Joseph Lovings

Text from the Chicago Commission Report and the will of Joseph Lovings overlaid on Lytle Street today.
Text on Joseph Lovings in the Chicago Commission Report overlaid on 839 Lytle Street Today.

Born: 1878
Occupation: Porter
Killed: July 29, 1919
Cause of death: Shooting and Stabbing Wounds

Joseph Lovings was a Black man born in 1878 in Chicago. His father was also named Joseph Lovings. Lovings was a World War One veteran; he was drafted in 1917 and served in the (segregated) US Army until 1918. In Chicago, he and his wife, Carrie, lived at 2032 S. Dearborn Street. Lovings worked as a porter in a barbershop. During the riots, on July 29th, Lovings was making his way home on a bicycle, perhaps due to the streetcar strike that forced many people to seek alternative transportation for their commutes. His route home led him through Little Italy at the same time that rumors were spreading that a young Italian girl had been shot by a Black employee of a nearby mattress factory. The Chicago Commission Report stated, “a mob filled the streets when Lovings was sighted,” and that he “tried to escape by running down an alley between Taylor and Gilpin Streets, and then jumped back fences and hid in a basement.” The mob, however, found him, dragged him out, and then killed him by shooting and stabbing him. Lovings died at 839 Lytle Street on July 29th at the age of forty-one.

The rumor about the murder of the Italian girl, after being investigated, proved false: No Italian girl was killed. The Chicago Commission Report found that the myth of the murdered girl was part of a wave of baseless rumors that intensified Italian racial animus towards the Black community in 1919. The report cites testimony from the progressive social reformer Jane Addams: “Jane Addams, of Hull-House, which is near the scene of Lovings’ death, testified before the Commission that before the riot the Italians held no particular animosity toward Negroes, for those in the neighborhood were mostly from South Italy and accustomed to the dark-skinned races, but that they were developing antipathy. In the September following the riot, she said the neighborhood was still full of wild stories so stereotyped in character that they appeared to indicate propaganda spread for a purpose.” None of Loving’s killers were apprehended or indicted. He is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Chicago.

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