John Mills

John Mills’ 1918 Draft Registration Card

Born: 1885
Occupation: Stockyards Laborer
Killed: July 28th, 1919
Cause of death: Skull fracture

John Jeans Edward Mills, a Black man, was born in Illinois on October 23rd, 1885. According to his draft card, in 1918 Mills lived with his wife, Pearl, at 4714 S. Evans Avenue in the so-called “Black Belt.” He worked in the massive Union Stock Yards packing meat. Mills was drafted to serve in the U.S. military during WWI in 1918.

On the afternoon of July 28th, 1919, Mills was on his way home from work when a white mob stopped the streetcar he was riding, heading eastbound on 47th St. The mob, consisting of 300 to 400 white people of all ages, surrounded the streetcar and proceeded to detached it from the electrical wire above (which powered the trolley). Many white passengers disembarked but the Black passengers tried hiding under their seats. A crowd of twenty-five to fifty white men boarded the streetcar and started beating the Black passengers with clubs, bats, and bricks. Passengers fled for their lives including Mills, who ran south towards Normal Avenue, with a group of white people in hot pursuit. The commission report described what happened next: “A brick hit him in the back, halted him, and before he could run again a young white man hit him on the head with a scantling [a small piece of lumber].” Mills was left unconscious on Normal Ave., just south of 47th St. where he died of a skull fracture. Four other Black passengers aboard the car also were beaten but not to death. It is possible that members of the Flag Club, one of many so-called “athletic clubs” active during the riots, were responsible for Mills’ murder. A police officer claimed to recognize several of the club’s members in the crowd that stopped the streetcar, but suggested they couldn’t have been culpable of violent attacks since they “did not run as did the others when the patrol came down the street.” Mills’ killers were never apprehended or tried before the law. Mills was 34 when killed. He is buried at Lincoln Cemetery just south of Chicago in suburban Cook County.

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