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Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  133 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
A narrative history of America's deadliest episode of race riots and lynchings

After 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 unpre
ebook, 368 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Henry Holt and Co.
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(showing 1-30 of 699)
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Mary Johnson
Jan 04, 2012 Mary Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well-written. How did we miss so much in history class? Or, more exactly, why was so much not included in high-school history class?
Tamora Pierce
In 1919 America was terrified of anarchists, workers' strikes, socialists, communists, the arrival of Prohibition, and black soldiers--men who were used to fighting--returning to the country after WWI. Riots and lynchings broke out in unusually bloody numbers that year all over the country, and a lot of things changed.

I didn't know that originally the NAACP was led by whites. During the course of this summer, the NAACP not only tripled its size and spread across the nation, but its leadership b
Bryan Alexander
This is an excellent, harrowing, and inspiring account of American race riots in 1919.

The bulk of Red Summer traces horror after horror through that year, as white Americans attacked blacks across the country. In Chicago, Washington DC, Knoxville, Omaha, and small towns from Arkansas to Georgia similar stories unfolded, beginning with accusations of criminal misdeeds by black men. White mobs assembled and set to work, lynching, destroying buildings, or rampaging through black-populated areas an
Jul 09, 2012 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I think there are more thrilling historical writers than McWhirter(he tends to pile fact upon fact, mini-biography upon mini-bio,event upon event, in a predictable rhythm), the sum of this book is inarguably great. The growth of the NAACP, during a summer in which blacks were lynched and race riot followed riot in larger number than seen before, is the anchor of this book;the organization came to life because blacks unexpectedly , in the experience of White America, fought back, in full ...more
Oct 25, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Red Summer recounts a series of events in American history that have largely been swept under the rug. Most Americans know about lynching parties in the Deep South and the power of the KKK. The Southerner as vicious racist is part of our popular culture. However, how many of us know that there were far more destructive race riots begun by whites in Chicago, Washington DC, and Omaha (Omaha?!), let alone the fact that many of these mob attacks took place during one year in our history and were tol ...more
Kevin Kizer
Oh man, an intense book about the intense year of 1919 when, in general, blacks started to fight back against the lynchings and racism they faced. A lot of this was fueled by black veterans returning from WWI. They were treated like heroes in Europe but came home to almost total oppression. Not a book to read if you are already depressed.
Aug 13, 2011 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Horrifying, gut-wrenching account of ignorance and hatred run amuck. But also, an uplifting account of people fighting back and fighting for their right to be afforded the same rights as white society. Well researched account of an awful part of this country's story.
Fraser Sherman
Jan 01, 2015 Fraser Sherman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The summer of 1919 was the highpoint for lynchings in American history. McWhirter looks at eruptions of violence in Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, DC and elsewhere and the black response. With many black men back from the war and believing they'd proved themselves the equal of any white, there was much less willingness to back down in the face of white violence. this is a good account, though I think McWhirter's optimistic arguing this is the turning point where everything started to get better (it's ...more

African-Americans have returned from meritorious service and victory in World War I in Europe. They have been celebrated and feted in the early months of the year for their service with parades and speeches. Hope for a better earned life is in the future for African-Americans as a share in the American Dream.

Post war domestic tranquility is not to be had for any or all. Economic slumps, social change and unrest, and old beliefs are all part of a dangerous fuel that will lead to the Red Sum
Diana H.
Nov 15, 2013 Diana H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
At the end of World War I, as thousands upon thousands of troops were coming home victorious, race became a deadly issue in cities across the country. Race riots broke out in cities from Washington, D. C. to San Francisco, CA. While the death toll has never been fully realized, or recorded, it’s a fact that many more blacks than whites perished during these riots.

Who and what was responsible for this outbreak? Many factors played a part, but the main reason it seems is that after fighting for ou
Oct 05, 2014 VerJean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not an easy read, but so glad I found it.
(don't remember what pointed me to this book, that I had to get thru interlibrary)
There's some difficult gore, made most difficult due to the horror of how humans can treat one another. I know this is factual, but found it extremely difficult to comprehend the inhumanity of whites and white crowds brutally torturing and killing fellow humans simply because of their black skin color.
Maybe today's brutalities aren't so unusual after all; while we hear more
I loved The Warmth of Other Suns, and this promised to be along the same lines. The book was good, and I think it chronicles a chapter in American history too few people know about. The last chapter does a nice job placing the summer of violence into a broader context, as well.

