Mass racial violence in the United States
Mass racial violence, also called race riots, can include such disparate events as:
- attacks on Irish Catholics, the Chinese and other immigrants in the 19th century.
- attacks on Native Americans and Americans over the land.
- attacks on Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, and Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in the later 20th century.
- attacks on African Americans that occurred, as in 1919, in addition to the lynchings in the period after Reconstruction through the first half of the 20th century.
- frequent fighting among various ethnic groups in major cities, specifically in the northeast and midwest United States throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century. This example was made famous in the stage musical West Side Story and its film adaptation.
- unrest in African-American communities, such as the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr..
- 1 Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic violence
- 2 19th century events
- 3 20th century events
- 4 Timeline of events
- 4.1 Nativist Period 1700s-1860
- 4.2 Civil War Period 1861-1865
- 4.3 Post-Civil War and Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1889
- 4.4 Jim Crow Period: 1890 - 1914
- 4.5 War and Inter-War Period: 1914 - 1945
- 4.6 Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Period: 1955 - 1977
- 4.7 1974-1988
- 4.8 Later
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic violence
Riots defined by "race" have taken place between ethnic groups in the United States since as early as the pre-Revolution era of the 18th century. During the early-to-mid- 19th centuries, violent rioting occurred between Protestant "Nativists" and recently arrived Irish Catholic immigrants. These reached heights during the peak of immigration in the 1840s and 1850s in cities including New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. During the early 20th century, riots were common against Irish and French-Canadian immigrants in Providence, Rhode Island.
The San Francisco Vigilance Movements of 1851 and 1856 are often described by sympathetic historians as responses to rampant crime and government corruption. But, recent historians have noted that the vigilantes had a nativist bias; they systematically attacked first Irish immigrants, and later Mexicans, Chileans who came as miners during the California Gold Rush, and Chinese immigrants. During the early 20th century, racial or ethnic violence was directed by whites against Filipinos, Japanese and Armenians in California, who had arrived in waves of immigration.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century, Italian Americans were subject to racial violence. One of the largest lynchings in US history occurred in New Orleans in 1891, when eleven Italians were violently murdered in the streets by a large lynch mob. In the 1890s a total of twenty Italians were lynched in the South. Anti-Polish violence also occurred in the same time period.
19th century events
Like lynchings, race riots often had their roots in economic tensions or in white defense of the color line.
In 1887, for example, ten thousand workers at sugar plantations in Louisiana, organized by the Knights of Labor, went on strike for an increase in their pay to $1.25 a day. Most of the workers were black, but some were white, infuriating Governor Samuel Douglas McEnery, who declared that "God Almighty has himself drawn the color line." The militia was called in, but withdrawn to give free rein to a lynch mob in Thibodaux. The mob killed between 20 and 300 blacks. A black newspaper described the scene:
- " 'Six killed and five wounded' is what the daily papers here say, but from an eye witness to the whole transaction we learn that no less than thirty-five Negroes were killed outright. Lame men and blind women shot; children and hoary-headed grandsires ruthlessly swept down! The Negroes offered no resistance; they could not, as the killing was unexpected. Those of them not killed took to the woods, a majority of them finding refuge in this city."
In 1891, a mob lynched Joe Coe, a black worker in Omaha, Nebraska suspected of attacking a young white woman from South Omaha. Approximately 10,000 white people, mostly ethnic immigrants from South Omaha, reportedly swarmed the courthouse and took Coe from his jail cell, beating and then lynching him. Reportedly 6,000 people visited Coe's corpse during a public exhibition at which pieces of the lynching rope were sold as souvenirs. This was a period when even officially sanctioned executions, such as hangings, were regularly conducted in public.
20th century events
Labor and immigrant conflict was a source of tensions that catalyzed into the East St. Louis Riot of 1917. White rioters, many of them ethnic immigrants, killed an estimated 100 black residents of East St. Louis, after black residents had killed two white policemen.
White-on-Black race riots include the Atlanta Riots (1906), the Omaha and Chicago Riots (1919), part of a series of riots in the volatile post-World War I environment, and the Tulsa Riots (1921). The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 grew out of tensions on the Southside, where Irish descendants and African Americans competed for jobs at the stockyards, and where both were crowded into substandard housing. The Irish descendants had been in the city longer, and were organized around athletic and political clubs.
