The Construction of Racist Crime Data: Recording the 1919 Race Riot in Chicago

Sam Mitrani, College of DuPage

This paper will explore how the Chicago police recorded incidents of “crime” during the 1919 race riot in order to explore the origins of racially selective definitions of criminality after the Great Migration. This riot began with the refusal of police to arrest the murderer of a black child on a lakefront beach. It continued with police, according to all reports, largely taking the side of white mobs in an assault on black communities throughout the city. The police failed to stop the riot, which only ended after the intervention of the state militia. This paper suggests that the selective reporting of criminality by police during the riot set the stage for racial bias in the construction of crime data and police statistics that continued throughout the twentieth century, with long-term consequences both for police policy and for the social construction of race in the urban north.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 173. The Social Construction of Criminality and Deviance: Sexuality, Race, Housing, and Booze in 1919 Chicago