Joseph Powers

Born: 1890
Occupation: Streetcar Conductor
Killed: July 29th, 1919
Cause of death: Stab Wound

Joseph Powers, a white man, was born in 1890 in Ireland. After immigrating to the United States, he settled in Chicago where he lived at 3791 S. Archer Avenue with his brother, J.J. Powers. While in Chicago, Powers worked as a streetcar conductor. At the time of the riots, on July 29, Powers was with another man on Root Street, walking east, when they came across a group of Black men including William Henderson, Henry Renfroe, and Judge Tate, then walking to work at the Union Stock Yards. When the two groups converged, the white men lashed out and attacked. The Chicago Commission Report stated that Tate, who was walking with Henderson, “struck back, evidently with a knife in his hands, and hit Powers, who was abreast of the group, mortally wounding him.” While everyone fled the scene, Henderson was chased down and beaten. All three Black men were eventually taken into custody. The coroner’s jury believed that Henderson and Renfroe were acting in self-defense and, thus, recommended they be released. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, however, “Tate confessed to Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas E. Reilly and Marvin Wilson, an investigator.” The Tribune also noted how Tate described the white men who advanced on his group and fought them, resulting in Tate being struck and–in self-defense–stabbing and killing Powers. On December 13th, 1919, Tate received a verdict of “not guilty.” Powers died of his wounds on Root and Emerald Streets at the age of twenty-nine.

Return to Commemorating the Killed.