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Bike Tour: Visualizing the 1919 Riots in Today’s Chicago - Newberry Library with Blackstone Bicycle Works


Bike Tour: Visualizing the 1919 Riots in Today’s Chicago
Saturday, June 29, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM (CDT)
Presented by the 
Newberry Library, in partnership with Blackstone Bicycle Works.
Lakefront near 31st Street Beach - see details below!
Free and open to the public; limited to 150 people, ages 12+. Registration in advance is required.

Join a large-scale, 10-mile bike ride through the South Side neighborhoods where violence erupted during the summer of 1919. Facilitated by Blackstone Bicycle Works, this tour will start at the only marker of the riots in the city—at 29th Street and the lakefront—and then move through Bronzeville, Bridgeport, the Stockyards, and back toward the lake. 

Tour leaders will mark sites of violence and encourage riders to visualize the past. Where did the events of 1919 take place? How have neighborhoods changed over time?  Where do we see boundaries and segregation as we ride?  How can we see and feel history in the city’s built environment?


The ride starts 500 yards north of the 31st Street Beach House, Chicago, IL 60616, along Chicago's lakefront (Map of Starting Location)


  • 9:00 a.m.: Check-in and bike safety checks begin

  • 9:30 a.m.: Mini-lesson on bike handling, safety, and rules of the road. Required for all riders age 12 TO 17optional for others.

  • 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Ride! Learn firsthand about the events of the 1919 Chicago race riots and their lasting effect on the city during our ten-mile ride. The tour will make eight stops, where tour and community leaders will explain the city's past.  Bike marshals from Blackstone Bicycle Works will guide the route and assist riders in case of flat tires or other basic bike problems.


The 10-mile ride route will cross through Bronzeville, into Bridgeport, towards the Stockyards Gate, and back through Bronzeville. (Tentative Map of Route in Google Maps).  This map is subject to change to accommodate local conditions.



  • Difficulty level: moderate

  • Riders must be age 12 or older

  • All riders must register and sign a liability waiver; 12- to 17-year-olds must have the waiver signed by a parent or guardian. Download a PDF of the waiver here and bring a signed printout.

  • All participants must be in the appropriate physical condition to bike 10 miles. The support van is for emergencies and not intended as a way to complete the journey because of poor conditioning.

  • Front and back lights are encouraged.

  • Cell phones should be carried for emergencies.

  • Each bike should have at least one water bottle for hydration.

  • Bicycles must be tuned up in advance and will be checked prior to the ride.

  • A route map will be handed out the morning of the ride.

NOTE: In case of rain, the bike tour will take place Sunday, June 30, at the same time and place.

About the 1919 Race Riots

The Chicago 1919 Race Riots precipitated the most violent week in Chicago history. They were sparked by the death of Eugene Williams, an African American teenager stoned and drowned by a white man for floating his raft over an invisible line into a whites-only South Side beach. The police refused to arrest the white perpetrator, and the city erupted in arson, looting, and thirty-eight deaths (23 black, 15 white) until the National Guard was called to restore order. The riots inflicted lasting scars on the city, still visible in the lines of segregation throughout the city’s built environment, its schools, and its selective policing.

Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots is a year-long initiative to heighten the 1919 Chicago race riots in the city’s collective memory, engaging Chicagoans in public conversations about the legacy of the most violent week in Chicago history.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Allstate Youth Programs, and Edith Rasmussen Ahern and Patrick Ahearn, the project is being coordinated by the Newberry Library in partnership with 13 other Chicago institutions. At the heart of Chicago 1919 are 11 dynamic public programs designed to engage audiences and encourage them to examine the mechanisms through which segregation and inequality have been created, solidified, and reinforced over the past 100 years. Each program focuses on a specific expression of institutionalized racism, from policing and education to housing and the media. Chicago 1919 aims to address difficult history, to come together in recognition and reconciliation, and to imagine possible ways forward.

Have questions about Bike Tour: Visualizing the 1919 Riots in Today’s Chicago? Contact Newberry Library

Newberry Library

The Newberry is home to a world-class collection of some 1.6 million books, 5 million manuscript pages, and 600,000 maps. We make this collection, and the discoveries it yields, available to users through fellowships, exhibitions, public programs, adult education seminars, digital resources, and more.