. They pay $46.50 a month for rent. Their clothing bill amounts to $650 a year. Last year they spent $200 for medicine and an average of $18 a week for food. Their insurance premiums total $6 a month.

Community participation.—In the South the entire family was active in church affairs. In Chicago they have continued their church connections, and Mr. D- is one of the officials at the Olivet Baptist Church. They go to church four times a week.

Adjustments to Chicago.—They were quick to begin adjustment to their new surroundings, profiting by the advice and instructions of their present pastor. At the end of six months they felt themselves quite at home. They feel the need for using more careful English and are more formal in their greetings and relations with persons whom they meet. They enjoy the“freedom of speech and action” allowed in Chicago, the privilege of voting, the freedom from segregation, and the absence of Jim Crow laws. They think Chicago is fair to Negroes in so far as laws are concerned, but believe there should be better enforcement of the laws. They find life easier here, although there is more work to be done. They feel a great satisfaction in the more modern homes and other comforts and pleasures they are able to obtain. Each month they add a small amount to their bank account. They suggest that Negroes who have became adjusted to Chicago should take pains in a kindly spirit to inform newcomers concerning the proper deportment. They believe that if advice is offered in the right manner it will always be gladly received. They do not intend to return South.

A Stock Yards Laborer

A son-in-law of the B- family, also from Mississippi, is employed at the Stock Yards. His impressions throw light on the adjustment of migrants and on their views. He said:

"A friend met me when I first came to Chicago and took me to the Stock Yards and got me a job. I went to the front of the street car the first time I entered one here because my friend told me to; I would not sit beside a white person at first, but I finally got courage to do so.

"At Swift’s the whites were friendly. There I was in the dry-salt department at 22 1/2 cents an hour. The foreman, a northerner, had been there thirty-five years. He was fair to all. I worked with Americans, Poles, and Irish. But the work was very hard, and I had to leave. I carried my lunch with me. Negroes and whites there eat together when they wish. I am now working at Wilson’s. The Irish and Poles are a mean class. They try to get the Negroes to join the union. When the Negroes went to work Friday after the riot, most of the Irish and Poles quit and didn’t come back to work until Monday. They came back jawing because the Negroes didn’t join the union. White members of the union got paid when their houses had been burned—$50 if they had families and $25 if they were single. Colored members of the union got nothing when their houses had been burned. That’s why I won’t join. You pay money and get nothing. The whites worked during the riot; we had to lose that time. I lost two weeks. It seemed strange to me. It looked unfair. They are still mean and’dig ditches' for us. They go to the foreman and knock us, just trying to get us out of jobs. The foreman so far hasn’t paid any attention to it. I am working in the fresh-pork department, handling boxes.

“The Negroes stick together and tend to their business. Some of the Americans and Polish are very friendly. Everybody does his own work. We use the same showers and locker-rooms. They don’t want us to work because we are not in the union. One asked me yesterday to join. The Poles said non-union men would not get a raise, but we got it.”

Opinions on race relations.—“When I first came I thought the city was wide open—I mean friendly and free. It seems that there is more discrimination and unfriendly feeling than I thought. I notice it at work and in public places. Wages are not increasing like the high cost of living. As soon as one gets a raise, the cost of living goes up [May, 1920].”

“The whites act just as disorderly on cars as the Negroes. Monday evening two white laborers sitting beside a white woman cursed so much that I had to look around. Nothing is ever said about such incidents.”

“Rent goes up whenever people think of it. We have to pay $8 more since April. Things are getting worse for us and we need to think about it. Still it is better here than in the South.”

A Baseball “Magnate”

Mr. G- was born in La Grange, Texas, the son of a minister. As a boy he worked on his father’s farm, went to school, and progressed as far as the eighth grade. He was a good baseball player. He played first in Forth Worth, Texas, then in New York and Philadelphia, and finally came to Chicago in 1907. The highest amount he had been able to earn was $9 a week. His first job in Chicago netted him about $1,000 a year. In 1910 he had acquired ownership of the team, and now, at the age of forty, it nets him $I5,000 a year. His team has traveled extensively, having covered the principal cities in the United States at least twenty-five times.

