The Fight Moves to the Yards

Thursday, July 31, 1919, was payday at the Chicago stockyards, so the Black men and women employed at the Yards needed to go to work. Some asked for police escorts to help them pick up their wages. The police department refused to let them go beyond the dead-lines to leave the Black Belt, even for a short time, arguing that to do so risked white violence.

Others, determined to be paid, headed to the Yards on their own, apparently reassured by flyers that had been posted throughout the Black Belt advising Black workers to return to their jobs at the Yards. It was never clear who was responsible for the handbills, which were signed by George W. Holt and Eugene Manne, two officers in the all-Black South Side Business Men’s Association. At least one article suggested that the flyers were put up at Mayor Thompson’s behest.

To say the least, the flyers were unwise.

A white mob gathered on Exchange Avenue, just outside the Yards, and attacked thirty-five-year-old Richard Green, who suffered a fractured skull. A group of Black men were rescued by a National Guard troop that had to use bayonets to keep a mob of whites at bay, while whites chased and beat another group of Black workers heading in to the Yards near Forty-Third and Halsted Streets. The white mob beat three of the workers badly before a unit of the National Guard arrived at the scene. 



Writer. Formerly civil rights attorney. Currently professor. Working on new book about mental disability and criminal law in the 20th century.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s