While called the Red Summer, the timeframe that most historians use when discussing these events is April through November of 1919. Times were tense heading into the summer. The war had recently ended, and African American soldiers returning home were not seeing the increased respect that they had hoped for after serving their country. Tensions between the races were running high in large cities as labor strikes broke out and housing issues arose. The number of African Americans living in northern cities increased exponentially in recent years with the first wave of the Great Migration. And on the horizon was both Prohibition and women gaining the right to vote.
The below timeline offers a brief glimpse into the events that summer using articles and documents to highlight each city’s riot or lynching. The same documents are also available in a larger view in the archive, which can be filtered by city.