Woman Recounts Living Through The Chicago Race Riots 100 Years Later

As this week marks one hundred years since the Chicago race riots in 1919, one woman who says she lived through it, shared her story with NBC 5.

The incident that lasted from July 27 until Aug. 3, caused 40 individuals to die and more than 500 injured.

Most who witnessed the tragic events have died except for a woman who moved to Chicago in the middle of those riots.

“I was crying because i was afraid,” recalled Juanita Carrere Mitchell. "Instead of thinking that we were going into a beautiful place or something, we went right into the race riots.”

The 107-year-old witnessed the 1919 Chicago race riots because, the 7-year-old at the time, had moved to Chicago with her family to live with her aunt and uncle when the riots came to their South Side neighborhood.

"All of a sudden I heard them say, 'here they come,' which meant the race riot was coming down 35th street and I immediately started crying,” she said.

Mitchell remembers hiding behind a piano while her uncle stood at the window holding a gun. She said they did not leave the home for days.

"This is a new place that you are coming to live and the first thing you hear isthat you have to hide, we have to protect you," said Mary Muse, Mitchell's daughter. "She probably didn’t know what a race riot was.”

The riots were sparked after a group of black boys, floating on a raft at 29 Street Beach had inadvertently drifted over an invisible line that separated the black and white sections of the beach. Insulted by this, a white beachgoer started throwing rocks at the boys causing one to fall off and drown. A memorial now marks where it happened.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot held an event Monday to honor the 100-year anniversary.

Historian Timuel Black says the negative attitude about the Great Migration of blacks to Chicago at the time, also fueled the riots.

“Regardless of what your accomplishments may be, that attitude was universal not just in Chicago but all across the country," he said.

Timuel black, who will be 101 years old later this year, was just a one-year-old when the riots broke out and says his family moved to the area where they happened a short time after the violence. Black says there is still a lot be learned from the events back in 1919.

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