Blog Post #5

Harrison’s Chicago Race Riots provides an interesting narrative into why the Chicago Race Riots happened, but there’s little to actually back it up. An initial claim is that there were roving bands of whites and blacks terrorizing the other race, which with the Chicago Homicide data, seems to match up with small gang conflicts and chest beating. However, the vast majority of the pamphlet is centered on the riots not being about race per se, but rather the machinations of the factory owners. It should be immediately noted that the source is a labor unions pamphlet designed to get African Americans to become members, so its a little biased. The claim that it is the factory owners and local notables causing the riots for, presumably, lower wages and less union representation is somewhat a plausible accusation, but the data presented does not corroborate it. The race riot deaths are not, generally, strike or labor oriented, but instead seem to be random and spontaneous. While this does not disprove the pamphlet’s claim, it does diminish its validity. However, as Dunkelman points out in their article, data is not everything, and this is why I started out with saying the pamphlet’s argument was plausible. What is being said there makes sense, factory owners want to destroy the unions, and what better way to do so than to employ a sort of dialectic to control the people better. This dialectic is already constructed, whites versus blacks, and so employing it is relatively easy. A simple race riot, and the blacks will never join the labor unions. It makes sense, dialectics are one of the most effective control measures known to man, but there’s little evidence backing it up. While I think there likely is some truth to what the pamphlet is saying, I think it vastly over simplifies the situation and, obviously, is trying to push African Americans to join their labor union. Also, I am not at all surprised this comes from a pamphlet called Crimes of the Bolsheviks, and with the display of “Humorous – Entertaining – Instructive,” I am worried that this was all just satire.


George, Harrison, Chicago Race Riots,  Chicago, Ill., (1919) available at HathiTrust:

Dunkelman, M. J. (2014). What Data Can’t Convey. Chronicle of Higher Education, 61(1), 1-2.

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