Massacres, Mass Murders and Mobs
One of the main points of this book is that racism is an evil spirit that is part of the devil’s scheme army to steal, kill, and destroy in the earth. Racism is not just some harmful little thoughts that we can keep in secret as “our pet sins.”The Bible says in 1 John 3:15 (BSB) that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life does not reside in a murderer.”
That sounds a little harsh, but Jesus knew that as humans, if we harbored hate in our heart, it could lead to murder. That’s why In Matt 5:21 and 22, Jesus connects hatred with murder and says both sins put a person in “danger of the judgment.” Now let’s make the connection between hatred, racism, and murder. Racism is hating someone simply because of their physical characteristics. Racism allows me to hate someone without knowing them. I can hate my new neighbor or someone in the grocery store that I have never met because of the hatred I have in my heart towards a particular race. I can hate people on television and even in a country on the other side of the world merely because of their race and ethnic attributes.
Racism is a lie against the Creator that says He created an entire group of people flawed and inferior and made them all the same color or of the same ethnicity. The flip side of that lie is that He made all of the people of another race superior and with fewer flaws and made them all the same color or ethnicity. It sounds so foolish that even a fourth-grader would question it. However, millions of people have lost their lives because of the easily dispelled, foolish lie against the fairness and goodness of God.
Unbridled, festering hatred leads to murder. Unbridled, festering hatred towards another race can lead to mass murder, massacres, even genocide. One man’s unchecked, unbridled racism cost over six million Jews their lives. That’s why the Bible says to give no place to the devil and why Jesus equates hatred with murder. No, not everyone’s individual hatred will lead to mass murders and massacres. But think of all the people in Nazi Germany whose hatred was just strong enough to be a guard in a concentration camp, to turn a neighbor in for being a Jew, or to be a part of the Gestapo.
It’s hard for me to comprehend a hatred so intense, so encompassing that it could lead to death on this scale. Yet is has happened throughout history. One of the main purposes of this book is to show that hatred, specifically hatred based on race, cannot be winked at as some lesser sin. When it is stirred, when it is fanned, it can be a fire that destroys millions.
Definition of Massacre
1: the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty
witnessed the massacre of a boatload of refugees
Definition of Hatred
1: extreme dislike or disgust: HATE
2: ill will or resentment that is usually mutual: prejudiced hostility or animosity
old racial prejudices and national hatreds— Peter Thomson
Definition of Murder (Entry 2 of 2)
1: to kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice
2: to slaughter wantonly: SLAY
3a: to put an end to
c: MUTILATE, MANGLE
When I started looking for examples of mass murders, I came across these examples:
“Who was the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world? Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, many of them as part of a terror famine that likely took more lives than the Holocaust. But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people – easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.” (Somin, 2016)
“In just 100 days in 1994, about 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.
How did the genocide start?
About 85% of Rwandans are Hutus but the Tutsi minority has long dominated the country. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and tens of thousands of Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda.
A group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990 and fighting continued until a 1993 peace deal was agreed.
On the night of 6 April 1994 a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi - both Hutus - was shot down, killing everyone on board.
Hutu extremists blamed the RPF and immediately started a well-organised campaign of slaughter. The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.
How was the genocide carried out?
With meticulous organisation. Lists of government opponents were handed out to militias who went and killed them, along with all of their families.
Neighbours killed neighbours and some husbands even killed their Tutsi wives, saying they would be killed if they refused.
At the time, ID cards had people's ethnic group on them, so militias set up roadblocks where Tutsis were slaughtered, often with machetes which most Rwandans kept around the house. Thousands of Tutsi women were taken away and kept as sex slaves.
Why was it so vicious?
Rwanda has always been a tightly controlled society, organised like a pyramid from each district up to the top of government. The then-governing party, MRND, had a youth wing called the Interahamwe, which was turned into a militia to carry out the slaughter.
Weapons and hit-lists were handed out to local groups, who knew exactly where to find their targets. The Hutu extremists set up a radio station, RTLM, and newspapers which circulated hate propaganda, urging people to "weed out the cockroaches" meaning kill the Tutsis. The names of prominent people to be killed were read out on radio.
Even priests and nuns have been convicted of killing people, including some who sought shelter in churches.” (Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter, 2019)
I shared examples to show that racial hatred is not limited to a particular region of the world or ethnicity. People of every color, nationality are capable of unspeakable evil when they allow themselves to be influenced by racism.
What about America? America’s history is stained with similar atrocities and mob violence. Though the power structure in American history has been held by white men, this is not a section designed to imply that any race is more wicked than any other. I have already shared examples from other continents. I share them as a reminder of what did happen and what can happen again. You may say, how could something like this happen again? It’s certainly not likely to happen on a scale like in Rwanda, but we have already seen in El Paso what one person with an automatic weapon could do in a Walmart?