Home life.—Mrs. G- was born in Sherman, Texas. She completed the first year high school at her home. She is a modest woman and a good housekeeper. They have two children, a son of nine and a daughter of three. Mr. G- has moved four times in Chicago, seeking desirable living quarters for his family. He owns a three-story brick building containing nine rooms, the house in which he now lives. In addition he owns $7,000 worth of Liberty bonds and values his baseball team and other personal property at about $35,000.

Community participation.—Both Mr. and Mrs. G- were church members in the South. This membership is continued in Chicago. Mrs. G- belongs to an A.M.E. church and is interested in and helps support Provident Hospital and Phyllis Wheatley Home for Girls, while Mr. G- is a member of several fraternal orders, City Federation of Clubs, and the Appomattox Club. Their recreation is baseball and dancing, and they find entertainment in attending theaters and orchestra concerts principally in the“Loop.” Mr. G- is very much interested now in a playground which is being established near his home and a tennis and croquet club for young people in the same vicinity.

An Old Resident

Before coming to Chicago in 1886 Mrs. L- had lived in Washington and Detroit. Mr. L- was successively a railroad porter, a night watchman, and a janitor. There are four children, three daughters and a son. Two of the daughters are married and have families. One is a dressmaker, another a stenographer, and another an accomplished musician. The son is a typist. Several years ago Mr. L- purchased a lot near Forty-seventh Street on Welts Street on which he built his home. In this neighborhood the family was reared. Mr. L- died several years ago.

Riot experience.—Although the L- family has been living at Forty-seventh and Wells streets for over thirty years, and relations between the family and the white neighbors in the block were cordial, gangs of hoodlums from other districts practically destroyed their property. The house was attacked, some of the furniture was stolen, and some was destroyed. The heavy pieces of furniture were broken up and burned in the street. The building was so badly damaged that they were forced to move into a boarding-house for a time.

Community participation.—The L- family lived in a section of the city in which there were few Negroes, but maintained an active relationship with organizations of the Negro community. They are members of the A.M.E. Church and Sunday school and of two fraternal organizations. Mrs. L- is a member of the Linen Club of the Provident Hospital and is actively interested in the Old Folks Home. Miss L- , one of the daughters, is well known in the community as a musician and composer.

A Physician

Dr. W- and family came to Chicago in 1910. He had lived in Mexico City until the revolution made living there hazardous. He was in good circumstances, maintaining a comfortable household with servants. Since he has been in Chicago he has had considerable difficulty in finding a home in a neighborhood fit for rearing his children. He finally purchased a home on Grand Boulevard which is valued at more than $25,000. It is a three-story building with brown-stone front, ten rooms and two baths, and many works of art installed by the artist, Holslag, who formerly owned the house, and who himself painted some of the decorations. Dr. W- has spent several thousand dollars on the furnishings.

Home life.—Besides the doctor and his family there are two other relatives. The physician’s income is adequate to maintain this establishment and in addition two high-class automobiles. Mrs. W- is a social leader and does much entertaining. She is a patron of community drama and attends grand opera and the leading theaters in the“Loop.” They were formerly Catholics but now attend the Bahai Assembly. Dr. W- is a member of two fraternal orders and two social clubs. Their recreation is tennis, boating, motoring, and bathing. He is a director of the Chicago Health Society. He is an examining physician and a member of the board of directors in a life insurance company. Both are members of the Art Institute and are active in supporting the settlements and hospitals of the community.

In addition to her social duties Mrs. W- continues the study of music. She is chaperon at the regular dances of a post of the American Legion held in the South Side Community Center, a member of the Library Committee of the Y.W.C.A., and is interested in the entertainment of Negro students of the University of Chicago.

They are living in a neighborhood in which several bombings of homes of Negroes have occurred, but Mrs. W- says that their relations with the white neighbors are friendly.

A Missouri Family

Mr. and Mrs. T- came to Chicago in 1919 the wife arriving one month before her husband. They had been living in St. Louis, Missouri, where Mr. T- was employed as a roller in an aluminum works. Prior to that time he had been a houseman, and before that a teamster.

There are two children. One is fourteen years old and in the first-year high school, and the other is seven and in the first-grade grammar school.

Mrs. T- has always been a substantial aid to her husband, and, as she says, she“doesn’t always wait for him to bring something to her, but goes out herself and helps to get it.” Accordingly, when reports were being circulated that Chicago offered good jobs and a comfortable living, she came up to investigate while her husband held his job in St. Louis.

