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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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  828 ratings  ·  229 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: ya, 2018
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. ...more
mia :)
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was super interesting! I'd never really learned about this in school and this book was fascinating! ...more
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 rio ...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.

One of the most dramatic and heartbreaking stories of race and racism...I just...

This Coretta Scott King award winning narrative, reading like narrative fiction, gives the backstory, history, present situation and aftermath of the Chicago Race Riot.
The really sad thing to think about is that this story only occurred 102 years ago and this... still exists today....

I apologise for this not being a great review but I'm still digesting this one...
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 b ...more
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race-racism, history, 2020
Claire Hartfield's book is, nominally, an examination of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. But she does so much more than that here. Bookended by the riot's precipitating event and its fallout, the majority of this book is an examination of the world of the riot and the forces that shaped that world. Hartfield examines the rise of the Chicago meat-packing industry, the Great Migration, unionization, World War I, conflicts between competing European ethnic immigrant groups and Jim Crow segregation, ...more
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 th ...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 wint ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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 lie
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, nonfiction, 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?? Teens/a ...more
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 peop ...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
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. ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race, non-fiction
Super informative and interesting but didn't really grab me emotionally. The meat packing detail really made me want to stop reading altogether. ...more
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 Michigan ...more
La La
“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

This was a smooth uncomplicated read. The historical background given, building up to the riot, shows how the racism in Northern states at that time was a different kind from Southern racism before WWI. It was a racism constructed by industrialists which pitted European immigrant communities against each other and the Black community.

It was also interesting to read about how inflamatory word-of-mo
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diverse-lit
A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield, a 2019 winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, is a nonfiction book that details the story of three black teenagers who went swimming in Lake Michigan on a sweltering day in July of 1919, but the carefree day ended tragically when the boys unwittingly swam too close to an unofficial segregated beach in Chicago, setting off a violent and deadly week-long riot that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded. This nonfiction accoun ...more
Alyssa Heun
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diverse-lit
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature (2018), Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2019)

The story starts the reader off with the tragic event which would start the race riots of 1919 A group of boy were swimming and one of the boys was hit in the head with a rock where he drowned. As that was described, the book then goes into factual depth of what built up to the race riots of 1919. Many events such as tensions between Irish immigrants, blacks, and protestants. As well
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
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. ...more
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.
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
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.
Sarah LeM
Feb 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, however, there was a lot more time spent on the background history leading up to the Chicago Race Riot than the actual riot itself. It was still a very interesting book that gives a good insight into the racial tensions within Chicago in the early 1900s.
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
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.
I didn't particularly care for the layout of the book. I did appreciate the history that lead to the riots, though. ...more
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