1919
Poetic reflections on race, class, violence, segregation, and the hidden histories that shape our divided urban landscapes.The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the “Red Summer” of violence across the nation’s cities, is an event that has shaped the last century but is widely unknown. In 1919, award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing explores the story of this event—which lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost 500 injuries—through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present.

1919 Details

Title1919
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherHaymarket Books
ISBN-139781608465989
Rating
GenrePoetry, Nonfiction, History, Cultural, African American

1919 Review

  • Allison Nettnin
    January 1, 1970
    Haunting. Restrained. Powerful.
  • Cathleen
    January 1, 1970
    "A precision that is both beautiful and deeply uncomfortable..."The above originated in an NPR review of Electric Arches, but the sentiment perfectly encapsulates the experience of 1919.The creative vision that sparked this work is alone worthy of exclamation: craft verse in conversation with passages from a 1922 report (The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot) to shine a light on a criminally unknown event and what resonance it still holds today. The forms of poetry vary "A precision that is both beautiful and deeply uncomfortable..."The above originated in an NPR review of Electric Arches, but the sentiment perfectly encapsulates the experience of 1919.The creative vision that sparked this work is alone worthy of exclamation: craft verse in conversation with passages from a 1922 report (The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot) to shine a light on a criminally unknown event and what resonance it still holds today. The forms of poetry vary, but one element held in common is the illumination of truth, as well as what the reader/listener might do with this newfound understanding.The structure is eminently accessible; concise entries and overall brevity might entice casual curiosity. However, once phrases are taken in, the impact is inescapable. I might cite specific poems that moved me to break away for contemplation (the candidates would be many), but if I were to cite only one it would have to be "there is no poem for this" wherein the poet simply quotes a particularly heinous encounter and allows it sit with no additional comment. That restraint speaks volumes. When a heavily redacted memo pleading for tempered response, one that is revealed to have been received in anticipation of verdict for a racially charged trial in late 2018, is juxtaposed with the events of the Red Summer race riots, the option of looking away is untenable.This is an elegant, powerful work that is destined to prompt both conversation and, one can only hope, change.
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  • Leah Rachel von Essen
    January 1, 1970
    In 1919, my most anticipated book of the year, Ewing paints a history in verse of the city before, during, and after the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, sparked when a black boy at 31st Street Beach drifted over the invisible lines of segregation and was stoned and drowned. When the police officer wouldn’t arrest the white man judged responsible, riots unspooled across the South Side. Ewing’s poems are each inspired by an excerpt from a 1922 report The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and In 1919, my most anticipated book of the year, Ewing paints a history in verse of the city before, during, and after the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, sparked when a black boy at 31st Street Beach drifted over the invisible lines of segregation and was stoned and drowned. When the police officer wouldn’t arrest the white man judged responsible, riots unspooled across the South Side. Ewing’s poems are each inspired by an excerpt from a 1922 report The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot, that tried to capture the state of black people in Chicago at the time.In Ewing’s poems, the city itself comes alive. The trains sing of the Great Migration; the streetcar mourns in the midst of the riots. In “True Stories About the Great Fire,” the Fire itself speaks: the report says that some called the “Negro invasion of the district” a worse disaster than the Fire; in Ewing’s poem, the Fire refuses to leave a city that wanted them. In the midst of all of this, domestic workers struggle and a former schoolteacher mourns his invisibility.Ewing captures the horror, desperation, and fear that haunted the week of the riots and its roots in structural racism. Eugene drowns: “Jump / Rope” tells us this in the format of children’s jump-rope rhymes, emphasizing his youth, emphasizing the normalcy of a black boy dying at white hands while chilling you to the bone with its combo of nostalgia and horror. Ewing titles one excerpt about black men being stalked and hunted through the Loop: “there is no poem for this.” Ewing writes of Daley and his involvement in the Hamburg Athletic Club, among the instigators of the rioting. “sightseers” decimates the residents of Chicago who are complicit, who enjoy the city without ever engaging its current or past horrors. I read it five times and all five it left me in tears.The collection does not end in the past—after all, neither do the reverberations, nor the story of Chicago’s racism. An erasure/blackout poem created out of the email Ewing’s apartment building sent her the day of the Jason Van Dyke trial, warning residents of how to stay safe in case of violence. Ewing’s book continues on into the future. In one poem, children turn towards a voice that has told them it’s almost time; the adults can only follow. Ewing ends the collection with a poem I’ve been lucky enough to see her read: “I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store,” a quiet wish for a different present, a parallel past, where Emmett Till carefully handles plums, saying, “it goes, it goes,” a quiet push towards a continuing present that Till never got to experience.1919 is a brilliant book both of history and poetry. It tells of a moment in Chicago’s history that its residents don’t learn enough about, and it tells it through chilling, impactful, and gorgeous verse. Ewing’s newest is (naturally) a must-read.I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 1919 comes out June 4 from Haymarket Books.