Home life in Chicago.—The family lives on State Street over a store. They have moved four times since coming to Chicago in 1919, once to be nearer work, once to get out of a neighborhood that suffered during the riot, and twice to find a more desirable neighborhood for their family. They are not satisfied with their present home and are planning to move again as soon as a more suitable place can be found. With them live a sister-in-law and her child, who are regarded as members of the family. The house is in poor sanitary condition. The toilet is in the yard and used by two families. There is no bath. The sister-in-law is a music teacher but does not earn much. She pays board when she can afford it.

Mr. T- is forty-seven and his wife forty-six years old. He is employed at the International Harvester Company and earns $35 a week for a nine-hour day. He consumes an hour and a half each day going to work.

Although Mr. T- lived on a farm and too far from school to attend, he taught himself to read and write. Mrs. T- went as far as the eighth grade in grammar school.

Community participation.—The entire family belongs to a Methodist church. Mr. T- is a member of the Knights of Pythias and Mrs. T- is a member of the Sisters of the Mysterious Ten. They have no active recreation. For amusement they attend motion-picture shows in the neighborhood. The children regularly use the playground near their home and the Twenty-sixth Street Beach.

Adjustment to Chicago.—Their most difficult adjustment has been in housing. They think landlords should be forced to provide better homes for the people in view of the high rents.

An Embalmer

Mr. B- was born in Texas, lived for a number of years in Tuskegee, Alabama, moved to Montgomery, and thence to Chicago in the summer of 1906. His first position here was that of coachman for $30 a month, room, and board. His next position was that of porter, working fifteen hours a day for $30 a week. He accumulated a small amount of money, and, wishing to enter business for himself, and not having sufficient funds to attend a specialized school, he secured a job with an embalmer and worked for him four years. In 1913[,] he entered the undertaking business for himself. He is now buying a two-story brick building on a five-year contract, to serve as a place of business and a home. The business is young and was begun on small capital. To establish himself he exhausted his little bank account and sold his Liberty bonds. His equipment is still incomplete, and he rents funeral cars and other equipment necessary for burials.

Community participation.—Both Mr. and Mrs. B- are members of several local improvement clubs; they attend Friendship Baptist Church, and each belongs to three fraternal orders.

Sentiments on local conditions.—Mrs. B- thinks the town too large for much friendliness. Mr. B- believes that there should be a segregated vice district. His principal objection to the present scattering of houses of prostitution is that his wife, who is frequently obliged to return home late at night, is subjected to insults from men in the neighborhood. He thinks there should be a law requiring that landlords clean flats at least once a year.

A Young Physician

Dr. C- is a good example of the numbers of young Negro professional men in Chicago. His office is on State Street near Thirty-fifth. He was born in Albany, New York, and his wife in Keokuk, Iowa. They have lived in Chicago since 1915.

Early experiences in profession.—Through a civil-service examination Dr. C- secured a place as junior physician at the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium. At the same time he passed with high rating an examination for internship at the Oak Forest Infirmary. At the latter place he was promptly rejected because of his color, and at the former he was asked to leave nine hours after he reported for duty.

Economic status.—Dr. C- owns a house and lot in his former home, Albany, which he values at $14,000 and other property and stock holdings valued at $13,000.

Education.—Dr. C- was graduated from the Brooklyn Grammar School, the Boys' High School of Brooklyn, and Cornell University, where he obtained his A.B. and M.D. degrees. Mrs. C- is a graduate nurse. He is at present an associate surgeon and chief of the dispensary of a local hospital.

Community participation.—He has already assumed a position of leadership in the social activities of the community, is a trustee of the new Metropolitan Church, a thirty-second degree Mason, a member of the Knights of Pythias, Chicago Medical Society, American Medical Association, Urban League, and a director of the Community Service, and also an instructor at the Chicago Hospital College.

Opinions on race relations.—He believes that the recent migration of Negroes has been an advantage in teaching Chicago Negroes the value of property ownership and co-operation. He thinks the scarcity of homes for Negroes can be relieved by allowing Negroes“as much freedom as the American dollar.” Definite suggestions for improving conditions within the race he gives as follows:

1. Establishment of a permanent medium for understanding between the two races—a permanent commission to act in the adjustment of difficulties of any kind. This body should be composed of Negroes and whites.

