By Deesha Philyaw
For the Pittsburgh Current
On October 27,1919, Albert Jeter, a 60-year-old Black man, was robbed of $50 by a uniformed police officer in Pittsburgh.
On January 1, 1919, Edsel Ford became the head of the Ford Motor Company, succeeding his father, Henry Ford.
On January 1, 1919, a wealthy and powerful white man transferred wealth and power to his son, also a white man.
On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect, authorizing Prohibition.
In 1890, Frances E. Willard, suffragist, racist, and national president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, said in an interview, “‘Better whiskey and more of it’ is the rallying cry of great, dark-faced mobs … The safety of [white] women, of childhood, of the home, is menaced in a thousand localities.”
On January 22, 1919, the United States recognized the independence of Poland.
On January 22, 1919, the United States recognized the independence of Poland, but not the freedom and humanity of Black Americans.
On January 31, 1919, Jackie Robinson, a Black baseball player who would go on to break Major League Baseball’s color line, was born.
On January 31, 1919, Jackie Robinson, who reportedly agreed to not fight back against the death threats, racist taunts, and hate mail he would receive throughout his career in exchange for starting at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, was born.
On May 1, 1919, racist white mobs killed three Black men in Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of Red Summer during which white supremacists terrorized and killed Black people in more than three dozen U.S. cities and in one county in rural Arkansas.
On May 9, 1919, the United States recognized the independence of Finland.
On May 9, 1919, the United States recognized the independence of Finland, but not the freedom and humanity of Black Americans.
On June 4, 1919, Congress approved the 19th Amendment to The Constitution, guaranteeing suffrage to women.
On June 4, 1919, Congress approved the 19th Amendment to The Constitution, guaranteeing suffrage to white women. Fifty years earlier, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragist, racist, and xenophobe, opposed the 15th amendment which would give Black men the right to vote, saying at a convention, “Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for … Susan B. Anthony …”
On June 28, 1919, World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Nearly 400,000 Black veterans returned home from fighting that war, perceived by whites as a threat to the racial status quo and as competition in the job market.
In Red Summer: July 2019, what will we do with a drunken sailor? Back home from the war, racist white sailors went on a days-long terror spree, assaulting and lynching Black people in the nation’s capital.
In Red Summer, on July 27, Eugene Williams, a 17-year-old Black boy, drowned in Lake Michigan after he violated the de facto segregation of Chicago’s beaches and was stoned by a group of “white youths,” sparking the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.
On July 27, 1919, a 24-year-old Bavarian American baker hit a 17-year-old Black boy in the head with a rock causing him to drown as he attempted to climb back on a raft with his friends. Black people dared to expect the white baker to be arrested. By the time the white rampage was over a week later, murderous white mobs had torched and destroyed the homes of more than 1,000 Black families.
In the fall, after Red Summer, on October 27, 1919 in Pittsburgh, a white, uniformed police officer robbed Albert Jeter, a 60-year-old Black man, of $50.
Deesha Philyaw is a writer living in Pittsburgh. She debuted her short story collection, ‘The Secret Lives of Church Ladies’ this year. She is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing. She is the co-editor of ‘tender: a literary anthology and book of spells: evidence,’ and the co-author of ‘Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce.’