Mass racial violence in the United States
Mass racial violence in the United States, also called race riots, can include such disparate events as:
- conflict between Americans and recent European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- attacks on Native Americans and Americans over the land.
- violence involving Latin American immigrants in the 20th century.
- racially based communal conflict involving African Americans occurring following the American civil war.
- 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.
- Mass violence and looting in African-American communities, such as the 1967 nationwide riots in most major U.S. cities that led to over 100 deaths, and the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr which were as widespread and deadly.
- Violent protests and riots resulting from perceived police brutality against African Americans which gained widespread notoriety in the 2010s, and the tensions ignited after particular incidents such as the killings of Trayvon Martin (2012), Michael Brown, Jr (2014) and Freddie Gray (2015).
- 1 Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic violence
- 2 Nineteenth-century events
- 3 Twentieth-century events
- 4 Twenty-first-century events
- 5 Timeline of events
- 5.1 Nativist period 1700s–1860
- 5.2 Civil War period 1861–1865
- 5.3 Post–Civil War and Reconstruction period: 1865–1889
- 5.4 Jim Crow period: 1890–1914
- 5.5 War and Inter-War period: 1914–1945
- 5.6 Civil Rights Movement: 1955–1973
- 5.7 Post-Civil Rights Era: 1974–1988
- 5.8 Since 1988
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic violence
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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. In 1891, eleven Italians were lynched by a mob of thousands in New Orleans. In the 1890s a total of twenty Italians were lynched in the South. Anti-Polish violence also occurred in the same time period.
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.
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, mistaking the car they were riding in for a previous car of white occupants who drove through a black neighborhood and fired randomly into a crowd of black people .
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. Having learned from the East St. Louis riot, the city closed down the street car system, but the rioting continued. A total of 23 black people and 15 white people 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, black people resisted white people 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 and many news reports of the times. The riots in Newark spread across the United States in most major cities and over 100 deaths were reported. Many inner city neighborhoods in these cities were destroyed. The assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee and later of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968 also led to nationwide rioting across the country with similar mass deaths. During the same time period, and since then, violent acts committed against African-American churches and their members have been commonplace.
The 1980s and '90s saw a number of riots tied to longstanding racial tensions between police and minority communities. The 1980 Miami riots occurred following the death of an African-American motorist at the hands of four white Miami-Dade Police officers who were subsequently acquitted on charges of manslaughter and evidence tampering. Similarly, the six-day 1992 Los Angeles riots erupted after the acquittal of four white LAPD officers who had been filmed beating Rodney King, an African-American motorist. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Harlem-based Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has identified over 100 instances of mass racial violence in the United States since 1935 and has noted that almost every instance was precipitated by a police incident.
The trend from the late 20th century continued with unrest due to perceived unfair policing of minority communities. The Cincinnati riots of 2001 were caused by the killing of 19-year-old African-American Timothy Thomas by white police officer Stephen Roach, who was subsequently acquitted on charges of negligent homicide. The 2014 Ferguson unrest occurred against a backdrop of racial tension between police and the black community of Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown; similar incidents elsewhere such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin sparked smaller and isolated protests. According to the Associated Press' annual poll of United States news directors and editors, the top news story of 2014 was police killings of unarmed black people —including the shooting of Michael Brown—as well as their investigations and the protests in their aftermath.
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)
- 1831: Slave rebellion of slaves and free blacks (Southampton County, Virginia)
- 1834: Massachusetts Convent Burning
- 1835: Five Points Riot (New York City)
- 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, 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, Wyoming
- 1885: Tacoma, Washington
- 1886: Pittsburgh riot
- 1886: Seattle, Washington
- 1887: Denver riot of 1887
- In one of the largest civil disturbances in the city's history, fighting between Swedish, Hungarian and Polish immigrants resulted in the shooting death of one man and several others were injured before it was broken up by police.
- 1887: Thibodaux massacre, Thibodaux, Louisiana—strike of 10,000 sugar-cane workers which led to the mass killing of an estimated 50 African Americans
Jim Crow period: 1890–1914
- A lynch mob storms a local jail and hangs 11 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.
- Two groups of Irish and Italian-Americans are arrested by police after hurling bricks and shooting each other for a half-hour, resulting from a barroom brawl. 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. In Iowa, where 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 to avert open warfare.
- 1895: 1895 New Orleans dockworkers riot
- 1898: Wilmington race riot
- 1898: Lake City, South Carolina
- 1898: Greenwood County, South Carolina
- 1899: Newburg, New York riot
- Angered about hiring of African-American workers, a group of 80-100 Arab laborers attack African Americans near the Freeman & Hammond brick yard, with numerous men injured on both sides.
- 1900: New Orleans, Louisiana: Robert Charles riots
- 1900: New York City
- 1902: New York City
- Anti-Semitic riots initiated by Irish factory workers, city policemen, and thousands of Jews attending Jacob Joseph's funeral
- 1906: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Started after a white police officer in Argenta (North Little Rock) killed a black musician, and another black was killed; racial tensions rose with exchange of gunfire, resulting in half a block of buildings burned down; whites rioted and some blacks fled the city.
- 1906: Atlanta riots, Georgia
- 1906: Wahalak & Scooba, Mississippi
- 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 by ethnic whites 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
- 1917: Houston riot
- Red Summer of 1919
- 1920: Ocoee, Florida
- 1920: West Frankfort, Illinois
- 1921: Tulsa, Oklahoma
- 1923: Rosewood, Florida (area is now an outgrowth of Cedar Key, Florida)
- 1927: Little Rock, Arkansas - Lynching of John Carter, a suspect in a murder, was followed by rioting by 5,000 whites in the city, who destroyed a black business area
- 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.