Recently counter-protester Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire on protesters, killing two. What if the crowd of armed counter-protesters had been bigger? Counter-protesters have already arrived en masse in small town after small town to stop or disrupt small protests. What if more people like Rittenhouse decide to open fire? What if the mass of counter-protesters heading to places like Portland encounter armed protesters and volleys are exchanged? It could quickly escalate into a conflict too big for local authorities to handle and end up in a mass casualty situation.
This is exactly what happened in the Elaine massacre in 1919. The following is a quote from the Smithsonian Magazine:
“The sharecroppers who gathered at a small church in Elaine, Arkansas, in the late hours of September 30, 1919, knew the risk they were taking. Upset about unfair low wages, they enlisted the help of a prominent white attorney from Little Rock, Ulysses Bratton, to come to Elaine to press for a fairer share in the profits of their labor. Each season, landowners came around demanding obscene percentages of the profits, without ever presenting the sharecroppers detailed accounting and trapping them with supposed debts.
‘There was very little recourse for African-American tenant farmers against this exploitation; instead there was an unwritten law that no African-American could leave until his or her debt was paid off,’ writes Megan Ming Francis in Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State. Organizers hoped Bratton’s presence would bring more pressure to bear through the courts. Aware of the dangers – the atmosphere was tense after racially motivated violence in the area – some of the farmers were armed with rifles.
At around 11 p.m. that night, a group of local white men, some of whom may have been affiliated with local law enforcement, fired shots into the church. The shots were returned, and in the chaos, one white man was killed. Word spread rapidly about the death. Rumors arose that the sharecroppers, who had formally joined a union known as the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America (PFHUA) were leading an organized ‘insurrection‘ against the white residents of Phillips County.
Governor Charles Brough called for 500 soldiers from nearby Camp Pike to, as the Arkansas Democrat reported on Oct 2, ‘round up’ the ‘heavily armed negroes.’ The troops were “under order to shoot to kill any negro who refused to surrender immediately.” They went well beyond that, banding together with local vigilantes and killing at least 200 African-Americans (estimates run much higher but there was never a full accounting). And the killing was indiscriminate—men, women and children unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity were slaughtered. Amidst the violence, five whites died, but for those deaths, someone would have to be held accountable.
Out of this tragedy, known as the Elaine massacre, and its subsequent prosecution, would come a Supreme Court decision that would upend years of court-sanctioned injustice against African-Americans and would secure the right of due process for defendants placed in impossible circumstances.
Despite its impact, little about the carnage in Elaine was unique during the summer of 1919. It was part of a period of vicious reprisals against African-American veterans returning home from World War I. Many whites believed that these veterans (including Robert Hill, who co-founded PFHUA) posed a threat as they claimed greater recognition for their rights at home. Even though they served in large numbers, black soldiers ‘realized over the course of the war and in the immediate aftermath that their achievement and their success actually provoked more rage and more vitriol than if they had utterly failed,’ says Adriane Lentz-Smith, associate professor of history at Duke University and author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I.
During the massacre, Arkansan Leroy Johnston, who had had spent nine months recovering in a hospital from injuries he suffered in the trenches of France – was pulled from a train shortly after returning home and was shot to death alongside his three brothers…
In the days after the bloodshed in Elaine, local media coverage continued to fan the flames daily, reporting sensational stories of an organized plot against whites. A seven-man committee formed to investigate the killings. Their conclusions all too predictable: the following week they issued a statement in the Arkansas Democrat declaring the gathering in Elaine a ‘deliberately planned insurrection of the negroes against the whites’ led by the PFHUA, whose founders used ‘ignorance and superstition of a race of children for monetary gains.’
The paper claimed every individual who joined was under the understanding that ‘ultimately he would be called upon to kill white people.’ A week later, they would congratulate themselves on the whole episode and their ability to restore order confidently claiming that not one slain African-American was innocent…
The courts were another matter altogether. Dozens of African-Americans became defendants in hastily convened murder trials that used incriminating testimony coerced through torture, and 12 men were sentenced to death. Jury deliberations lasted just moments. The verdicts were a foregone conclusion – it was clear that had they not been slated for execution by the court, the mob would have done so even sooner.
‘You had 12 black men who were clearly charged with murder in a system that was absolutely corrupt at the time – you had mob influence, you had witness tampering, you had a jury that was all-white, you had almost certainly judicial bias, you had the pressure of knowing that if you were a juror in this case that you would almost certainly not be able to live in that town...if you decided anything other than a conviction,’ says Michael Curry, an attorney and chair of the NAACP Advocacy and Policy Committee. No white residents were tried for any crime.” (Uenuma, 2018)
Mob violence, like what was seen in Elaine, Arkansas, has been especially deadly to African Americans since the end of slavery. One of the deadliest post-slavery expressions of mob violence against African Americans was lynching:
“In December 1865, seven months after President Abraham Lincoln took a bullet to the head at Ford’s Theatre, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified with these words:
‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,’ the amendment says.
For blacks, the moment represented liberty in its truest form — the country’s defining document now outlawed slavery. But the 13th Amendment infuriated many Southern whites who refused to accept the outcome of the Civil War.
