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  • Writer's pictureRBC

Something To Remember

Day 3


i want to uplift the memory of the New Afrikans in Chicago who stood up to settler terrorist mobs during the Red Summer of 1919, where crackas initiated attacks on our communities across the u.s. In Chicago, as in many other cities, the terrorists were violently expressing their disdain for the 'black' refugees from the South moving into northern cities. We see the same sh!t today in the anti-immigration outrage, except We were on the receiving end back in 1919.

In Chicago, the unrest lasted a full week, ending on August 3rd. There were casualties on both sides, though our losses were higher -- New Afrikans 23, amerikans 15. To their advantage, the terrorists had easier access to artillery and the backing of state power, and, like today, not enough of our people had mustered enough courage to take a stand. Nevertheless, We courageously gave them a solid run for their money, as Claude McKay wrote in his classic poem that same year,

// Like men We'll face the murderous, cowardly pack / Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! // (from If We Must Die by claude mckay)

What was most shocking was that World War One had just came to an end. 'Black' solders thought that they were fighting for democracy but, as DuBois so powerfully put in a haiku:

// We return.

We return from fighting.

We return fighting. //

Harry Haywood was among those returning from the battlefront. In his autobiography this is how he described the battle scene in Chicago:

// Back home in Chicago, I was soon working again as a waiter on the Michigan Central Railroad. As I have already mentioned, the first day of the bloody Chicago race riot came while I was working on the Wolverine run up through Michigan. When I arrived home from work that afternoon, the whole family greeted me emotionally. We were all there except for Otto*. The disagreements I had had with my father in the past were forgotten. Both my mother and my sister were weeping. Everyone was keyed up and had been worrying about my safety in getting from the station to the house.

// Following a brief reunion I tore loose from the family to find out what was happening outside. I went to the regimental armory at 35th and Giles Avenue because I wanted to find some of my buddies from the regiment. The street, old Forest Avenue had recently been renamed in honor of Lieutenant Giles, a member of our outfit killed in France. I knew they would be planning an armed defense and I want to get in on the action. I found them and they told me of their plans. It was rumored that Irishmen from the West of Wentworth Avenue dividing line were planning to invade the ghetto that night, coming in across the tracks by way of 51st street. We planned a defensive action to meet them.

// It was not surprising that defensive preparations were underway. There have been clashes before, often when white youth and "athletic clubs" invaded the black community. These clubs were really racist gangs organized by city ward heelers and precinct captains.

// One of the guys from the regiment took us to the apartment of a friend. It had a good position overlooking 51st street near State Street. Someone had brought a Browning submachine gun; he'd gotten it sometime before, most likely from the regimental armory. We didn't ask where it had come from, or about the origin of the 1903 Springfield rifles (army issue) that appeared. We set to work mounting the sub-machine gun and set up watch for the invaders. Fortunately for them, they never arrived, and we all returned home in the morning. The following day, it rained and the National Guard moved into the black community, so overt raids by the whites did not materialize.

// Ours was not the only group that used recent army training for self-defense of the black community. We heard rumors about another group of veterans who set up a similar ambush. On several occasions, groups of whites had driven a truck at break next speed up South State Street, in the heart of the black ghetto, with 6 or 7 men in the back firing indiscriminately at the people on the sidewalks.

// The black veterans set up their ambushes at 35th and State, waiting in a car with the engine running. When the whites on the truck came through, they pulled in behind and opened up with a machine gun. The truck crashed into a telephone pole at 39th street, most of the men in the truck have been shot down, and the others fled. Among them were several Chicago police officers "off duty" of course. // (Black Bolshevik [chapter 3], Harry Haywood, Liberator Press, 1978)


* Otto was Harry's brother. He was a member of the Afrikan Blood Brotherhood, a secret, semi-underground revolutionary nationalist organization that advocated and practiced self-defense. He recruited Harry to join. It was in the ABB where the idea of the Black Belt Nation was first advocated before the organization liquidated and joined the Communist Party. In the CP Harry did the social investigation that gave scientific expression to the existence of the New Afrikan Nation. Having went to Russia to study he moved up the ranks in the CP and was successful in securing support from the Soviet Union in advocating for the 'black belt nation' in amerika.

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