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  • Mariel
    January 1, 1970
    A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of seeing Eve Ewing read from this collection at a bookstore in Chicago. The first poem she read was called "Jump/Rope," and when the poem ended, you could practically feel the air collectively whoosh out of every body in the room. The rest of the collection is just as visceral, from the first to the last moment (my favorite of all, "I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store"). This book is both a piece of art and a history lesson, a book that makes Ch A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of seeing Eve Ewing read from this collection at a bookstore in Chicago. The first poem she read was called "Jump/Rope," and when the poem ended, you could practically feel the air collectively whoosh out of every body in the room. The rest of the collection is just as visceral, from the first to the last moment (my favorite of all, "I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store"). This book is both a piece of art and a history lesson, a book that makes Chicago look different in today's light and a book that forces tears from you on every page. It is brutal and beautiful and difficult, and it's something every Chicagoan, and really every American should read.
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  • Zora Satchell
    January 1, 1970
    inspired me to dive deeper into my local history. Eve L. Ewing's work pushes me to find my discipline and strengthen my writing voice.
  • Kristin Runyon
    January 1, 1970
    What an incredible collection of poems inspired by a primary source, and all of them accessible. I think it’s important for Eve L. Ewing’s message to reach as many people possible, as necessary. I’ll be writing a much longer review more specifically for teachers that will be posted on the #TeachLivingPoets website.
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  • Gwendolyn
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the combination of historical information, photographs, and poetry in this book. 1919 focuses on the bloody Chicago race riot that occurred in that year and uses the official report of the riot as a jumping off point for the poetry. I was unaware of the riot, and Ewing’s poetry opened the door for me to learn about and understand the events of that summer in Chicago. Ewing uses a variety of different poetic forms to create a powerful and moving account of an important historical moment.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    The concept for this book is fascinating - poetry based on a civic committee report on the 1919 race riot in Chicago. It exposed me to a lot of new things, from unfamiliar poetry styles to a piece of history I knew nothing about. There are some truly unique pieces in this book and each page was different from the one before it! As with all poetry, I found it much more powerful when read aloud, but there is quite a bit of visual impact throughout the book through the use of historic photos and in The concept for this book is fascinating - poetry based on a civic committee report on the 1919 race riot in Chicago. It exposed me to a lot of new things, from unfamiliar poetry styles to a piece of history I knew nothing about. There are some truly unique pieces in this book and each page was different from the one before it! As with all poetry, I found it much more powerful when read aloud, but there is quite a bit of visual impact throughout the book through the use of historic photos and interesting layouts of the words.
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  • Joy Messinger
    January 1, 1970
    [5 stars] A poetic retelling of anti-Black violence in Chicago centering the 1919 race riots. Creative, expansive, devastating, curious. At the same time, a reflection on history and the present. My favorite poems were ‘in November’, ‘or does it explode’, ‘Jump / Rope’, ‘The Street Car Speaks’, and ‘Countless Schemes’.
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  • Vivian
    January 1, 1970
    I appreciate Eve's insight into the 1919 Chicago race riots and how she chose to express it in verse. My favorites are 'or does it explode', 'keeping house', 'Jump / Rope', 'Countless Schemes' and 'upon seeing a picture of a car in a school book'. What a time to reflect on this tragic event with the centennial anniversary of the race riots approaching in July.
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  • André Habet
    January 1, 1970
    There are some poems in here I really love, but I repeatedly (without meaning to) compared it to Ewing's debut Electric Arches, which was a disservice to the specific project at work here as Arches speculative fiction elements really enthralled me.
  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    A beautiful meditation and mediation of one of Chicago's worst moments.
  • Demarcus Robinson
    January 1, 1970
    A truly beautiful offering that is also sad in the history it covers and the present day it connects these events to.
  • John Ward
    January 1, 1970
    Very moving, great poetry / story
  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    a history lesson in verse
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