A 1918 ‘race war’ and its ties to Philadelphia’s present

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    A 1918 ‘race war’ and its ties to Philadelphia’s present

    Around 1 o’clock on weekday afternoons, a group of Grays Ferry old-timers gather around a plastic picnic table inside Bufus Outlaw’s garage on the 2600 block of Ellsworth Street.

    The menu rotates — Pringles, steaks, McDonald’s chicken sandwiches — but the small talk is constant. On summer days, with the garage door up and sunlight filtering in, you can see the changing neighborhood just by craning your neck.

    Nearly every block in the area has a new house or two, many of them standing a story taller than the squat, brick row homes that still predominate.

    “A lot of the whites coming back,” says Theodore Jackson, 83.

    “They live peaceful and everything,” he explains, mentioning the friendly conversations he’ll have with new neighbors as they walk their dogs.

    Jackson chuckles at the thought:

    “They love them dogs.”

    One hundred years ago, this western pocket of South Philadelphia was also in the throes of change, but it was hardly peaceful. Two blocks west, on July 26, 1918, Adella Bond, a black city worker, fired a gun from the upstairs window of her home at 2936 Ellsworth St.

    Her shot triggered one of Philadelphia’s worst racial conflicts, a four-day riot with thought-provoking ties to the present.

    “It’s amazingly parallel to some of the issues we face today,” said Ken Finkel, a Temple University history professor who has blogged about the riots and wrote a section about them for his latest book.

    In this 1965 photo, the…

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