A narrative history of America’s deadliest episode of race riots and lynchingsAfter World War I, black Americans fervently hoped for a new epoch of peace, prosperity, and equality. Black soldiers believed their participation in the fight to make the world safe for democracy finally earned them rights they had been promised since the close of the Civil War.Instead, an unprecedented wave of anti-black riots and lynchings swept the country for eight months. From April to November of 1919, the racial unrest rolled across the South into the North and the Midwest, even to the nation’s capital. Millions of lives were disrupted, and hundreds of lives were lost. Blacks responded by fighting back with an intensity and determination never seen before. Red Summer is the first narrative history written about this epic encounter. Focusing on the worst riots and lynchings―including those in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Charleston, Omaha and Knoxville―Cameron McWhirter chronicles the mayhem, while also exploring the first stirrings of a civil rights movement that would transform American society forty years later.
Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America
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"McWhirter makes clear in his carefully researched, briskly narrated account of this difficult period in our national history, African Americans were increasingly disinclined to take advice from even well-meaning whites. The NAACP, founded in 1909 by a primarily white group of Northern liberals, was transformed by the events of 1919 into America's premier civil rights organization, led by African Americans from the South."--Wendy Smith, Los Angeles Times
"The author brings a journalist's diligent digging and skillful storytelling to this historical account; behind the names of towns, he takes the reader into the lives of victims who suffered, perpetrators who destroyed, enablers who dawdled, and politicians who profited, as well as those who fought back. . . . McWhirter's valuable study, in chronologically examining the outbreaks of violence, may well qualify as 'the first narrative history of America's deadliest episode of race riots and lynchings.'"--PW
As McWhirter says, if you explore the whole story of those troubled months, you are left not thinking of America's bald and cruel failings, but of its astounding and elastic resilience. 'The Red Summer' is a story of destruction, but it is also a story of the beginning of a freedom movement." - Johathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"In 'Red Summer,' Wall Street Journal reporter Cameron McWhirter skillfully reconstructs this bloody and unsettling period, a pivotal stretch from April to October that produced ripple effects extending to our time....McWhirter's insistence on attaching names -- to the dead and, when possible, to those responsible for the violence -- provides the book with a cumulative power and a sense of historical accountability." - The Seattle Times
Starred review. "A riveting account of the summer that transformed American race relations." - Booklist
About the Author
Cameron McWhirter is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He was awarded a Nieman Foundation Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard in 2007. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.