Chicago reflects on ‘Red Summer’ race riots of 1919

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CHICAGO — Chicagoans are looking back on a grim time in the city's history.

One hundred years ago, Chicago was the scene of violent race riots, known as the "Red Summer." That is when race riots spread across the United States as whites attacked blacks seeking equal rights, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured.

In Chicago , a black teen swimming in Lake Michigan was struck in the head with a rock and drowned after drifting toward the white section and angering beachgoers. A week of riots followed the death of 17-year-old Eugene Williams, with 38 people killed and more than 500 injured.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday spoke about the "forces of justice and injustice" that Chicago is "still reckoning with a century later." She pointed to endemic poverty, inadequate health care and violence as problems the city must overcome.

The city commemorated the anniversary Monday with an event called "The Past is Present." The program included performances by local artists along with speeches from city leaders.

Lightfoot marked the anniversary by launching the Office of Equity and Racial Justice. CPS is also rolling out a new curriculum to support instruction about the 1919 riots.

The city plans to create a structure to memorialize the riots.

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