The next 12 years during the period known as Reconstruction was one of the most brutal stretches of organized racial terrorism in American history, with white mobs attacking and lynching blacks. The unprovoked assaults stretched into the early 1950s.
Historians have struggled for years to figure out just how many blacks were lynched. Now, thanks to a new report from the Equal Justice Initiative, the numbers are coming into clearer focus. The Alabama-based organization said its researchers have documented 6,500 lynchings between 1865 and 1950, including 2,000 attacks during Reconstruction that weren’t tallied in its previous reports…
‘Emboldened Confederate veterans and former enslavers organized a reign of terror that effectively nullified constitutional amendments designed to provide Black people with equal protection and the right to vote,’ the report said. ‘Violence, mass lynchings, and lawlessness enabled white Southerners to create a regime of white supremacy and Black disenfranchisement alongside a new economic order that continued to exploit Black labor.’” (Rosenwald, 2020)
More often than not, lynchings and mob violence had the direct support of local law enforcement or their implicit approval. In one case of mob violence in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1960, the police were bystanders to mob violence until some black gang members stepped in to help the black students that were being beaten. Then the police joined the side of the mob:
“JACKSONVILLE, FL - August 27 marks the anniversary of one of the more horrendous events in Jacksonville's history. It was 56 years ago when the brutal attack that became known as ‘Ax Handle Saturday’ occurred.
That infamous Saturday, The Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was participating in a peaceful protest, sitting at a whites only lunch counter until they were spit on by attackers.
According to The Florida Historical Society, things escalated and 200 white people chased them through the streets of downtown Jacksonville, beating them with ax handles and baseball bats.
Though the attack was originally aimed at the protestors, it soon began to include any black person in sight, according to the FHS. Authorities stood idly by until members of a black street gang called "The Boomerangs" tried to help those being attacked, at which point some members of the police joined in the beatings.
The victims of the attacks ran to a nearby church, finding sanctuary, until the mob disappeared.
Rodney L. Hurst was the president of the Youth Council the year the attack happened. He has written about his experiences in his award-winning book "It was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke," where he contextualizes the state of race issues at the time.
‘Jacksonville was a mess, not unlike a lot of other southern cities,’ Hurst says.
According to FHS, it is believed that the Ku Klux Klan organized the mob attack on ‘Ax Handle Saturday.’ Hurst said that the intent of the mob was to scare, intimidate and bring physical harm. ‘Many times you could not draw a line between the Klan and law enforcement, because law enforcement were at least accomplices to a lot of the things the Klan did.’ (Johnson D. , 2017)
To read more about this, visit the Florida Historical Society.”
As armed counter-protesters descend on small cities with limited law enforcement capabilities, I can easily see where a group of peaceful protesters could be subjected to a repeat of the kind of violence seen on Ax Handle Saturday. I could find no reports of death in the Ax Handle Saturday riots and mob violence. That was 1960. Around the turn of the century, race riots and mob violence proved far more deadly in Wilmington, North Carolina, Rosewood, Florida, and Tulsa, Ok.
Wilmington, North Carolina
“A politically motivated attack by whites against the city’s leading African American citizens, the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 documents the lengths to which Southern White Democrats went to regain political domination of the South after Reconstruction. The violence began on Thursday, November 10th in the predominantly African American city of Wilmington, North Carolina, at that time the state’s largest metropolis. Statewide election returns had recently signaled a shift in power with Democrats taking over the North Carolina State Legislature. The city of Wilmington, however, remained in Republican hands primarily because of its solid base of African American voters. On November 10th, Alfred Moore Waddell, a former Confederate officer and a white supremacist, led a group of townsmen to force the ouster of Wilmington’s city officials.
Waddell relied on an editorial printed in the African American-owned Wilmington Daily Record as the catalyst for the riot. Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, had published an editorial in early November arguing that ‘poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting their women.’ Paraphrasing articles by Ida B. Wells on the subject of lynching, Manly opined that ‘our experiences among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.’ Manly’s public discussion of the taboo subject of interracial sex exposed the reality of sexual exploitation of black women by white men and challenged the myth of pure-white womanhood.
Forty-eight hours after Manly’s editorial ran Waddell led 500 white men to the headquarters of the Daily Record on 7th Street. The mob broke out windows and set the building on fire. Manly and other high profile African Americans fled the city; however, at least 14 African Americans were slain that day. An eyewitness later wrote that African Americans fled to the swamps, or hid in the African American cemetery at the edge of town. When their criminal behavior resulted in neither Federal sanctions nor condemnation from the state, Waddell and his men formalized their control of Wilmington. The posse forced the Republican members of the city council and the mayor to resign and Waddell assumed the mayoral seat. Over the next two years North Carolina passed the ‘grandfather clause,’ as one in a series of laws designed to limit the voting rights of African Americans.” (Johnson T. A., 2008)
“The Rosewood Massacre was an attack on the predominantly African American town of Rosewood, Florida, in 1923, by large groups of white aggressors. The town was entirely destroyed by the end of the violence, and the residents were driven out permanently. The story was mostly forgotten until the 1980s, when it was revived and brought to public attention…
By the 1920s, Rosewood’s population of about 200 was entirely made up of black citizens, except for one white family that ran the general store there.
