Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Eugene Williams: Fallen for the City

JWB, 2012
Just south of McCormick Place on the Lakefront Path a simple plaque on a boulder of pink granite identifies the spot where, just offshore on July 27, 1919, a young man by the name of Eugene Williams was struck by a rock and drowned, an event that touched off a week-long race riot in Chicago.  On a scorching summer’s day on which the lake provided the only relief in the city, Eugene Williams, found himself “over the line,” crossing into the portion of the lakefront considered to be whites-only.

In 2009 the students from York High School, in cooperation with the Chicago Park District, erected the marker in memory of the tragic event.  On the marker the words of Dr. Martin Luther King serve as a permanent admonition:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
Only love can do that.

During a long bike ride on a beautiful mid-September afternoon, I stopped by the site.  Looking from the plaque to the great city a couple miles to the north, I was struck by the sight that makes up the accompanying photograph.

On that hot day in July a tree fell.  And an entire city heard the sound.