A young black Chicagoan, Eugene Williams, paddled a raft near a Southside Lake Michigan beach into "white territory", and drowned after being hit by a rock thrown by a young white man. Witnesses pointed out the killer to a policeman, who refused to make an arrest. An indignant black mob attacked the officer. Violence broke out across the city. White mobs, many of them organized around Irish athletic clubs, began pulling black people off trolley cars, attacking black businesses, and beating victims with baseball bats and iron bars. Black people surprised them by fighting back. Having learned from the East St. Louis Riot, the city closed down the street car system, but the rioting continued. A total of 23 blacks and 15 whites were killed.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot grew out of economic competition, as the black Greenwood area was compared to Wall Street, and filled with independent businesses. In the immediate event, blacks resisted whites who tried to lynch 19-year old Dick Rowland, who worked at shoeshines. Thirty-nine people (26 black, 13 white) were confirmed killed. An early 21st century investigation of these events has suggested that the number of casualties could be much higher. White mobs set fire to the black Greenwood district, destroying 1,256 homes and as many as 200 businesses. Fires leveled 35 blocks of residential and commercial neighborhood. Black people were rounded up by the Oklahoma National Guard and put into several internment centers, including a baseball stadium. White rioters in airplanes shot at black refugees and dropped improvised kerosene bombs and dynamite on them.
By the 1960s, decades of racial, economic, and political forces, which generated inner city poverty, resulted in “race riots” within minority areas in cities across the United States. The beating and rumored death of cab driver John Smith by police, sparked the 1967 Newark riots. This event became, per capita, one of the deadliest civil disturbances of the 1960s. The long and short term causes of the Newark riots are explored in depth in the documentary film Revolution '67. The assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee and later of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968 also led to rioting.
Timeline of events
Nativist Period 1700s-1860
- for information about riots worldwide, see List of riots.
- Rioting against African-Americans results in thousands leaving for Canada.
- 1829: Charlestown Anti-Catholic Riots (Charlestown, Massachusetts)
- 1834: Massachusetts Convent Burning
- 1835: Five Points Riot (New York City, New York)
- 1841: Cincinnati Riot of 1841 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
- 1844: Philadelphia Nativist Riots (May 6–8/July 5–8)
- 1851: Hoboken Anti-German Riot
- 1855: Bloody Monday (Louisville, KY Anti-German Riots)
Civil War Period 1861-1865
Post-Civil War and Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1889
- 1866: New Orleans Riot (New Orleans, Louisiana)
- 1866: Memphis Riots of 1866 (Memphis, Tennessee)
- 1868: Pulaski Riot (Pulaski, Tennessee)
- 1868: Opelousas Massacre (Opelousas, Louisiana)
- 1868: Camilla, Georgia
- 1868: Ward Island Riot
- Irish and German-American indigent immigrants, temporarily interned at Wards Island by the Commissioners of Emigration, begin rioting following an altercation between two residents, resulting in thirty men seriously wounded and around sixty arrested.
- 1870: Eutaw, Alabama
- 1870: Laurens, South Carolina
- 1870: Kirk-Holden war: Alamance County, North Carolina
- Federal troops, led by Col. Kirk and requested by NC governor Holden, were sent to extinguish racial violence. Holden was eventually impeached because of the offensive.
- 1870: New York City Orange Riot
- 1871: Meridian race riot of 1871, Mississippi
- 1871: Second New York City Orange Riot
- 1871: Los Angeles Anti-Chinese Riot
- 1871: Scranton Coal Riot
- Violence occurs between striking members of a miners' union in Scranton, Pennsylvania when Welsh miners attack Irish and German-American miners who chose to leave the union and accept the terms offered by local mining companies.
- 1873: Colfax massacre (Colfax, Louisiana)
- 1874: Vicksburg, Mississippi
- 1874: New Orleans, Louisiana
- 1874: Coushatta massacre, Coushatta, Louisiana
- 1875: Yazoo City, Mississippi
- 1875: Clinton, Mississippi
- 1876: Statewide violence in South Carolina
- 1876: Hamburg, South Carolina
- 1876: Ellenton, South Carolina
- 1885: Rock Springs Massacre, Wyoming
- 1886: Pittsburgh Riot.