On January 1, 1923, in Sumner, Florida, 22-year-old Fannie Taylor was heard screaming by a neighbor. The neighbor found Taylor covered in bruises and claiming a black man had entered the house and assaulted her…
Fannie Taylor’s husband, James Taylor, a foreman at the local mill, escalated the situation by gathering an angry mob of white citizens to hunt down the culprit. He also called for help from white residents in neighboring counties, among them a group of about 500 Ku Klux Klan members who were in Gainesville for a rally. The white mobs prowled the area woods searching for any black man they might find.
Law enforcement found out that a black prisoner named Jesse Hunter had escaped a chain gang, and immediately designated him a suspect. The mobs focused their searches on Hunter, convinced that he was being hidden by the black residents.
Searchers were led by dogs to the home of Aaron Carrier in Rosewood. Carrier was the nephew of Sarah Carrier, who did the laundry for Taylor.
The horde of white men dragged Carrier out of his house, tied him to a car and dragged him to Sumner, where he was cut loose and beaten.
Sheriff Walker intervened, putting Carrier in his car and driving him to Gainesville, where he was placed under the protective custody of the sheriff there.
Another mob showed up at the home of blacksmith Sam Carter, torturing him until he admitted that he was hiding Hunter and agreed to take them to the hiding spot.
Carter led them into the woods, but when Hunter failed to appear, someone in the mob shot him. His body was hung on a tree before the mob moved on.
The sheriff’s office had attempted and failed to break up white mobs and advised black workers to stay in their places of employment for safety.
As many as 25 people, mostly children, had taken refuge in the home of Sarah Carrier when, on the night of January 4, armed white men surrounded the house in the belief that Jesse Hunter was hiding there.
Shots were fired in the ensuing confrontation: Sarah Carrier was shot in the head and died, and her son Sylvester was also killed by a gun wound. Two white attackers were also killed.
The gun battle and standoff lasted overnight. It ended when the door was broken down by white attackers. The children inside the house escaped through the back and made their way to safety through the woods, where they hid.
Rosewood Violence Escalates
News of the standoff at the Carrier house spread, with newspapers inflating the number dead and falsely reporting bands of armed black citizens going on a rampage. Even more white men poured into the area believing that a race war had broken out.
Some of the first targets of this influx were the churches in Rosewood, which were burned down. Houses were then attacked, first setting fire to them and then shooting people as they escaped from the burning buildings…
Many Rosewood citizens fled to the nearby swamps for safety, spending days hiding in them. Some attempted to leave the swamps but were turned back by men working for the sheriff.
James Carrier, brother of Sylvester and son of Sarah, did manage to get out of the swamp and take refuge with the help of a local turpentine factory manager. A white mob found him anyhow and forced him to dig a grave for himself before murdering him.
Others found help from white families willing to shelter them.
John and William Bryce
Some black women and children escaped thanks to John and William Bryce, two wealthy brothers who owned a train.
Aware of the violence in Rosewood and familiar with the population, the brothers drove their train to the area and invited escapees, though refused to take in black men, afraid of being attacked by white mobs.
Many of those who fled by train had been hidden in the home of the white general store owner, John Wright, and continued to do so throughout the violence. Sheriff Walker helped terrified residents make their way to Wright, who would then arrange escape with the help of the Bryce brothers.
Florida Governor Cary Hardee offered to send the National Guard to help, but Sheriff Walker declined the help, believing he had the situation under control.
Mobs began to disperse after several days, but on January 7, many returned to finish off the town, burning what little remained of it to the ground, except for the home of John Wright.
A special grand jury and a special prosecutor were appointed by the governor to investigate the violence. The jury heard the testimonies of nearly 30 witnesses, mostly white, over several days, but claimed to not find enough evidence for prosecution.
The surviving citizens of Rosewood did not return, fearful that the horrific bloodshed would recur.
Rosewood Massacre Legacy
The story of Rosewood faded away quickly. Most newspapers stopped reporting on it soon after the violence had ceased, and many survivors kept quiet about their experience, even to subsequent family members.
It was in 1982 when Gary Moore, a journalist for the St. Petersburg Times, resurrected the history of Rosewood through a series of articles that gained national attention.
The living survivors of the massacre, at that point all in their 80s and 90s, came forward, led by Rosewood descendant Arnett Doctor, and demanded restitution from Florida.
The action lead to the passing of a bill awarding them $2 million and created an educational fund for descendants. The bill also called for an investigation into the matter to clarify the events, which Moore took part in.
Further awareness was created through John Singleton’s 1997 film, Rosewood, which dramatized the events.” (History.com Editors, 2020)
Tulsa, Oklahoma (Greenwood)
“During the Tulsa Race Massacre (also known as the Tulsa Race Riot), which occurred over 18 hours on May 31-June 1, 1921, a white mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, and one of the least-known: News reports were largely squelched, despite the fact that hundreds of people were killed and thousands left homeless.
