400 Year Blog #25 – White Supremacists Wage War

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In July of 1863, Union soldiers who had just survived the bloodiest battle of the Civil War at Gettysburg were given a new assignment. They were sent to New York City to protect African Americans from white workers incensed at being drafted into a war to free those enslaved in the Confederacy. Unlike the rich who could pay replacements to enlist in their place, these laborers wanted no part of what some newspapers called the “n – – – – r war.” Racism trumped patriotism, something barely mentioned in my high school history textbook.

White laborers didn’t like freed people of color competing for jobs. The Longshoreman’s Association wanted the docks “white-only” and insisted, “the colored people must and shall be driven to other parts of industry.” Soon riots spread through New York as thousands of angry whites rampaged through Black neighborhoods. They stormed the Colored Children’s Asylum, looting and setting it on fire. Eleven Black citizens were lynched – beaten, shot, and mutilated. Though some groups of allied Black and white people resisted the mob, as in the Five Points neighborhood, a total of 120 Black people were killed and thousands were driven out of Manhattan.

Similar incidents occurred decades later. In 1906, Atlanta’s heated political environment exploded as 10,000 whites rioted and killed about three-dozen Black men and boys. In 1917, Ida B. Wells reported on the deaths of up to 150 Black men when whites in East St. Louis rampaged to stop the influx of nearly 2000 Black workers arriving each week for jobs. 6000 African-Americans were left homeless.

In 1919 as troops returned home from WWI, competition for jobs increased tensions. In Chicago the homes of 1000 Black families were destroyed. 5000 white men who were determined to lynch a Black man accused of murder, broke into a gun store, armed a vigilante mob, and engaged in racial war in Knoxville, Tennessee. In Washington, DC, similar clashes occurred in LeDroit Park, an upper class Black community.

In 1923, two years after the Tulsa massacre (Blog #24), Black Floridians of Rosewood hid in nearby forests as armed whites hunted them and burned their homes down. Bigotry economic and competition fanned the flames of white supremacy. Often the ugly myth of the black sexual predator, along with false allegations, sparked these massacres, which will be explored in the next blog.

-Lesson #109: In 1863 Union troops had to fight both Confederates and anti-war, anti-black mobs in New York City.
– Lesson #110: Already traumatized in life, 230 Black orphans feared for their lives when anti-Black rioters burned their New York City group home to the ground.
– Lesson #111: The first Black southerners to travel to northern cities as part of the Great Migration were often attacked by whites because of competition for jobs.
– Lesson #112: Two platoons of the Tennessee National Guard’s 4th Infantry were unable to quell a battle between armed Black people defending their businesses from white Knoxville mobs.
– Lesson #113: In July 1919, Washington, DC police refused to intervene when white men, some in military uniforms, beat up Black people riding street cars and walking on the sidewalk.
– Lesson #114: Rosewood, Florida, became a ghost town when Black residents were driven out and never returned.

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