- 1930: Watsonville, California
- 1935: Harlem race riot
- 1943: Detroit race riot
- 1943: Harlem race riot
- 1943: Zoot Suit Riots, Los Angeles
- 1944: Agana race riot, Guam
Civil Rights Movement: 1955–1973
- Birmingham riot of 1963; Birmingham, Alabama - May
- Cambridge riot of 1963; Cambridge, Maryland - June
- Rochester 1964 race riot; Rochester, New York – July
- New York City 1964 riot; New York City – July
- Philadelphia 1964 race riot; Philadelphia – 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
- Hough riots; Cleveland, Ohio – July
- Hunter's Point riot; San Francisco
- Division Street riots; Chicago, Illinois – June
- 1967 Newark riots; Newark, New Jersey – July
- 1967 Plainfield riots; Plainfield, New Jersey – July
- 12th Street riot; Detroit, Michigan – July
- 1967 New York City riot; Harlem, New York City - July
- Cambridge riot of 1967; Cambridge, Maryland - July
- 1967 Rochester riot; Rochester, New York - July
- 1967 Pontiac riot; Pontiac, Michigan - July
- 1967 Toledo riot; Toledo, Ohio - July
- 1967 Flint riot; Flint, Michigan - July
- 1967 Grand Rapids riot; Grand Rapids, Michigan - July
- 1967 Houston riot; Houston, Texas - July
- 1967 Englewood riot; Englewood, New Jersey - July
- 1967 Tucson riot; Tucson, Arizona - July
- 1967 Milwaukee riot; Milwaukee, Wisconsin – July
- Minneapolis North Side riots; Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota – August
- 1967 Albina Riot Portland, Oregon - August 30
- 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
- West Side Riots; Chicago
- 1968 Detroit riot; Detroit, Michigan
- Louisville riots of 1968; Louisville, Kentucky
- Hill District MLK riots; Pittsburgh, PA
- Summit, Illinois, race riot at Argo High School, September 1968
- 1968 Democratic National Convention
- 1969 York race riot; York, Pennsylvania – July
- 1969 Hartford Riots, September 1-4, Hartford, Connecticut
- Augusta 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
- East LA Riots, January 31, East Los Angeles, California
- Bridgeport Riots, May 20-21, Bridgeport, Connecticut
- Chattanooga riot, May 21–24, Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Albuquerque Riots, June 13-14, Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Oxnard Riots, July 19, Oxnard, California
- Riverside Riots, August 8-9, Riverside, California
- Camden riots, August 19-22, Camden, New Jersey
- Escambia High School riots; Pensacola, Florida
- Blackstone Park Riots, July 16-18, Boston, Massachusetts
Post-Civil Rights Era: 1974–1988
- Fairhill Riots, July 30-31, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 1974 Newark Puerto Rican Riots, September 1-4, Newark, New Jersey
- 1975 Springfield Riots, August 28-29, Springfield, Massachusetts
- 1975 Wilmington Riots, October 20-21, Wilmington, Delaware
- Miami riot 1980 – following the acquittal of four Miami-Dade Police officers in the death of Arthur McDuffie. McDuffie, an African-American, died from injuries sustained at the hands of four white officers trying to arrest him after a high-speed chase.
- 1984 Lawrence Race Riots, August 9-10, Lawrence, Massachusetts - Puerto Ricans and Dominicans clashed with Whites.
- 1988: Perth Amboy Riots, June 9-10, Perth Amboy, New Jersey - riot in the Hispanic community after an officer shot a Hispanic man.
- 1989: Vineland Riots, August 29, Vineland, New Jersey - riot in the Puerto Rican and African American community after an officer shot an African American male.
- 1990: Wynwood Riots, December 3, Miami, Florida - riot in the Puerto Rican community after the acquittal of officer who beat a Puerto Rican drug dealer to death. Puerto Ricans cited alienation from the larger Cuban community.
- 1991: Mount Pleasant Riots, May 5-6 Washington, DC - riot in the Salvadorian community after an officer shot a Salvadorian man. Rioting spread to the African American community.
- 1991: Crown Heights riot – May – between African Americans and the area's large Hasidic Jewish community, over the accidental killing of a Guyanese immigrant child by an Orthodox Jewish motorist. In its wake, several Jews were seriously injured; one Orthodox Jewish man, Yankel Rosenbaum, was killed; and a non-Jewish man, allegedly mistaken by rioters for a Jew, was killed by a group of African-American men.
- 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 – a series of riots, lootings, arsons and civil disturbance that occurred in Los Angeles County, California in 1992, following the acquittal of police officers on trial regarding the assault of Rodney King.
- 1992: Washington Heights Riots, July 6, New York, New York - involved Dominicans 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.
- 2000: Lancaster Puerto Rican Day Parade Riot, September 24, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- 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 – Riots following the BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant.
- 2012: Anaheim Unrest, July, Anaheim, California
- 2014: Ferguson, MO riots – Riots following the Shooting of Michael Brown
- 2015: 2015 Baltimore riots – Riots following the death of Freddie Gray
- 2015: Ferguson unrest – Riots following the anniversary of the Shooting of Michael Brown
- Jim Crow laws
- List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States
- List of race riots
- List of United States military history events
- Little Rock Nine
- Racial segregation in the United States
- 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.
- Hannah-Jones, Nikole (2015-03-04). "Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here's Why.". ProPublica. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
- "Shootings by Police Voted Top Story of 2014 in AP Poll". Times. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "AP poll: Police killings of blacks voted top story of 2014". Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "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 National 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 Adjutant-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.
- Brian D. Greer, "John Carter (Lynching of)", Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, 2013
- 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.