Black Wall Street
In much of the country, the years following World War I saw a spike in racial tensions, including the resurgence of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, numerous lynchings and other acts of racially motivated violence, as well as efforts by African Americans to prevent such attacks on their communities.
By 1921, fueled by oil money, Tulsa was a growing, prosperous city with a population of more than 100,000 people. But crime rates were high, and vigilante justice of all kinds wasn’t uncommon.
Tulsa was also a highly segregated city: Most of the city’s 10,000 Black residents lived in a neighborhood called Greenwood, which included a thriving business district sometimes referred to as the Black Wall Street.
READ MORE: Tulsa's 'Black Wall Street' Flourished as a Self-Contained Hub in the Early 1900s
What Caused the Tulsa Race Massacre?
On May 30, 1921, a young Black teenager named Dick Rowland entered an elevator at the Drexel Building, an office building on South Main Street. At some point after that, the young white elevator operator, Sarah Page, screamed; Rowland fled the scene. The police were called, and the next morning they arrested Rowland.
By that time, rumors of what supposedly happened on that elevator had circulated through the city’s white community. A front-page story in the Tulsa Tribune that afternoon reported that police had arrested Rowland for sexually assaulting Page.
As evening fell, an angry white mob was gathering outside the courthouse, demanding the sheriff hand over Rowland. Sheriff Willard McCullough refused, and his men barricaded the top floor to protect the Black teenager.
Around 9 p.m., a group of about 25 armed Black men—including many World War I veterans—went to the courthouse to offer help guarding Rowland. After the sheriff turned them away, some of the white mob tried unsuccessfully to break into the National Guard armory nearby.
With rumors still flying of a possible lynching, a group of around 75 armed Black men returned to the courthouse shortly after 10 pm, where they were met by some 1,500 white men, some of whom also carried weapons.
After shots were fired and chaos broke out, the outnumbered group of Black men retreated to Greenwood.
Over the next several hours, groups of white Tulsans—some of whom were deputized and given weapons by city officials—committed numerous acts of violence against Black people…
The false belief that a large-scale insurrection among Black Tulsans was underway, including reinforcements from nearby towns and cities with large African American populations, fueled the growing hysteria.
As dawn broke on June 1, thousands of white citizens poured into the Greenwood District, looting and burning homes and businesses over an area of 35 city blocks. Firefighters who arrived to help put out fires later testified that rioters had threatened them with guns and forced them to leave.
According to a later Red Cross estimate, some 1,256 houses were burned; 215 others were looted but not torched. Two newspapers, a school, a library, a hospital, churches, hotels, stores and many other Black-owned businesses were among the buildings destroyed or damaged by fire.
By the time the National Guard arrived and Governor J. B. A. Robertson had declared martial law shortly before noon, the riot had effectively ended. Though guardsmen helped put out fires, they also imprisoned many Black Tulsans, and by June 2 some 6,000 people were under armed guard at the local fairgrounds.
Aftermath of the Tulsa Race Massacre
In the hours after the Tulsa Race Massacre, all charges against Dick Rowland were dropped. The police concluded that Rowland had most likely stumbled into Page, or stepped on her foot. Kept safely under guard in the jail during the riot, he left Tulsa the next morning and reportedly never returned.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead. A 2001 state commission examination of events was able to confirm 36 dead, 26 Black and 10 white. However, historians estimate the death toll may have been as high as 300.
Even by low estimates, the Tulsa Race Massacre stood as one of the deadliest riots in U.S. history, behind only the New York Draft Riots of 1863, which killed at least 119 people.
For decades, there were no public ceremonies, memorials for the dead or any efforts to commemorate the events of May 31-June 1, 1921. Instead, there was a deliberate effort to cover them up.
In 2001, the report of the Race Riot Commission concluded that between 100 and 300 people were killed and more than 8,000 people made homeless over those 18 hours in 1921.” (History.com Editors, 2020)
New York, New York
“The New York Draft Riots occurred in July 1863, when the anger of working-class New Yorkers over a new federal draft law during the Civil War sparked five days of some of the bloodiest and most destructive rioting in U.S. history. Hundreds of people were killed, many more seriously injured, and African-Americans were often the target of the rioters’ violence.
A CITY DIVIDED
As the business capital of the nation, New York City had not welcomed the onset of the Civil War, as it meant losing the South as a trading partner.
Cotton was an extremely valuable product for New York’s merchants: Before the Civil War, cotton represented 40 percent of all the goods shipped out of the city’s port. And long after the slave trade was made illegal in 1808, the city’s illicit slave market thrived.
When the war broke out in 1861, there was even talk of New York seceding from the Union itself, so entwined were the city’s business interests with the Confederate States.
As the war progressed, New York’s anti-war politicians and newspapers kept warning its working-class white citizens, many of them Irish or German immigrants, that emancipation would mean their replacement in the labor force by thousands of freed black slaves from the South.
