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Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America Hardcover – July 19, 2011


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Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America + Never Been a Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805089063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805089066
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"McWhirter makes clear in his carefully researched, briskly narrated account of this difficult period in our national history, African Americans were increasingly disinclined to take advice from even well-meaning whites. The NAACP, founded in 1909 by a primarily white group of Northern liberals, was transformed by the events of 1919 into America’s premier civil rights organization, led by African Americans from the South."—Wendy Smith, Los Angeles Times

"That it is one of the most shameful periods in our history is beyond question. Yet McWhirter is right to insist that during this same time, forgotten though it may be, ‘Black America awakened politically, socially, and artistically [as] never before.’ The first stirrings of what became the Harlem Renaissance were felt, and seeds were planted that bore fruit in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. As McWhirter says, if you explore the whole story of those troubled months, you are left not thinking of America’s bald and cruel failings, but of its astounding and elastic resilience. ‘The Red Summer’ is a story of destruction, but it is also a story of the beginning of a freedom movement."— Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"A riveting account of the summer that transformed American race relations."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (Starred Review)

"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.’"—PW

"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."—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library Journal

"McWhirter, a reporter who has worked around the globe and is now based at the Atlanta bureau of the Wall Street Journal, makes his case with deft prose and an exhaustive survey of the historical record… His reportorial skills make this an original and skillful contribution to the literature on the subject."—Jim Cullen, History News Network

"In Red Summer, Wall Street Journal reporter Cameron McWhirter skillfully reconstructs this bloody and unsettling period, a pivotal stretch from April to October that produced ripple effects extending to our time. . . . There's a social consciousness to McWhirter's approach that is enormously appealing. It's as if he's walking through a neglected graveyard, etching names into gravestones that we have allowed to fade for fear of the stories that go with all those deaths. . . McWhirter's insistence on attaching names—to the dead and, when possible, to those responsible for the violence—provides the book with a cumulative power and a sense of historical accountability."—Ken Armstrong, Seattle Times

"Cameron McWhirter, not a historian but a journalist, has written [a fresh, compelling book about race relations]."—Steve Weinberg, Atlanta Journal Constitution

"McWhirter weaves an understated, powerful narrative. . . In unflinching, just-the-facts style bolstered with copious footnotes, McWhirter describes how the entrenched white power structure—small-town police, elected officials, businessmen and even newspapers—were bent on preserving the social order in uncertain economic times. But African-Americans, some of whom had fought with valor in World War I, were chafing under Jim Crow rule and discrimination in the open marketplace."—Joseph Williams, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A must read! This visual chronicle is enhanced with pictures and the antidotes of heroes such as Thurgood Marshall, James Weldon Johnson, and W.E. B. Du Bois. I’d characterize this selection as a Black historian’s dream work. I tread through the pages spellbound with feelings of sadness, pain, and hope. Students and educators will find this is a book to cite and refer to for many years to come."—Rosetta Codling, Atlanta Examiner

"There are plenty of eye-opening revelations in Red Summer. . . the first narrative history of that epochal year. McWhirter is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and much of the obviously extensive research he has done involves the way the newspapers covered the violence at the time. Not only does he give narratives of the causes and details of the riots in Chicago, Washington, Omaha and other cities, he gives a broader picture of the reasons 1919 should have been a particular year for racial violence, and the changes the violence wrought."—Rob Hardy, The Columbus Dispatch

"It has taken nearly a century for a narrative history of this tragic episode in American history to be written, and Wall Street Journal reporter Cameron McWhirter has done a superb job in Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America. The book is well-researched, and McWhirter's journalistic skills serve him well in writing about such a sensitive subject. His prose is carefully constructed and clear, and he avoids the temptation to embellish."—Michael Taylor, Richmond Times Dispatch

"Cameron McWhirter, staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal and author of Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America has done a top-notch job of shining a light on a particularly horrific chapter in a long line of appalling treatment of African-Americans." –Peggy Carlson, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"Weaving the great economic and political tides of the post-World War I era together with deeply personal stories, researched and written with an artist’s eye for detail and a novelist’s sense of pacing, Cameron McWhirter recounts an eight-month ‘spasm of brutality’ in which white mobs attached more than two dozen African-American communities."—Hamilton College Magazine

"The old boast is that everything is bigger and better in America. Cameron McWhirter's comprehensive history of the terrible Red Summer of 1919 reminds us that, because our failures at democracy are also very big, we have to be even better at understanding why."—David Levering Lewis, author of King: A Biography and W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919

 

 

About the Author

Cameron McWhirter is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He was awarded a Nieman Foundation Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard in 2007. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.


More About the Author

Cameron McWhirter is the author of the Red Summer. Learn more at www.cameronmcwhirter.com.

