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City of Scoundrels: The Twelve Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicagoby Gary Krist
Synopses & Reviews
The masterfully told story of twelve volatile days in the life of Chicago, when an aviation disaster, a race riot, a crippling transit strike, and a sensational child murder transfixed and roiled a city already on the brink of collapse.
When 1919 began, the city of Chicago seemed on the verge of transformation. Modernizers had an audacious, expensive plan to turn the city from a brawling, unglamorous place into "the Metropolis of the World." But just as the dream seemed within reach, pandemonium broke loose and the city's highest ambitions were suddenly under attack by the same unbridled energies that had given birth to them in the first place.
It began on a balmy Monday afternoon when a blimp in flames crashed through the roof of a busy downtown bank, incinerating those inside. Within days, a racial incident at a hot, crowded South Side beach spiraled into one of the worst urban riots in American history, followed by a transit strike that paralyzed the city. Then, when it seemed as if things could get no worse, police searching for a six-year-old girl discovered her body in a dark North Side basement.
Meticulously researched and expertly paced, City of Scoundrels captures the tumultuous birth of the modern American city, with all of its light and dark aspects in vivid relief.
"Drawing readers in by focusing on the stories of individual Chicoans affected by a series of tragic events, Krist (The White Cascade) describes a Chicago that was 'push... to the edge of civic disintegration' by 12 days of crises in the summer of 1919. On Monday, July 21, an experimental Goodyear blimp flying over the densely populated downtown Loop district to promote an amusement park suddenly burst into flames and crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, injuring 27 and killing 13. The next day, the six-year-old daughter of Scottish immigrant grocers was snatched and choked to death by a neighbor who buried her body in the basement of their apartment building. On Saturday, July 26, a highly regarded municipal court judge committed suicide by jumping from his City Hall chambers, and on Sunday, a black youth's death caused by a white bather at a whites'-only beach sparked a race riot on the South Side. As the rioting continued, a transit strike paralyzed Chicago on Tuesday, July 29, and endangering lives by playing politics, the controversial Mayor Big Bill Thompson dithered about calling in the National Guard to quell the violence. Krist serves up a solid, well-informed, and vibrant slice of urban history. Map." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Veteran reporter Ethan Michaeli tells the story of a great black Chicago newspaper, the rise and fall of an American family, and the hidden history of black America in the twentieth century.
An engrossing and startling history of Chicagoand#8217;s Union Stock Yard, Dominic Pacygaand#8217;s meticulous and fresh book addresses more than the rise and fall of the industrial district that for so long was a critical part of what defined Chicago, its immigrants, its economy, its environmental health (or lack thereof), and its politics. While Pacyga knows those aspects like few others doand#151;having grown up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and worked in the stockyards himself as a young manand#151;he has here unearthed a history of gruesome spectacle amid the flowering of industrial modernity. A tourist attraction, an industrial marvel, and the crucible of our industrialized food system, the stockyards have long been a critical part of what made Chicago Chicagoand#151;and even today, innovation continues to flourish there, as new forms of agriculture and industry take shape on this charmed site.
Giving voice to the voiceless, the Chicago Defender had a reach and influence extending far beyond Chicago. The newspaper and the family behind it condemned Jim Crow, catalyzed the Great Migration, fostered the integration of the U.S. armed forces in the wake of World War II, and laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement. Over the years, the Defenderand#8217;s staff included an unparalleled collection of writers, intellectuals, and activists: Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Jesse Jackson were among the better-known bylines, but there were hundreds of less celebrated reporters at the paper who braved lynch mobs and policemenand#8217;s clubs to get their stories.
Through the depth of his research, veteran reporter Ethan Michaeli constructs a revelatory narrative of race in America. The Defender sheds unprecedented light on an entire civic, political, and intellectual universe whose legacy reverberates well into the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Gary Krist has written for the New York Times, Esquire, Salon, the Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is the author of the acclaimed The White Cascade as well as several works of fiction.
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