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A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919
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A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  550 ratings  ·  151 reviews
On a hot day in July 1919, five black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the "white" beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary
Kindle Edition, 213 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by Clarion Books (first published January 1st 2017)
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Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, ya
Informative and important, but the narrative didn't really grab me. Heavy on background (Great Migration, Eastern/Central European immigration to the United States in the early 19th century) to the extent that the book feels mistitled. Will re-read.
Jennifer Mangler
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history, ya
I really learned a lot from this book, and the history of race and ethnic relations in Chicago is fascinating, but it's not what I was expecting because the book is seriously mistitled. The very beginning and the very end of the book focus on the race riot, but the biggest central part of the book is devoted to setting the stage for the riot. That's necessary and important, because without this part the riot can't be fully understood, but it means that the book is about so much more than the ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley
*** I received an e galley from Netgalley in return for an honest review.***
I do not read much nonfiction, but I was interested in the topic having read The Hate U Give and All-American Boys. I agree with other readers that most of the book discusses the issues and the history of Chicago leading up to the riots and little on the riots themselves. I thought it was a good read and would make a good pairing with the books previously mentioned.
Middle grade and teen readers may find this account of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 fascinating because of the way the story is told. Although on the surface of things, it's clear that the riot began as the result of a white man tossing a rock at a black boy at Lake Michigan on July 27, 1919, resulting in the death of Eugene Williams. This action was only the match that kindled the fire of anger and racial violence, a bonfire that had been building for decades. After tantalizing readers with ...more
Randall Wallace
This is one of nine books on this now 100-year-old subject I’ve reviewed on Goodreads, what does it offer over the others? It’s the best-printed and gives you better photos and bigger pages to better envision yourself in Chicago one hundred years ago during it’s summer of racial violence. Chicago was founded in 1837 – it had two canals connecting it to the Mississippi and even the Hudson, and after 1848, when canals were built, the railroads finally came with their ability to move goods all ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chicago
A few boys drift too far outside the racially-designated beach at Lake Michigan one summer and trouble ensues. A boy dies and rumors fly and it is soon black against white and white against black. Many die as the destruction goes on for days, fed by lies subtly shared by standing city gangs and by those who profit most from conflict.

It's a dark story of people against people as pressures increase in the city after the war for jobs, for housing. It's a cautionary tale for today as well, with
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, ya, history
This is an interesting topic. I appreciated the depth the author went into about the Great Migration of African Americans to Chicago and the Irish famine, but also it's perhaps ultimately MORE about that than it is the titular riots? It's also a bit dry & academic in tone--would be good for teen research purposes, but harder to sell as a historical read than some other YA history books that read more like novels. Also: why do publishers keep making YA history books in these large sizes?? ...more
Kyle Pucciarello
Informative, but a little dry.

The first half of the book is mostly dedicated to immigration and setting up Chicago's variety of ethnicities. This is important to set up the riots of 1919, but perhaps too much time was spent on this aspect.

Once we get to the riots, we get plenty of information. However, I easily could see this done as narrative non-fiction in a more intriguing way that might truly get to a YA reader.

I also would have liked more of a connection to today's issues, or some grander
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature (2018), Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2019)