- 1887: Denver Riot of 1887
- In one of the largest civil disturbances in the city's history, fighting between Swedish, Hungarian and Polish immigrants results in the shooting death of one man and injuring several others before broken up by police.
- 1887: Thibodaux massacre, Thibodaux, Louisiana—strike of 10,000 sugar-cane workers which led to a mass killing of an estimated 50 African Americans
Jim Crow Period: 1890 - 1914
- A lynch mob storms a local jail and hangs several Italians following the acquittal of several Sicilian immigrants alleged to be involved in the murder of New Orleans police chief David Hennessy.
- 1891: 1st Omaha Race Riot
- 10,000 white people storm the local courthouse to beat and lynch Joe Coe, who was alleged to have raped a white child.
- 1894: Buffalo, NY Riot of 1894
- Two groups of Irish and Italian-Americans are arrested by police after a half hour of hurling bricks and shooting at each other resulting from a barroom brawl when visiting Italian patrons refused to pay for their drinks at a local saloon. After the mob is dispersed by police, five Italians are arrested while two others are sent to a local hospital.
- Much of the violence in this national strike was not specifically racial, but in Iowa, where the employees of Consolidation Coal Company (Iowa) refused to join the strike, armed confrontation between strikers and strike breakers took on racial overtones because the majority of Consolidation's employees were African American. The National Guard was mobilized just in time to avert open warfare.
- 1898: Wilmington Race Riot
- 1898: Lake City, South Carolina
- 1898: Greenwood County, South Carolina
- 1899: Newburg, NY Riot
- Angered towards the recent hiring of African-American workers, a group of between 80 and 100 Arab laborers attack a group of African-American workers near the Freeman & Hammond brick yard with numerous men injured on both sides.
- 1900: New Orleans, Louisiana : Robert Charles Riots
- 1900: New York City, New York
- 1902: New York City, New York
- Anti-Semitic riots involving Irish factory workers, city policemen and thousands of Jews attending Jacob Joseph's funeral
- 1906: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Started when a white police officer in Argenta killed a black musician in a bathroom, causing the burning down of half a block of burned down commercial buildings and two black residencies, as well as the departure of many blacks as white men taking arms ran down the street.
- 1906: Atlanta Riots, Georgia
- 1907: Bellingham Riots, Washington
- 1908: Springfield, Illinois
- 1909: Greek Town Riot
- A successful Greek immigrant community in South Omaha, Nebraska is burnt to the ground and its residents are forced to leave town.
- 1910: Nationwide riots following the heavyweight championship fight between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries in Reno, Nevada on July 4
War and Inter-War Period: 1914 - 1945
- 1917: East St. Louis, Illinois
- 1917: Chester, Pennsylvania
- 1917: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 1917: Houston Riot (1917)
- Red Summer of 1919
- 1921: Tulsa, Oklahoma
- 1923: Rosewood, Florida (area is now an outgrowth of Cedar Key, Florida)
- 1927: Poughkeepsie, New York - A wave of civil unrest, violence and vandalism by local White mobs against Blacks, as well Greek, Jewish, Chinese and Puerto Rican targets in the community, though mostly directed at African-Americans.
- 1930: Watsonville, California
- 1935: Harlem Race Riot
- 1943: Detroit Race Riot
- 1943: Harlem Race Riot
- 1943: Zoot Suit Riots, Los Angeles, California
- 1944: Agana, Guam
Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Period: 1955 - 1977
- Rochester 1964 race riot; Rochester, New York - July
- New York City 1964 riot; New York City, New York - July
- Philadelphia 1964 race riot; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - August
- Jersey City 1964 race riot, August 2–4, Jersey City, New Jersey
- Paterson 1964 race riot, August 11–13, Paterson, New Jersey
- Elizabeth 1964 race riot, August 11–13, Elizabeth, New Jersey
- Chicago 1964 race riot, Dixmoor riot, August 16–17, Chicago, Illinois
- Hough Riots; Cleveland, Ohio - July
- Hunter's Point Riot; San Francisco
- Division Street Riots; Chicago - June
- 1967 Newark riots; Newark, New Jersey - July
- 12th Street riot; Detroit, Michigan - July
- 1967 Plainfield riots; Plainfield, New Jersey - July
- Milwaukee riot; Milwaukee, Wisconsin - July 30–31
- Minneapolis North Side Riots; Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota - August
- Orangeburg massacre; Orangeburg, South Carolina - February
- King assassination riots: 125 cities in April and May, in response to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. including:
- Baltimore riot of 1968; Baltimore Maryland
- 1968 Washington, D.C. riots; Washington, D.C.
