Friday, September 20, 2019

YA Nonfiction Review: A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield

Title: A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919
Author: Claire Hartfield
Year Published: 2018


Genre: YA non-fiction
Pages: 170 (plus notes and index)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (IL)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): On a hot day in July 1919, five black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the "white" beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture.

Review: This book is an American Library Association Youth Media award winner (Coretta Scott King Award) for 2018 and is the last book for me to read to complete that challenge. I can totally see why it was chosen.

The author does a wonderful job of setting the scene in Chicago, and the country, as World War I raged and finished, black soldiers returned from fighting, unions built up their influence, and the north claimed racial calm in the wake of the northern migration. In truth, blacks earned far less than whites, were unofficially barred from certain neighborhoods and beaches, were hired last and fired first, and didn't join the meat packing unions in the numbers that white workers did.

As the riots broke out, white police stood by and watched until blacks attacked whites bringing the tensions to an ever higher fever pitch. These riots were only one of 25 that happened in the US that year. This book is written for teenagers, with wonderful archival photographs and first hand accounts of people who lived through the riots.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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