Over the past year or so I’ve read quite a few books about the history of Black people in the United States. Some of those stories have been filled with hardship, others looked for the good in people. Either way, the story of Black People in the United States has been one filled with tension. This tension exploded in 1919 with the Chicago Race Riots. A Few Red Drops delves into this time period, helping us to understand the cause, the event and the aftermath.
I have to admit it’s hard to know how to write this review. I started writing it like a book report, but that’s not what a review is all about is it? The Chicago Race Riots were a hard time in 1919. Immigrants coming in, Black Americans were free but often oppressed, Gangs were into everything, factory automated work was coming into play with lower pay jobs in abundance, there was so much unrest that when you add the heat of summer to it made for a keg about to blow…and it did!
In this 208 page book, Ms. Hartfield draws us through the many causes of the Chicago Race Riots. Then through the riot that occurred and the response of the city as it started to wind down.
The tome is divided into four parts:
Part one: Catalyst
Part two: First Whispers
Part three: Up from the South
Part four: Reaping the Whirlwind
Images dot the pages, bringing to life the troubled times. Reading through this well researched book my heart ached for the mom of that 17 year old boy. One young man, hit by another young man, two lives forever changed… one died, the other had to live with what he did. The battle that ensued after. Just such a difficult time …. an era that I don’t fully understand.
The descriptive, informative text was written at a level easily understood by middle schoolers (the intended audience). This makes it an easy read for older individuals, making it a perfect book to start an in-depth study of this moment in history, while being complete enough to meet the needs of middle school students studying race relations.
A Few Red Drops is a compelling read. I learned so much, because honestly I am not up on a lot of American history. It was hard to read about some of the actions one group of people took against another group. It was interesting to see how each group’s interactions with each other led to a massive riot that caused so much death and destruction. Times were changing and people weren’t keeping up, and the gangs that ran Chicago at the time, didn’t help the situation at all. Enflaming the mobs for their own amusement. It’s an era that I have a difficult time coming to grips with. None of the details given were overly graphic making it a safe read for middle school students.
A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919
208 pages, Trade paperback, Middle School and up
History, Black Americans, Riot, Race, United States history
Reviewed for Raincoast Books.
Where to find: Amazon Link.