This piece of history took place 100 years ago in Chicago in July of 1919. It is not a good story, but still an important one that needs to be shared. For some, this will seem like Class Warfare at its finest - the division of classes reminds me a little of those in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The riot was between the blacks living in Black Belt and the immigrants living in
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although titled The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, most of this book focuses on building the background of what led to these riots: building tensions between blacks, white Protestants, and Irish immigrants. The division between blacks and whites, rich and poor, American-born and immigrants became deeper by the day in Chicago. Finally, on an unseasonably hot September day, a group of four black teenage boys was attacked by a white teen throwing rocks as they were swimming and rafting on Lake ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
I was really disappointed with this book. The layout is attractive and the supplemental materials (posters, photographs, etc) are interesting. The storytelling is the problem. Hartfield does not seem to take the intended audience in mind as she lays out the history of the race riot. Based on the book's format, I would assume this book is intended for middle grade readers. Teens typically would not pick up a book this size. Hartfield starts with the precipitating event of the riot and then goes ...more
Alyssa Gudenburr
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book 10 of my middle grade reads. This one was chosen as my 2nd non-fiction book and won the 2019 Coretta Scott King Author Book Award.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the history of Chicago that lead up to the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. This book is VERY academic and would be a GREAT resource for middle and high school reports/research. It reads as a mix between a textbook and a retelling of someone who lived through the events. My favorite part was the photographs, newspaper
Suzanne Dix
2019 marks a century since the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. In that summer of 1919, 38 people died and 537 were badly injured over the course of several days of rioting. Two-thirds of the victims were African-Americans. Despite this type of violence as categorized blithely as a “southern problem,” this marked a huge wake-up call that the North wasn’t as open minded as they liked to believe. Historically, Chicago was both opportunity and oppression to recently transplanted African-Americans and new ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A quick, interesting and enjoyable read. A Few Red Drops spends the majority of it's time not on the riot itself, but in setting up the context for why such a deadly riot occurred. By building up the history of Chicago at the time, and how the great migration, WWI and Unionizing efforts in Chicago Meat Packing industry stoked tensions along racial and ethnic lines, A Few Red Drops gives a much fuller picture of the 1919 riot. Solid rec.
Read it online. I knew nothing about the 1919 race riot in Chicago or very much about the meat packing industry and unions involved in it at that time, so it was an informative book, but it could have been much more gripping. The black and white pictures were appreciated and well used. And I felt it smoothed out the current state of unrest more than it should have, given the subject matter, though I suppose it was trying to end on a hopeful note.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the focus of the book is the Chicago race riots of 1919, it does a great job in covering the late 1800s/early 1900s changes in Chicago that lead up to the 1919 riots. The influx of immigrants to the city, the meat packing industry and the big bosses who definitely took advantage of the workers as well as the individual ethnic communities all were components that played a part. As the industry became more automated, the workers were being paid less and finally unions took off, but some ...more
Tippy Jackson
This focuses on the factors leading up to the Chicago race riot of 1919. Detailed but engaging, the author does a fantastic job describing the building tensions among the easter Europeans and Irish immigrants and the black migrants from the south, as well as how law enforcement, company owners, unions and politicians played a role in those tensions. It's very well researched, pulling from many different sources to get a complete picture of the time.

The author notes and I will add that there are
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This interesting nonfiction title tells the story of the events leading up to the Chicago race riots of 1919. I must admit I am ignorant on this topic and had no idea of all that transpired in Chicago. It opened my eyes to how racism grew in the north post-civil war.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, race
Super informative and interesting but didn't really grab me emotionally. The meat packing detail really made me want to stop reading altogether.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully organized with a wealth of history about Chicago and the Great Migration this book highlights the ways race is and has always been a barrier in America.
Emily Jackson
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I have read that discusses the Chicago Race Riot and a historical event about African Americans
Joyce Yattoni
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this nonfiction read about the Chicago race riots of 1919. I was naive before I read this book. I didn’t realize that there were race riots in Chicago. After all, this was the north and I thought the north had a different attitude towards people of color. After the Civil War many African Americans migrated to the north to establish better lives. However, European immigrants did not welcome these individuals with open arms. In fact, many immigrants were given favorable treatment ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone should read this.
Peter Kilkelly
Too kind to Chicago authorities and whites, even the idea of a "race riot" is somewhat misleading. This was white's using terroristic violence to enforce the boundaries of where black Chicagoans could go, with the help of the police. Still, it does include a lot of good historical detail and photography, for those unfamiliar with this event.
Amanda Baker
This was a quick read, but informative. While the book discussed the landscape of Chicago during that time, I believe, like many other reviewers, it was lacking in talking about the actual race riots. The narrative was well written and flowed well, but without this pertinent information, this book falls short of its potential.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The chapter headings in this book have a fine spray of red spatters behind them, which is a little disconcerting. Otherwise, an interesting history of something I knew nothing about.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, kids
It started out great, but then it stopped the riot story to give 120 pages of back story. It then finished with another 10ish pages of the riot outcome. By then I had lost interest and I think many kids will too.
Ryan Ostrove
This book was one that i was really looking forward too because of its historical fact and messages. This story is about a dark time in Chicago's past that all started on a hot day in July 1919. As five African-American boys swam at a segregated lake on this hot day, they accidentally floated a little bit too close to the "white" area of the beach. Even though in modern days this would seem like no big deal, but at the time it was not allowed. A white man began throwing rocks at the boys, ...more
Xavier Juarez
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Few Red Drops is authentic and informational for all readers. This book highlights the constant violence that takes place in Chicago, but describes in depth the events that happened before the riot of 1919 and after the riots. The problems that are in Chicago can be deeply rooted to the past events that this book mentions. Some of the content may be gruesome for students, but can be heavily used as informational. The different conditions that African Americans had to go through is well ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as an ARC. As other readers have stated, this book isn't only about the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. Over half the book is dedicated to Chicago immigrant history and race relations in the 19th and 20th centuries. The title would more appropriately be something along the lines of "Chicago Race Relations." It was a quick read with a lot of great historical photographs of Chicago landmarks and people; it was only lacking a map of Chicago and all the neighborhoods that were ...more
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