Returning to the Violence In America
We will now return to the study of violence. The violence that we already covered was almost exclusively directed towards individuals or a small group of individuals- twos, and threes. Now I want to turn our attention toward mob violence in which whole communities were destroyed or massacres took place.
The New York Draft Riots of 1863
One of the worst cases of mob attacks on AA took place in New York City in 1863. In Dr. Gates' massive tome, The Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience written by Robert Fay records the story of the 1863 riots. I want to quote the article in its entirety. I feel that the reader should get full and accurate teaching of the horrific attacks on Black people in Northern American cities like Toledo, Cincinnati, Harrisburg, and Detroit, the economic and social disruption caused by the Civil war led to violence-directed acts at free Northern Blacks. “But the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 was by far the most violent. Factors contributing to the riots were labor unrest, unfair draft laws, in an unpopular war, ethnic tensions, and disruptive gangs. Before the 1840s New York City Blacks held most of the city's jobs as long showmen, hod carriers, brick makers, barbers, waiters, and domestic servants. Irish immigrants, particularly those arriving after 1846, competed with Blacks for these unskilled jobs and eventually gained control of the occupations, leaving many Blacks to work only as strikebreakers.
The animosity between New York whites and blacks was further intensified by the Emancipation Proclamation. Democratic politicians used it to their advantage, by claiming paradoxically, that Republicans would transport free people to New York to replace white workers while lazy Blacks lived on relief services provided by industrious whites. Shortly after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Congress passed the Conscription Act, which had a provision allowing a draftee to decline service for a $300 fee. This financial arrangement widened class division.
The three-day riot began on July 13th as a protest the Conscription Act. After the protestors, many of them Irish laborers destroyed draft headquarters, they roamed the streets at times raising entire city blocks, cutting telegraph lines, tearing up railroad tracks, and causing factories and shops to be closed. They assaulted the officers of the New York Tribune, trying to find the pro-union editor Horace Greeley, and they attacked the home of the city’s provost marshal.
The mob then split into groups. Some destroyed mansions: others attacked the mayor's house in a failed attempt to level it. Still, others targeted New York Black residents with intense violence. They terrorized Blacks, burned the Color Orphan Asylum, and looted the Colored Home. They raided and destroyed homes, they shot, charged, clubbed, burned, and hanged black victims. Eleven blacks were killed by rioters. Most Blacks fled the city, but a few desperately sought the sanctuary of police stations' jail cells. Union army regiments-including some men returning from the Battle of Gettysburg- finally restored order. Though New York City merchants raised 50,000 to raise Black victims and rebuild the Colored Orphan Asylum the psychiatric scars remain. By 1865 New York's Blacks population had decreased by 20% from 12,072 to 9,945, because of the fear arising from the three-nights uprising in July 1863.”
In addition to the New York Riots there were many other white mob violence against Black communities:
Colfax, Louisiana April 1883
One hundred and fifty Black men were murdered by whites with guns and canons for trying to assemble at the courthouse.
Because anything was thrown in the Red River the exact count of the massacre wasn’t known and hardly would ever be known. But rest assured it was far more than the hundred and fifty.
Wilmington, North Carolina 1898
In 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina had a majority Black population. There were several elected officials and the communities were thriving economically.
The media in Wilmington, as all over the U.S.A., reported inflammatory speeches about white supremacists. By 1898, Black men were prevented from voting forcing the Black elected officials out of office. (The same old bloody story as it relates to the electoral process) But, in spite of the vicious attacks by whites, they couldn’t stop Black economic power, so they devastated Wilmington.
The day after the election whites overthrew the government, destroyed the printing press, and forced out the mayor. Sixty to three-hundred black people were killed.
Atlanta Massacre 1906
On September 22nd, 1906 Atlanta newspaper reported four white women claimed they were assaulted by Black men. The allegations were totally untrue. (Probably they wished it were so. These lies of white women attacked by Black men -- probably were erotic fantasies. After all white women knew that what they were claiming happened to them was the opposite. White men were attacking Black women.)
The lies of sexual assault drove over two thousand white terrorists into the streets. They beat, stabbed, and killed any Black person they met. Whole communities were destroyed and over one hundred Blacks were killed according to the official count. Probably many, many more than that were killed, beaten, stabbed, lynched, and land and homes confiscated.
W.E.B Du Bois profoundly moving poem captures the horrors and savagery of the Atlanta Riots -- A Litany of Atlanta
“O SILENT GOD, Thou whose voice afar in mist and mystery hath left our ears an-hungered in these fearful days— Hear us, good Lord! Listen to us, Thy children: our faces dark with doubt are made a mockery in Thy sanctuary. With uplifted hands we front Thy heaven, O God, crying: We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord! We are not better than our fellows, Lord, we are but weak and human men. When our devils do deviltry, curse Thou the doer and the deed: curse them as we curse them, do to them all and more than ever they have done to innocence and weakness, to womanhood and home. Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners! And yet whose is the deeper guilt? Who made these devils? Who nursed them in crime and fed them on injustice? Who ravished and debauched their mothers and their grandmothers? Who bought and sold their crime, and waxed fat and rich on public iniquity? Thou knowest, good God! Is this Thy justice, O Father, that guile be easier than innocence, and the innocent crucified for the guilt of the untouched guilty? Justice, O judge of men! 10 Wherefore do we pray? Is not the God of the fathers dead? Have not seers seen in Heaven’s halls Thine hearsed and lifeless form stark amidst the black and rolling smoke of sin; where all along bow bitter forms of endless dead? Awake, Thou that sleepest! Thou art not dead, but flown afar, up hills of endless light, thru blazing corridors of suns, where worlds do swing of good and gentle men, of women strong and free—far from the cozenage, black hypocrisy, and chaste prostitution of this shameful speck of dust! Turn again, O Lord, leave us not to perish in our sin!”
To be continued...