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The Red Summer

The events unfolding across the United States today in the wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd, are an eerie repetition of events that marred the history of race relations in this country almost exactly a century ago.

The year was 1919, and African American soldiers who came home from the Great War in Europe with hopes that serving their country at last would entitle them to the rights of equal citizenship, found themselves on the lethal end of an outbreak of racial violence so horrific that the civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson called it The Red Summer.

In this episode of Black History in Two Minutes (or so) hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — with additional commentary from David Levering Lewis of New York University, Peniel Joseph of the University of Texas and Farah Griffin of Columbia University — we explore some of the underlying factors that ignited one of the most violent race riots in our country’s history.

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