In this 1919 photo provided by the Chicago History Museum, police look through a broken window of a house during the race riots in Chicago. Broken furniture is strewn about the front yard. Hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mobs during Red Summer.

100 years ago, white mobs across the country attacked black people. And they fought back

Updated 5:04 PM ET, Sat July 27, 2019

(CNN)Thelma Shepherd was riding back to her Chicago apartment on July 27, 1919, when her streetcar came under attack. Black and white men hurled rocks at each other and at the passing vehicle. The 19-year-old who had recently left the South for a job in the bustling city didn't know it, but she had witnessed one of the most violent clashes of the "Red Summer."

The drivers made no stops and dropped all the passengers off at the end of the line, her granddaughter, Claire Hartfield, remembers her saying years later.
"She was new to the city," Hartfield recalls. "She wasn't really aware of the tensions that had been building. She was just enjoying some of the excitement of being in a really big city.
"It was an ... eye-opener for her."
But other passengers on the next routes weren't lucky enough to escape.
"Street-car routes, especially transfer points, were thronged with white people of all ages," a 1922 report by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations says. Black passengers were dragged out to the street, beaten and kicked.
    Over the next few days, white mobs stormed the streets attacking blacks indiscriminately. Thirty-eight people were killed, 23 of whom were black, and more than 500 were injured, the commission on race relations said.
    In this 1919 photo provided by the Chicago History Museum, a victim is stoned and bludgeoned under a corner of a house during the race riots in Chicago.
    Chicago wasn't the only city besieged by mob violence in the months after World War I. White gangs were eager to maintain Jim Crow-era laws but African-American soldiers returning from the war were demanding their rights and an en