In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation (which would take effect early the following year), confirming the workers’ worst fears.
At the time, Lincoln’s decision for emancipation sparked protests among workers in the city, as well as soldiers and officers in New York regiments who had signed up to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery.
NEW FEDERAL DRAFT LAW SPARKS UNREST
Facing a dire shortage of manpower in early 1863, Lincoln’s government passed a strict new conscription law, which made all male citizens between 20 and 35 and all unmarried men between 35 and 45 subject to military duty.
Though all eligible men were entered into a lottery, they could buy their way out of harm’s way by hiring a substitute or paying $300 to the government (roughly $5,800 today).
At the time, that sum was the yearly salary for the average American worker, making avoiding the draft impossible for all but the wealthiest of men. Compounding the issue, African Americans were exempt from the draft, as they were not considered citizens.
Riots over the draft occurred in other cities, including Detroit and Boston, but nowhere as badly as in New York. Anti-war newspapers published attacks on the new draft law, fueling the mounting anger of white workers leading up to the city’s first draft lottery on July 11, 1863.
NEW YORK DRAFT RIOTS BEGIN
For the first 24 hours after the lottery, the city remained suspiciously quiet, but rioting began early on the morning of Monday, July 13.
Thousands of white workers – mainly Irish and Irish-Americans – started by attacking military and government buildings, and became violent only toward people who tried to stop them, including the insufficient numbers of policemen and soldiers the city’s leaders initially mustered to oppose them.
By that afternoon, however, they had moved on to target black citizens, homes and and businesses.
In one notorious example, a mob of several thousand people, some armed with clubs and bats, stormed the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue near 42nd Street, a four-story building housing more than 200 children.
They took bedding, food, clothing and other goods and set fire to the orphanage, but stopped short of assaulting the children, who were forced to go to one of the city’s almshouses.
STUNNING VIOLENCE AND BLOODSHED
In addition to blacks themselves, rioters turned their rage against white abolitionists and women who were married to black men.
White dockworkers, long opposed to the black men working on the docks alongside them (a demonstration against employers hiring black workers on the docks had turned violent earlier in 1863) took the opportunity to destroy many of the businesses near the docks that catered to black workers, and attack their owners, as part of their effort to erase the black working class from the city.
By far the worst violence was reserved for African-American men, a number of whom were lynched or beaten to death with shocking brutality. In all, the published death toll of the New York City draft riots was 119 people, though estimates of the actual number of people killed reached as high as 1,200.
DRAFT RIOTS FINALLY END
New York leaders struggled with the task of containing the draft riots: Governor Horatio Seymour was a Peace Democrat, who had openly opposed the draft law and appeared sympathetic to the riot.
New York City’s Republican mayor, George Opdyke, wired the War Department to send federal troops but hesitated on declaring martial law in response to the rioting.
On July 15, the third day of the protests, rioting spread to Brooklyn and Staten Island. The following day, the first of more than 4,000 federal troops arrived, from New York regiments who had been fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg.
After clashing with rioters in what is now the Murray Hill neighborhood, the troops were finally able to restore order, and by midnight of July 16 the New York City draft riots had come to an end.
LEGACY of the NEW YORK DRAFT RIOTS
In addition to the death toll, the riots had caused millions of dollars in property damage and made some 3,000 of the city’s black residents homeless.
The New York Draft Riots remain the deadliest riots in U.S. history, even worse than the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the 1967 Detroit Riots.
When the Colored Orphan Asylum attempted to rebuild on the same site after the riots, neighboring property owners protested, and the orphanage would eventually be relocated to the sparsely settled area north of the city that would later become Harlem.
… the draft riots would have a devastating impact on the city’s African-American community. While the 1860 census recorded 12,414 black New Yorkers, by 1865 the city’s black population had declined to 9,945 by 1865, the lowest number since 1820.” (History.com Editors, 2018)
I am a 55-year-old African American man. I had never heard of most of the post-slavery mass-murders of African Americans until recently, as I started writing this book. I’d heard of “Black Wall Street” many times and honestly thought it was an urban legend as the prosperity of the blacks in the city at that time in America seemed too good to be true. I can see the concept of one race gathering together for success in places like Chinatown in New York or L.A. On top of all the deaths, the number of people, thousands of them, instantly made homeless is staggering. The economic impacts on people whose homes, businesses, churches, schools, communities were burned to the ground are hard to grasp. All of these things are merely an illustration of what can happen when racism is unleashed.
As horrific as the mass murders, lynching, and mob violence were for African Americans, the only word fit to describe what happened to the Native Americans is genocide.
Genocide in America
“From the time Europeans arrived on American shores, the frontier—the edge territory between white man’s civilization and the untamed natural world—became a shared space of vast, clashing differences that led the U.S. government to authorize over 1,500 wars, attacks and raids on Indians, the most of any country in the world against its indigenous people. By the close of the Indian Wars in the late 19th century, fewer than 238,000 indigenous people remained, a sharp decline from the estimated 5 million to 15 million living in North America when Columbus arrived in 1492.
