Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America

Written by Cameron McWhirter
Review by John R. Vallely

One of the negative side effects of the decline in newspaper readership is that fewer people are exposed to the artistry displayed by the better journalists. Red Summer will, one hopes, enable a wide audience to experience the top grade writing of Cameron McWhirter, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. The author presents the violent racial turmoil in 1919 America in a well-documented depiction of a nation seemingly on the verge of race war. Set in a moment when African American veterans of the trenches believed the country was ready to accept advances in racial equality, the black population was the target of white-instigated urban riots and rural lynchings that averaged almost one a week throughout the year. State and local authorities either blamed African Americans or “Reds” or remained aloof while the supremely racist Woodrow Wilson chose silence over federal intervention. Red Summer presents a disturbing look into the era of racial bloodlust that still shocks.