This Day in History

July 19, 1919: Riot in Washington, D.C.

Time Periods: World War I: 1910 - 1919
Themes: African American, Racism & Racial Identity
Red Summer DC | Zinn Education Project

Newspaper article about riot.

On July 19, 1919 a major “race riot” broke out across Washington, D.C. as white mobs attacked predominately African American communities in Southwest D.C. The mob was retaliating against an alleged assault of white woman by a Black man.

On Sunday, July 20, the violence continued to grow, in part because the seven-hundred-member Metropolitan Police Department failed to intervene. African Americans continued to face brutal beatings in the streets of Washington, at the Center Market on Seventh Street NW, and even in front of the White House.

By the late hours of Sunday night, July 20, the African American community began to fight back. After four days of violence and no police intervention, President Woodrow Wilson finally ordered nearly two thousand soldiers from nearby military bases into Washington to suppress the rioting. However, a heavy summer rain, rather than the troops themselves, effectively ended the riot on July 23.

The riots resulted in approximately 39 deaths and over 100 injuries suffered by individuals of both races.

The riot was one of twenty “race riots” across the nation during the so-called Red Summer, but was distinguished by strong and organized black resistance to white violence. (Description from Blackpast.org)

Related Resources

Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America by Cameron McWhirter

1919 The Year Of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back by David F Krugler

A lesson for high school and more resources below.