2. Rigid enforcement of existing laws.

3. A systematic campaign under the direction of the commission among Negroes to teach them personal hygiene.

4. Negroes should join labor unions and refuse to serve as strike breakers.

5. When Negroes do act as strike breakers, the doctor thinks, race friction is created and labor is cheapened. Negroes can obtain a square deal from the unions only when they have joined them in sufficient numbers to demand justice by becoming an important factor in the unions. If they are not permitted in certain unions they should form groups of their own for collective bargaining.

A Young Lawyer

Numbers of young Negro lawyers are establishing themselves in Chicago, and their influence already is being felt in the community. A good example of this group is Mr. J-, who, although only twenty-eight years old, has been actively practicing law six years. He was born in Kentucky and has lived in Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, New York, and Oklahoma.

Education.—He completed high school in Kansas, graduated from Oberlin College, and then went to Columbia University, New York, and received the degrees of Master of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. His wife completed the junior year in college in New York, studied art in New York City, and is skilled in china painting.

Home life.—Mr. and Mrs. J- have one child of four years. They live in one of the 1,400 buildings owned by a real estate man of that district who“notoriously neglects his property.” The struggle to establish himself during the first few years in Chicago was difficult. Now Mr. J- has the confidence of a large number of people, and a clientele which provides a comfortable income.

Community participation.—Mr. J- is a trustee of the institutional A.M.E. Church, chairman of the United Political League, member of the Y.M.C.A., Knights of Pythias, a Greek-letter fraternity and the Urban League, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Friends of Negro Freedom.

Civic consciousness.—He thinks that if working Negroes and working white men can be led to regard one another as workingmen interested in the same cause the color question will be forgotten. He believes that prejudice is based on the economic system. With respect to housing he thinks a Negro should, as an American citizen, be free to purchase real estate wherever he is able to make a purchase; that as long as artificial barriers are set up there can be no successful solution of the color question; that a man’s respect for the rights of others increases in proportion to his intelligence, and that the press can be a great source of evil or good in educating the people. He believes that there should be clubs and educational meetings to instruct some of the less refined classes of Negroes in conduct.

A Migrant Professional Man

Mr. and Mrs. F- lived in Jackson, Mississippi, until 1917, the year of the migration, when they moved to Chicago. He followed his clientele and established an office on State Street near Thirty-first Street. Mr. F- received his commercial and legal training at Jackson College and Walden University. Mrs. F- is a graduate of Rust College and the University of Chicago.

Home life.—The F- home evidences their economic independence. It contains ten rooms and bath and is kept in excellent condition. They own six houses in the South, from which they receive an income. Mr. F- is the president of an insurance company incorporated in Illinois in 1918, which has a membership of 12,000. He has also organized a mercantile company, grocery and market on State Street, incorporated for $10,000, of which $7,000 has been paid.

They have two sons, nineteen and twelve years of age, and three adult nephews living with them. One nephew is a painter at the Stock Yards, another is a laborer, and the third a shipping-clerk.

Community participation.—They are members of the Baptist church and of the People’s Movement, while Mr. F- is a member of the Appomattox Club, an organization of leading Negro business and professional men. In addition to membership in three fraternal organizations, they are interested in and contribute to the support of the Urban League and United Charities.

Opinions on race relations.—Concerning housing, Mr. F- feels that some corporation should build medium-sized cottages for workingmen. He thinks that the changes in labor conditions make it hard for Negroes to grasp immediately the northern industrial methods. Patience will help toward adjustment, he thinks.

He thinks that colored women receive better protection in Chicago than in the South. His experience in the courts leads him to believe that Negroes have a fairer chance here than in the South. Agitation by the press in his opinion can have no other effect than to make conditions worse.

Source: Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922): xxiii, 170–175, 176–178, 178–180, 180–183.

See Also:"Says Lax Conditions Caused Race Riots": Chicago Daily News and Carl Sandburg Report the Chicago Race Riot of 1919
"A Crowd of Howling Negroes": The Chicago Daily Tribune Reports the Chicago Race Riot, 1919
"Ghastly Deeds of Race Rioters Told": The Chicago Defender Reports the Chicago Race Riot, 1919
"Chicago and Its Eight Reasons": Walter White Considers the Causes of the 1919 Chicago Race Riot