The reasons for this racial genocide were multi-layered. Settlers, most of whom had been barred from inheriting property in Europe, arrived on American shores hungry for Indian land—and the abundant natural resources that came with it. Indians’ collusion with the British during the American Revolution and the War of 1812 exacerbated American hostility and suspicion toward them.
Even more fundamentally, indigenous people were just too different: Their skin was dark. Their languages were foreign. And their world views and spiritual beliefs were beyond most white men’s comprehension…
Below, some of the most aggressive acts of genocide taken against indigenous Americans:
In 1782, a group of militiamen from Pennsylvania killed 96 Christianized Delaware Indians, illustrating the growing contempt for native people. Captain David Williamson ordered the converted Delawares, who had been blamed for attacks on white settlements, to go to the cooper shop two at a time, where militiamen beat them to death with wooden mallets and hatchets.
Ironically, the Delawares were the first Indians to capture a white settler and the first to sign a U.S.-Indian treaty four years earlier—one that set the precedent for 374 Indian treaties over the next 100 years. Often employing the common phrase ‘peace and friendship,’ 229 of these agreements led to tribal lands being ceded to a rapidly expanding United States. Many treaties negotiated U.S.-Indian trade relations, establishing a trading system to oust the British and their goods—especially the guns they put in Indian hands…
In the South, the War of 1812 bled into the Mvskoke Creek War of 1813-1814, also known as the Red Stick War. An inter-tribal conflict among Creek Indian factions, the war also engaged U.S. militias, along with the British and Spanish, who backed the Indians to help keep Americans from encroaching on their interests. Early Creek victories inspired General Andrew Jackson to retaliate with 2,500 men, mostly Tennessee militia, in early November 1814. To avenge the Creek-led massacre at Fort Mims, Jackson and his men slaughtered 186 Creeks at Tallushatchee. ‘We shot them like dogs!’ said Davy Crockett.
In desperation, Mvskoke Creek women killed their children so they would not see the soldiers butcher them. As one woman started to kill her baby, the famed Indian fighter, Andrew Jackson, grabbed the child from the mother. Later, he delivered the Indian baby to his wife Rachel, for both of them to raise as their own.
Jackson went on to win the Red Stick War in a decisive battle at Horseshoe Bend. The subsequent treaty required the Creek to cede more than 21 million acres of land to the United States.
One of the most bitterly debated issues on the floor of Congress was the Indian Removal Bill of 1830, pushed hard by then-President Andrew Jackson. Despite being assailed by many legislators as immoral, the bill finally passed in the Senate by nine votes, 29 to 17, and by an even smaller margin in the House. In Jackson’s thinking, more than three dozen eastern tribes stood in the way of what he saw as the settlers’ divinely ordained rights to clear the wilderness, build homes and grow cotton and other crops. In his annual address to Congress in 1833, Jackson denounced Indians, stating, “They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race…they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere [before] long disappear.”
From 1830 to 1840, the U.S. army removed 60,000 Indians—Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee and others—from the East in exchange for new territory west of the Mississippi. Thousands died along the way of what became known as the ‘Trail of Tears.’ And as whites pushed ever westward, the Indian-designated territory continued to shrink.
Annuities and provisions promised to Indians through government treaties were slow in being delivered, leaving Dakota Sioux people, who were restricted to reservation lands on the Minnesota frontier, starving and desperate. After a raid of nearby white farms for food turned into a deadly encounter, Dakotas continued raiding, leading to the Little Crow War of 1862, in which 490 settlers, mostly women and children, were killed. President Lincoln sent soldiers, who defeated the Dakota; and after a series of mass trials, more than 300 Dakota men were sentenced to death.
While Lincoln commuted most of the sentences, on the day after Christmas at Mankato, military officials hung 38 Dakotas at once—the largest mass execution in American history. More than 4,000 people gathered in the streets to watch, many bringing picnic baskets. The 38 were buried in a shallow grave along the Minnesota River, but physicians dug up most of the bodies to use as medical cadavers.Indians fighting back to defend their people and protect their homelands provided ample justification for American forces to kill any Indians on the frontier, even peaceful ones. On November 29, 1864, a former Methodist minister, John Chivington, led a surprise attack on peaceful Cheyennes and Arapahos on their reservation at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. His force consisted of 700 men, mainly volunteers in the First and Third Colorado Regiments. Plied with too much liquor the night before, Chivington and his men boasted that they were going to kill Indians. Once a missionary to Wyandot Indians in Kansas, Chivington declared, ‘Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians!…I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heavens to kill Indians.’
That fateful cold morning, Chivington led his men against 200 Cheyennes and Arapahos. Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle had tied an American flag to his lodge pole as he was instructed, to indicate his village was at peace. When Chivington ordered the attack, Black Kettle tied a white flag beneath the American flag, calling to his people that the soldiers would not kill them. As many as 160 were massacred, mostly women and children.
