Race War Flares Up: Chicago’s Swedish Press, the Great Migration, and the 1919 Riots

Ulf Jonas Björk


This study of the three large Swedish-language weeklies in Chicago examines how they covered the city’s African-American community during the latter half of the 1910s, a time when blacks migrated to the North in huge numbers. In Chicago, the result was that the African-American population almost tripled between 1910 and 1920. Little of that was visible in the columns of the weeklies, however, with only a handful of items telling readers that blacks were arriving in record numbers. What news there was about African-Americans, moreover, tended to portray them as criminals. Consequently, the riots that shook Chicago in late July 1919 seemed to take the editors of the weeklies by surprise. A major explanation for the Swedish weeklies’ coverage was that they relied almost exclusively on the city’s English-language dailies for news that did not concern their own ethnic group and thus mirrored the negative way the dailies portrayed African-Americans.


immigrant press; Swedish-Americans; African-Americans; race relations; ethnic images

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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