Samuel Banks

Text on Samuel Banks as he appeared in the Chicago Commission Report overlaid on 2729 Dearborn today.

Born: 1903
Occupation: Stockyards Laborer
Killed: July 30, 1919
Cause of death: Bullet-wound

Samuel Banks was a young Black man born in 1903. Banks lived at 700 W. 43 Street in Chicago and worked as a laborer at the Union Stock Yards. On July 30, 1919, Banks was confronted on Dearborn Street by three white policemen and a dozen Black ex-soldiers acting as police reserves. The group was investigating gunshots heard while patrolling at Twenty-Sixth and State Streets.

Upon seeing the group of policemen, Banks ran and hid under the steps at 2729 S. Dearborn Street. The homeowner revealed Banks’ hiding spot to the police who, judging him guilty because he ran, shot and killed him. The coroner’s report later concluded that Banks had run because he was afraid and not because he had committed a crime. Following the killing, Patrolman O’Connor and two of the ex-soldiers were arrested on suspicion of murder. Eventually, however, they were cleared, with the coroner’s jury stating, “the jury is not able to determine whether one or more individuals was acting criminally and is not able to determine which individual fired the shot.” Neither the police officers who killed Banks nor any of the other officers tried for riot-related killings were found guilty.

Banks was sixteen when he was killed. A Chicago Evening Post story described an angry crowd gathering immediately after the shooting: “Militiamen were called on to disperse a crowd that had gathered on Twenty-Fifth and Dearborn Streets to avenge the death of Samuel Banks.” The militiamen were able to disperse the crowd with no additional loss of life.

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