He is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from Hamilton College, where he majored in history. He earned a masters from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and has worked for several news organizations including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Detroit News. He has been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for research in Eritrea and the Sudan, and a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, where he conceived this book. He lives in Decatur, Georgia, with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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He does excellent interview and research.
Kyo Takahashi
The author brings this historial period alive for the reader to envision what America Racial life was like in 1919.
Yusuf 97
This is a very detailed description of the racial riots and killings in 1919.
Paul L. Thrash-

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
We have had the occasional flare-up of mass racial violence in the past few decades. We have had nothing like the summer of 1919, when there were riots and lynchings in many large American cities, and countless episodes of violence in smaller ones. They changed race relations and changed America forever, but perhaps because 1919 is now so far away, few recognize it as a time monumental in the history of American civil rights. Thus there are plenty of eye-opening revelations in _Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America_ (Henry Holt) by Cameron McWhirter, the first narrative history of that epochal year. McWhirter is a reporter for _The Wall Street Journal_, and much of the obviously extensive research he has done involves the way the newspapers covered the violence at the time. Not only does he give narratives of the causes and details of the riots in Chicago, Washington, Omaha, and other cities, he gives a broader picture of the reasons 1919 should have been a particular year for racial violence, and the changes the violence wrought.

Many Americans, and much of the world, were looking for 1919 to be a year of spreading peace and good will. Thousands of black soldiers returned from The Great War with higher expectations, and their families and communities shared the optimism that there would be change. White society was, to put it lightly, not ready for change, and was fearful that change might come. There was an upsurge in lynching, with NAACP files showing 52 black people being lynched during the year, and not just in the South.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a student of Afro-American history, I've often read about 1919. This is the first book I've come across, though, that treats the events of that year as a whole.

1919 really was a watershed in racial relations. The US actually came pretty close to an out-and-out race war. Imagine Chicago and DC paralyzed for days. Imagine hundreds killed. Imagine one of the worst years on records for lynchings. Imagine incidents from California to Connecticut. Imagine US soldiers training machine guns on fleeing, innocent African Americans. Yup, it's all real.

As depressing as all this sounds, McWhirter is able to show how all this resulted in some positives, and basically started the Civil Right movement. Part of that is the growth of the NAACP, with incredible leadership shown by DuBois, Johnson, and others. Another part is the fact that African Americans simply fought back for the first time. McWhirter ties that to a number of factors - service in WWI, migration North, etc.

In fact, in addition to all the incidents he covers, he does a good job explaining causes and repurcussions as well. He also ties it all together with a fascinating story about a small crossroads in Georgia. Basically, the victim of an incident there has a great grandson who becomes a Federal judge.

1919 is often tied to the Red Scare. What happened in race relations that year, though, seems equally - if not more - important.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By smooches on September 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
i won't report on the outstanding research and treatment of the subject of the "red summer". it has been done excellently by previous reviewers (particularly r.hardy)... i will say that i'm astounded that there are 5, now 6 reviews of a historical work that outlines a period that reshaped america...but there are nearly 5000 reviews of an insulting piece, entitled the help...i love fiction and historical fiction usually offers great story and historical insight...the help is a slap in the faces of the women who performed those services...it's a slap in the faces of those who read and those who put honest "work" into writing...mcwhirter did great research, wrote well, tied the period to what's happening today...but outside academic circles will most likely, only be stumbled upon accidently...i'm embarrassed by the need of so many to embrace historical misrepresentation...but, the truths in texts such as "red summer" go unread...i'm astounded...smh
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pamela D on October 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Red Summer" is a remarkable piece of reporting and storytelling that reminds us of events that should never be forgotten. McWhirter's book combines the in-depth research and attention to details of a historian with the ability of a skilled journalist to weave personalities and events into a compelling narrative. Highly recommended.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gray History on September 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though it is painful to read this book, it is written with careful research which is constantly referenced. The documentation of the atrocities is in place. It is a dreadful part of the history of our country, and this information needs to be made common knowledge. It is not something to be glossed over, forgotten or denied.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Sanity Inspector on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A great achievement of research and shoe-leather journalism, to reconstruct an awful summer of America at her most unsettled and paranoid. The Great War proved to be a false dawn of equal rights for blacks, as the returning veterans were hammered by white society back into "their place". The focus is on the remarkable trio of W.E.B. Dubois, Walter Williams, and James Weldon Johnson, as they and the young NAACP try to cope with cascading racial violence that year. It's no wonder that Dubois in particular finally gave up on America in later years--he had been fighting for equal rights for decades, and was rewarded in 1919 with the worst racial violence in living memory.

One very touching scene involve author McWhirter meeting an elderly judge, a descendant of a riot victim, and enlightening him as to his ancestor's fate.

The past is another country--they do things differently there. It is shocking to see smiling crowds--crowds!--of white people posing with incinerated bodies of lynching victims. The sad fact is that the country simply wasn't ready for equal rights back then, much to our shame. A valuable work of historical recovery.
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