My only issue with the book was that, while covering the violence in the various towns, McWhirter throws out names of victims without ever letting readers get to know any of them. The names pile up--in a way a fitting meta
Jason S
Feb 01, 2016 Jason S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-rights
A fascinating and detailed account of race riots nationwide in 1919 and their impact on the emerging NAACP and the larger Civil Rights Movement. The book could have made much more out of the connections between the race riots and issues of class, as much of the evidence presented hinted at.
Mar 23, 2015 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: serious
This is essential reading. It covers a part of American history that I was never really taught in school. It provided context for works I'd read in my African American Literature classes - Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright. I developed a clearer understanding of the roots of the NAACP.
Sep 05, 2012 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-history
A better-then-average book from a journalist writing history. The writing style is engaging and he is thorough with his sources and documentation. My biggest issue, and this is not surprising, is that he does provide the depth of background that a historian would. I found myself wanting a much fuller explanation of the Red Scare, Great Migration, war demobilization, labor crisis, and African American war experience that led to the events he described. In addition, his decision to tell the narrat ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Rosanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From April until November of 1919, the country experienced a blood bath of lynchings, riots,beatings.The war was over and black soldiers returned expecting to be w3lcomed and to enjoy a better live.In Europe they had found acceptance and greater freedom, The USA had no intentions of letting this happen.Most of the horrors occured in the South but range as far as New Haven.New York and Chicago saw riots.The authors style is compelling and the book reads like a novel. He has extensive notes and a ...more
Oct 29, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book
In 1919 african american (black) soldiers came back from fighting for their country in WWI and found the same Jim Crow America. Empowered by their efforts in WWI, hopeful for improvement in their civil rights, they smacked into a white population that wanted them to go back to their place. A post-war recession made fighting for scarce jobs a reality. This aggravated an already volatile situation. Race riots and lynchings occurred throughout the nation. Governments were either passive or they act ...more
Mar 06, 2015 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McWhirter's study of the lynchings and race riots of 1919 is often painful and horrifying to read - as it should be. There is also much to be grateful for and to inspire Americans as we face racism today. Recommended.
Christopher Richardson
Cameron McWhirter’s Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (2011) is an excellent analysis of the unprecedented wave of violence against African-Americans immediately after World War I.
Jul 07, 2014 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
tough stuff, tough to take. can't read it all at once, too sad.
For school. Very important.
May 18, 2012 Mindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is not always a fast read, it is a fascinating one. This era of American history has been, rather shamefully, forgotten. The author does a really good job of showing how the riots of 1919 led to both the civil rights movement of the 60's and to the state of race relations today. If the book has a flaw, it is, to me, the multitude of personalities who are introduced (sometimes with too much backstory) and who the reader than has to keep track of.
May 28, 2015 Homerun2 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a compelling read, leaving behind both anger and sadness. And read against the current backdrop of riots against police racial issues, it makes you wonder if we'll ever get it right. I hope high school students are getting information on this shameful part of our past in their American History classes, but I'm not so sure.
Martin Hogan
McWhirter writes for the reader, not at the reader. He doesn't beat the reader up with injustice. He presents a fact by fact (as much as could be harnessed) story without formulating an opinion for the reader.

A tough topic not to carry an opinion within the soul.

A must-read for knowing the identity of American citizenship.
Dec 23, 2015 Britain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
First off, I believe any American should read up on the summer of 1919. It illustrates a crucial point in American history that is often not highlighted or even mentioned.

The book itself is well-written. Using Joe Ruffin's story from start to finish gave a nice narrative to the incidents making up the Red Summer.
Dec 01, 2015 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched, if oddly paced, but also highly disturbing (in a good way -- this topic should horrify you in many ways). Encourage anyone to understand the various civil rights movements through American history to read this.
H. Dair Brown
May 18, 2016 H. Dair Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched look at an important (and largely forgotten) piece of our American history that feels highly relevant given some of the rhetoric from the "make America great again" crowd.
Sep 05, 2011 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Very interesting... learned a number of things I did not know... the things that we are never taught when we learn history in school.
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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. "
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