Jim Crow Violence: Examples of Race Riots and Lynchings, 1866-1898 African American, Arrests, Black, Color, Court, Crowd, Discrimination, Fire, Great Migration, Jail, Jobs, Mobs, Negro, Neighborhood, Police, Rape, Segregation, Soldiers, South, Supremacy, Town, White

Jim Crow Violence: Examples of Race Riots and Lynchings, 1866-1898 [The editors of Americans All ] (c.1866 - c.1898) African American, Arrests, Black, Color, Court, Crowd, Discrimination, Fire, Great Migration, Jail, Jobs, Mobs, Negro, Neighborhood, Police, Rape, Segregation, Soldiers, South, Supremacy, Town, White

Note: Each “Jim Crow Violence” story cannot exceed 2,000 words, and the timeframes for the stories are determined by this limitation. Each of the six stories has a different photograph collection. Each photograph is linked to the text via a number in [bold brackets] and, where possible, the text and the photograph appear on the same page.

Race Riots and Lynchings

1866 (New Orleans, Louisiana): The New Orleans Massacre occurred on July 30, when a peaceful demonstration of mostly Black Freedmen was set upon by a mob of white rioters, many of whom had been soldiers of the recently defeated Confederacy. The riot quickly descended into a full-scale massacre. The violence erupted outside the Mechanics Institute, [2] site of a reconvened Louisiana Constitutional Convention. The Republican Party of Louisiana had called for the Convention, as they were angered by the legislature's enactment of the Black Codes and refusal to extend voting rights to Black men. White Democrats considered the reconvened convention to be illegal and were hostile towards Republican attempts to gain increased political power in the state. The massacre "stemmed from deeply rooted political, social, and economic causes, and took place in part because of the battle "between two opposing factions for power and office." According to the official report, a total of 38 were killed and 146 wounded, with 34 of the dead and 119 of the wounded Black. 

1866 (Memphis, Tennessee): The Memphis massacre was a series of violent events that occurred from May 1 to 3. The racial violence was ignited by political, social, and racial tensions in the early stages of Reconstruction. After a shooting altercation between white policemen and Black veterans recently mustered out of the Union Army, mobs of white residents and policemen rampaged through Black neighborhoods and the houses of freedmen, attacking and killing black soldiers and civilians and committing many acts of robbery and arson. [13] Federal troops were sent to quell the violence and peace was restored on the third day. Blacks suffering most of the injuries and deaths: 46 killed, 75 injured, more than 100 robbed, 5 women raped, and 91 homes, 4 churches and 8 schools (every black church and school) burned down. Many Blacks fled the city permanently; by 1870, their population had fallen by one quarter compared to 1865. Investigation of the riot suggested specific causes related to competition in the working class for housing, work, and social space: Irish immigrants and their descendants competed with freedmen in all these categories. The white planters wanted to drive freedmen out of Memphis and back to plantations, to support cotton cultivation with their labor. The violence was a way to enforce white supremacy after the end of slavery.

1868 (Camilla, Georgia) After the Civil War ended, two of the leaders of Georgia were George W. Ashburn, a white Radical Republican, and Henry McNeal Turner, a clergyman who had been the first African American chaplain in the Union Army. Ashburn was a contender for the U.S. Senate and Turner was running for the state legislature. They campaigned together and Turner was elected to the State Legislature. However, In March, Ashburn became the first man assassinated by the KKK. The Camilla Massacre took place on September 19, following the expulsion of the Black members of the General Assembly--for being one-eighth Black. One of those members was Philip Joiner who led a march from Albany to Camilla, where they met resistance, where at least fifteen were killed and forty wounded. The mob then terrorized Blacks and told them not to vote in the next election. When the incident became public, Georgia was returned to military occupation.

1871 (Meridian, Mississippi): The Meridian race riot in March followed the arrest of freedmen accused of inciting riot in a downtown fire, and Blacks' organizing for self-defense. Although the local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapter [3] had attacked freedmen since the end of the Civil War, generally without punishment, the first local arrest under the 1870 Act to suppress the Klan was of a freedman. This angered the Black community. During the trial of Black leaders, the presiding judge was shot in the courtroom, and a gunfight erupted that killed several people. In the ensuing mob violence, whites killed as many as 30 Blacks over the next few days. Whites drove the Republican mayor from office, and no person was charged or tried in the freedmen's deaths. The Meridian riot was related to widespread postwar violence by whites to drive Reconstruction Republicans from office and restore white supremacy. 

1873: (Colfax, Louisiana): Following the contested 1872 election for governor of Louisiana and local offices, a group of white Democrats armed with rifles and a small cannon, overpowered Republican freedmen and state militia (also Black) occupying the Grant Parish Courthouse in Colfax. [14] Most of the freedmen were killed after they surrendered; nearly 50 were killed later that night after being held as prisoners for several hours. Estimates of the number of dead have varied, ranging from 62 to 153; three whites died but the number of Black victims was difficult to determine because many bodies were thrown into the Red River or removed for burial. There were rumors of mass graves at the site. Federal prosecution and conviction of a few perpetrators at Colfax under the Enforcement Acts was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a key case, the court ruled in United States v. Cruikshank (92 U.S. 542, 1876) that protections of the 14th Amendment did not apply to the actions of individuals, but only to the actions of state governments. After this ruling, the federal government could no longer use the Enforcement Act of 1870 to prosecute actions by paramilitary groups such as the White League, which had chapters forming across Louisiana beginning in 1874. Intimidation, murders, and Black voter suppression by such paramilitary groups were instrumental to the Democratic Party regaining political control in the state legislature by the late 1870s.

1876 (Charleston and Other Counties, South Carolina): The disturbances were a series of race riots and civil unrest related to the Democratic Party's political campaign to take back control from Republicans of the state legislature and governor's office through their paramilitary Red Shirts division. Part of their plan was to disrupt Republican political activity and suppress Black voting, particularly in counties where populations of whites and Blacks were close to equal. The following incidents took place mostly in counties where Blacks were in the majority, but not significantly. The Upstate counties had majorities of whites and racial disturbances were uncommon, whereas the Lowcountry counties had an overwhelming Black population. In the Midlands, Edgefield District and Charleston area, Democrats exerted considerable effort to step up the Democratic vote and suppress Black Republican voting by intimidation and violence, including outright murder and assassination of a black state representative. In 1875 Charleston had a population that was 57% Black, with a Charleston County population that was 73% Black. Having had a tradition of a well-established class of free people of color in the city, African Americans organized to defend themselves during this volatile period. By suppressing the Black majority in Edgefield County and election fraud (2,000 more votes were counted than the total number of registered voters in the county), the Democrats elected Wade Hampton III as the Democratic candidate by a narrow margin of slightly more than 1100 votes statewide. They also carried the state legislature.