• Red Summer

  • The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America
  • By: Cameron McWhirter
  • Narrated by: L.J. Ganser
  • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (159 ratings)

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Red Summer  By  cover art

Red Summer

By: Cameron McWhirter
Narrated by: L.J. Ganser
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Publisher's Summary

A narrative history of America's deadliest episode of race riots and lynchings.

After World War I, black Americans fervently hoped for a new epoch of peace, prosperity, and equality. Black soldiers believed their participation in the fight to make the world safe for democracy finally earned them rights they had been promised since the close of the Civil War.

Instead, an unprecedented wave of anti-black riots and lynchings swept the country for eight months. From April to November of 1919, the racial unrest rolled across the South into the North and the Midwest, even to the nation's capital. Millions of lives were disrupted, and hundreds of lives were lost. Blacks responded by fighting back with an intensity and determination never seen before.

Red Summer is the first narrative history about this epic encounter. Focusing on the worst riots and lynchings - including those in Chicago, Washington, DC, Charleston, Omaha, and Knoxville - Cameron McWhirter chronicles the mayhem, while also exploring the first stirrings of a civil rights movement that would transform American society 40 years later.

©2011 Cameron McWhirter (P)2019 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Red Summer

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    5 out of 5 stars

Better Understand 2019 by Looking Closely at 1919

Anyone looking for a clearer understanding of how America has struggled with race relations would benefit from this book. It's sobering, tragic and, at times, almost unbelievable. However, in today's social climate, Red Summer helps shed a huge light on how we got to where we are today.

Cameron McWhirter is, of course, a top tier reporter, and his experience and curiosity matches well with this nearly-forgotten chapter in American history. I was intellectually stimulated and emotionally wrung-out by this treasure trove. Packed with exhaustive research, countless interviews, and insightful historical perspective, Red Summer is a book that delivers more than I could have imagined.

As an audiobook, I must say that I have a few misgivings. I often felt the tone of the narrator was at odds with the book. The 'read' is a little smug, frankly. I felt a more matter-of-fact reading would have benefited the listening experience. Furthermore, there are many audible 'breaths' in this recording, and that's distracting. Not sure why those weren't edited out or toned down. Lastly, at almost exactly the 8 hour mark, I noticed that there was some technical issue - like an interruption or something...right when the book discusses a gentleman whose fear for his own life is sadly justified.

I would still highly recommend Red Summer, in any form. America would learn a lot about 2019 by looking at 1919.

Point of information: Some years ago I knew Cam a bit, and have always followed and enjoyed his work.

9 people found this helpful

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Strongly recommended!

Cameron McWhirter masterfully ties many events that lead to gossip and riots throughout the summer of 1919 in so many locations across the USA on the heels of the Great War. So many black citizens were blamed for crimes and attacked and killed by mobs, and even the court cases were far less than fair justice.. Chances are many readers have not heard of more than a handful of these events. There is a thread of a story that runs through the book that offers a hopeful conclusion. Do consider the possibility of getting younger people (students) connected with this book. Excellent work by this author.

8 people found this helpful

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another heart-stopping story

I never knew America had so much hidden racism.
and after listening to this audio I have realized not much has changed in the last one hundred years.
but understand your future burying the past.

4 people found this helpful

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So Glad His Death was NOT in Vain!!

It was an interesting read, but the way it continuously jumped around made it difficult to follow!!! I had to listen to different chapters over again in order to see the author's connections. Being an audible book made it easy & convenient to go back and redo chapters or portions of them.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent Account of a Pivotal Year

McWhirter does an excellent job bringing to life a pivotal year in American race relations. With more lynchings (in the south as well as in northern cities like Omaha) than any succeeding year in American history, and an intensely violent wave of white initiated race riots, it is a year generally understood in tragic terms. While fully acknowledging, in addition to carefully delineating this violence, despite often biased or incomplete accounts in the mainstream white press, the author makes an effective argument that 1919 also marked a turning point in African-American responses to it. African-Americans, many of them WW1 veterans, fought back against violent white attacks, meeting fire with fire, while also strengthening social and political organization through groups like the NAACP. The author mainly finds the shift in race-related attitudes and reforms after 1919 a positive one, linking it with (and ending with) the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The work being several years old, the audio book version produced in 2019, the events of 2020 may have provided another context in which to view 1919. What struck me was the way the press and politicians present events and protests, though it has changed, still often lack balance and accuracy and continue to represent themes now at least a century old. Any attack or criticism of the existing racial order is identified as associated with dangerous radicalism with appeals to law and order often used to crush out calls for reform. Despite perhaps demonstrating a tendency to assign revolutionary status to the black response to the Red Summer of 1919 rather than seeing it as an intensification and continuation of earlier trends and drawing overly positive conclusions, this is a worthy work deserving of attention. Reading it certainly provides additional context to the history of race in America. The narrator does a solid job, and it may be that critics listening to him at 1.25 speed, which I found to be the pre-set. At standard speed, the tone and inflection better match the material.

1 person found this helpful

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A must read

An insightful and informative chronicle of a pivotal period in this country's development and it's impact on our history.

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Document of a heinous history

There is no such thing as a "balanced" account of historical events. There is only the truth of what happened, perhaps with occasional information gaps which rely on perspective to fill out. Listening to this report of the deplorable activity of 1919, coupled with corroborating histories and my own experience, leaves no doubt at the causes and motivations for these atrocities.
On the one hand, there are people, historically oppressed, enslaved, harassed and disenfranchised, seeking merely to live free and share in the promise of a nation. On the other, there are people who enjoy that freedom, yet feel constantly threatened by the specter of having to stand on an equal footing with the former group. Who is more justified in resorting to violence to achieve their ends? The answer seems simple, yet invariably it is the second group who instigate the violence and perpetrate crimes against the former. Ethnic identities were consciously omitted in those last sentences, because it's clear to anyone reading who is whom. And it's just as clear, at least for me as someone old enough to have known family members old enough to have lived in that time, that the attitudes evinced by the latter group are absolutely recognizable in family history.

The greatest shame is that, even with the advancements detailed over the subsequent half century, there has been a regression in thought for the children and grandchildren of that latter group, to an archaic tribalistic distrust. To the extent that it's become impossible for some of them to even acknowledge that certain lives matter, choosing instead to engage in puerile games of semantics to conceal their bigotry. And I don't doubt that many of them would have visited the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Oh, but merely as tourists. They, like their ancestors, believe they can lie with impunity, because after all, they feel it's not their privilege, but their right. An excellent book, unfortunately all too relatable over a century later.

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Harsh reality.

American history that needed to be shared with everyone. I was glad that Elaine, AR murderous riots story was told . Hopefully, more information like will come forth.

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from 1919 to 2020

This is arguably a perfect source to see how far we come and this vaunted "progress" we have made. Only a centuries worth of evidence

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Historical Tour de Force....

The narrator was superb, to say the least. The relevance of this book is beyond paramount at this moment in history. The book contains so much connection to past events... After reading Wilmington's Lie by David Zucchino, and then finally listening to this book, a few characters in Wilmington's Lie made reappearances in this book, Red Summer. Worth listening to perhaps thrice. 1919 was a year of awakening that has been in many ways brushed under the rug like many other issues in America. All in all, from start to finish, this book highlights a blighted year in American history amidst race relations.