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#527 Online: Chicago Race Riot 1919 Project


Peter Cole, CRR19 codirector
Franklin N. Cosey-Gay, CRR19 codirector

Living in a largely ahistorical society contributes to the persistence of racism in America. In Chicago, for instance, shockingly few people know of the city’s worst incident of racial violence, the 1919 Chicago Race Riot, in which 38 people were killed and 537 injured. Fewer still know it played a major role in the segregation that still defines the city. Lack of awareness makes it easier to deny this legacy but moving towards equity demands learning and embracing painful historical truths. The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19) seeks to attack such historical amnesia and denial that hold our city and country back. CRR19 seeks to educate about this history and legacy through public art. CRR19 is partnering with Firebird Community Arts’s Project FIRE, a trauma-informed glassblowing and ceramics program targeting Chicago BIPOC youth who have been victimized by violence. Project FIRE youth are in the process of creating 38 markers, one for each person killed in 1919. These artistic markers will be installed at each location a person was killed. Hence, when people walk down the streets of Chicago, they will be reminded of this history, which so profoundly impacted the City and still does today. To achieve justice and racial equality, we must remember the past.

Peter Cole, CRR19 codirector, is a professor of history at Western Illinois University and a research associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. He has also edited Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly and co-edited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW.

Franklin N. Cosey-Gay, CRR19 codirector, is the Director of the Violence Recovery Program, Urban Health Initiative, University of Chicago Medicine. His work emphasizes emerging Public Health practice that goes beyond just looking at risk behaviors but researching upstream examining root causes of violence such as the physical, social, economic, and service environments to address social inequities tied to class and race.

ASL This event will not have an American Sign Language interpreter.