- 1968 New York City riot; New York City, New York
- West Side Riots; Chicago, Illinois
- Louisville riots of 1968; Louisville, Kentucky
- Hill District MLK riots; Pittsburgh, PA
- Summit, Illinois Race Riot at Argo High School, September 1968
- May 11th Augusta Race Riot; Augusta, Georgia - May
- Jackson State killings; Jackson, Mississippi - May
- Asbury Park Riot; Asbury Park, New Jersey - July
- Chicano Moratorium, an anti Vietnam War protest turned riot in East Los Angeles - August
- Camden Riots, August 1971, Camden, New Jersey
- 1980: Miami Riot 1980
- 1991: Crown Heights Riot - May - between African Americans and the area's large Hasidic Jewish community, over the killing of a 10-year old black child by a Jewish motorist.
- 1991: Overtown, Miami - In the heavily Black section against Cuban Americans, like earlier riots there in 1982 and 1984.
- 1992: 1992 Los Angeles riots - April 29 to May 5 - among the worst rioting in U.S. History.
- 1992: Harlem, Manhattan in New York City - July - involved Blacks and Puerto Ricans against the New York Police Department, around the time of the 1992 Democratic National Convention being held there.
- 1995: St. Petersburg, Florida riot of 1996, caused by protests against racial profiling and police brutality.
- 2001: 2001 Cincinnati Riots - April - in the African-American section of Over-the-Rhine.
- 2005: Toledo, Ohio - Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched in North Park, a mostly African-American section of town..
- 2009: Oakland CA, Oscar Grant Murder Riots.
- List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States
- List of race riots
- List of United States military history events
- Timeline of riots and civil unrest in Omaha, Nebraska
- World timeline of race riots
- Zinn, 2004;, retrieved March 27, 2009.
- Bristow, D.L. (2002) A Dirty, Wicked Town. Caxton Press. p 253.
- Chicago Daily Tribune, History Matters, George Mason University
- Dray, 2002.
- Ellsworth, Scott. The Tulsa Race Riot, retrieved July 23, 2005.
- "Riot On Ward's Island.; Terrific Battle Between German and Irish Emigrants"], New York Times, 06 March 1868
- "The Coal Riot. Horrible Treatment of the Laborers by the Miners. - Condition of the Wounded - A War of Races - Welsh vs. Irish and Germans," New York Times, 11 May 1871
- A Race Riot In Denver.; One Man Killed And A Number Of Heads Broken. New York Times. 12 Apr 1887
- Race Riot In Buffalo.; Italians and Irish Fight for an Hour and a Half in the Street. New York Times. 19 Mar. 1894
- Thomas J. Hudson, Iowa Chapter VIII, Events from Jackson to Cummins, The Province and the States, Vol. V, the Western Historical Association, 1904; page 170
- The Natioinal Guard - Iowa's Splendid Militia, The Midland Monthly, Vol. II, No. 5 Nov. 1894; page 419.
- Service at Muchakinock and Evans, in Mahaska County, During the Coal Miners' Strike, Report of the Ajutant-General to the Governor of the State of Iowa for Biennial Period Ending Nov. 30, 1895, Conway, Des Moines, 1895; page 18
- Race Riots In Newburg.; Negroes Employed in Brick Yards Provoke Other Laborers -- Lively Battle Between the Factions. New York Times. 29 Jul. 1899
- "Argenta Race Riot", Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture (accessed April 28, 2011).
- Larsen, L. & Cotrell, B. (1997). The gate city: A history of Omaha. University of Nebraska Press. P 163.
- Dray, Philip. At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, New York: Random House, 2002.
- Ifill, Sherrilyn A. On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century (Beacon Press, 2007) ISBN 978-0-8070-0987-1
- Sowell, Thomas. Ethnic America: A History. Copyright 1981: Basic Books, Inc.
- Zinn, Howard. Voices of a People's History of the United States. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004.