• The Book

    A narrative history of America’s deadliest episode of race riots and lynchings

    After World War One, black Americans fervently hoped for a new epoch of peace, prosperity, and equality. Black soldiers believed their participation in the fight to make the world safe for democracy finally earned them rights they had been promised since the close of the Civil War.

    Instead, an unprecedented wave of antiblack riots and lynchings swept the country. From April to November of 1919, the racial unrest rolled across the South into the North and the Midwest, even to the nation’s capital. Millions of lives were disrupted, and hundreds of lives were lost. Blacks responded by fighting back with an intensity and determination never seen before.

    Red Summer is the first narrative history written about this epic encounter. Focusing on the worst riots and lynchings—including those in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Charleston, Omaha and Knoxville—Cameron McWhirter chronicles the mayhem, while also exploring the first stirrings of a civil rights movement that would transform American society forty years later.


    Praise for Red Summer

    Starred review. “A riveting account of the summer that transformed American race relations.”—Booklist

    “Masterly examination of the widespread outbreak of racially motivated mob violence in the summer of 1919. In his debut, Wall Street Journal staff reporter McWhirter describes in gripping detail a wave of incidents of mob violence that erupted across America in the summer following the end of World War I. … Throughout the book, the author writes with professional detachment, permitting his subjects’ words and deeds to speak eloquently for themselves, amplified by liberal quotation from the vibrant black press of the period. An unsettling reminder of the cruelty and hatred that can lie beneath the surface of a nation formally committed to equal justice for all, but also a monument to the suffering and perseverance of a people at last determined to demand rights promised but too long denied.”—Kirkus Reviews

    “The author brings a journalist’s diligent digging and skillful storytelling to this historical account; behind the names of towns, he takes the reader into the lives of victims who suffered, perpetrators who destroyed, enablers who dawdled, and politicians who profited, as well as those who fought back. … McWhirter’s valuable study, in chronologically examining the outbreaks of violence, may well qualify as ‘the first narrative history of America’s deadliest episode of race riots and lynchings.’”—Publishers Weekly

    “McWhirter’s narrative style will engage general readers unfamiliar with events during America’s early 20th-century civil rights struggle. Professional historians will appreciate the extensive, well-sourced newspaper and archival research.”—Library Journal


    Map of the Major Red Summer Riots and Lynchings