Samuel Bass

Born: 1862
Occupation: Porter
Killed: September 5th, 1919
Cause of death: Beaten

Samuel Bass, an African American, was born around 1862 in Michigan. He was married to Lillian Bass, born in Guthrie, Kentucky in 1864, according to her Cook County death certificate. Thus, quite possibly born enslaved since the 13th Amendment did not take effect until December 1865. At the time of the riots in 1919, the married couple lived at 3805 S. Prairie Avenue. Samuel Bass worked as a porter, and Lillian was a housewife.  Two days after the start of the riots, July 29th, Bass was walking home from work due to the streetcar strike coincidentally occurring at the same time

Eve Ewing’s book, 1919, offers a look at Bass’s journey home and the danger he faced when traveling. Ewing writes, “this is a map of my city, here are the places in my city where I dare not go, here is where the electric wires gave out and here, is where I still had to make it home, and here is the first mile, where I whistled … and here is the second mile, where I heard the calls, and on this map there is no third mile.” According to the Chicago Commission on Race Relations report, while on his six-mile walk home, between 22nd Street (now Cermak Road) and Union Avenue, a “gang of white men knocked him down three times, and cut gashes in his nose and cheeks with their shoes.” After this beating, Bass hid behind freight cars until taken to a doctor on State Street. However, as the report states, “when he learned that Bass had no money, he turned him away without treatment.” Bass ultimately received cursory treatment at a hospital, but he died a little over a month later of a brain hemorrhage on September 5th at the age of fifty-seven.

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