At this time, a war hero from the Civil War emerged in the West. George Armstrong Custer rode in front of his mostly Irish Seventh Cavalry to the Irish drinking tune, ‘Gary Owen.’ Custer wanted fame, and killing Indians—especially peaceful ones who weren’t expecting to be attacked—represented opportunity.
On orders from General Philip Sheridan, Custer and his Seventh attacked the Cheyennes and their Arapaho allies on the western frontier of Indian Territory on November 29, 1868, near the Washita River. After slaughtering 103 warriors, plus women and children, Custer dispatched to Sheridan that ‘a great victory was won,’ and described, ‘One, the Indians were asleep. Two, the women and children offered little resistance. Three, the Indians are bewildered by our change of policy.’
Custer later led the Seventh Cavalry on the northern Plains against the Lakota, Arapahos and Northern Cheyennes. He boasted, ‘The Seventh can handle anything it meets,’ and ‘there are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.’
Expecting another great surprise victory, Custer attacked the largest gathering of warriors on the high plains on June 25, 1876—near Montana’s Little Big Horn river. Custer’s death at the hands of Indians making their own last stand only intensified propaganda for military revenge to bring ‘peace’ to the frontier.
Anti-Indian anger rose in the late 1880s as the Ghost Dance spiritual movement emerged, spreading to two dozen tribes across 16 states, and threatening efforts to culturally assimilate tribal peoples. Ghost Dance, which taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs, called for a rejection of the white man’s ways. In December 1890, several weeks after the famed Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was killed while being arrested, the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry massacred 150 to 200 ghost dancers at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
For their mass murder of disarmed Lakota, President Benjamin Harrison awarded about 20 soldiers the Medal of Honor.” (Fixico, 2019)
While I was familiar with Indian atrocities such as the “Trail of Tears” and “Wounded Knee,” I was not aware of Indian atrocities and genocide in California. This next account is the untold horror story behind Calfornia’s “gold rush.”
“’Gold! Gold from the American River!’ Samuel Brannan walked up and down the streets of San Francisco, holding up a bottle of pure gold dust. His triumphant announcement, and the discovery of gold at nearby Sutter’s Mill in 1848, ushered in a new era for California—one in which millions of settlers rushed to the little-known frontier in a wild race for riches.
But though gold spelled prosperity and power for the white settlers who arrived in California in 1849 and after, it meant disaster for the state’s peaceful indigenous population.
In just 20 years, 80 percent of California’s Native Americans were wiped out. And though some died because of the seizure of their land or diseases caught from new settlers, between 9,000 and 16,000 were murdered in cold blood—the victims of a policy of genocide sponsored by the state of California and gleefully assisted by its newest citizens.
Today, California’s genocide is one of the most heinous chapters in the state’s troubled racial history, which also includes forced sterilizations of people of Mexican descent and discrimination and internment of up to 120,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II. But before any of that, one of the new state’s first priorities was to rid itself of its sizeable Native American population, and it did so with a vengeance.
California’s native peoples had a long and rich history; hundreds of thousands of Native Americans speaking up to 80 languages populated the area for thousands of years. In 1848, California became the property of the United States as one of the spoils of the Mexican-American War. Then, in 1850, it became a state. For the state and federal government, it was imperative both to make room for new settlers and to lay claim to gold on traditional tribal lands. And settlers themselves—motivated by bigotry and fear of Native peoples—were intent on removing the approximately 150,000 Native Americans who remained.
‘Whites are becoming impressed with the belief that it will be absolutely necessary to exterminate the savages before they can labor much longer in the mines with security,’ wrote the Daily Alta California in 1849, reflecting the prejudices of the day.
They were assisted by the government, which considered the so-called ‘Indian Problem’ to be one of the biggest threats to its sovereignty. The legal basis for enslaving California’s native people was effectively enshrined into law at the first session of the state legislature, where officials gave white settlers the right to take custody of Native American children. The law also gave white people the right to arrest Native people for minor offenses like loitering or possessing alcohol and made it possible for whites to put Native Americans convicted of crimes to work to pay off the fines they incurred. The law was widely abused and ultimately led to the enslavement of tens of thousands of Native Americans in the name of their ‘protection.’
This was just the beginning. Peter Hardenman Burnett, the state’s first governor, saw indigenous Californians as lazy, savage and dangerous. Though he acknowledged that white settlers were taking their territory and bringing disease, he felt that it was the inevitable outcome of the meeting of two races.
‘That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected,’ he told legislators in the second state of the state address in 1851. ‘While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.’
Burnett didn’t just refuse to avert such a conflict—he egged it on. He set aside state money to arm local militias against Native Americans. The state, with the help of the U.S. Army, started assembling a massive arsenal. These weapons were then given to local militias, who were tasked with killing native people.
State militias raided tribal outposts, shooting and sometimes scalping Native Americans. Soon, local settlers began to do the killing themselves. Local governments put bounties on Native American heads and paid settlers for stealing the horses of the people they murdered.
‘By demonstrating that the state would not punish Indian killers, but instead reward them,’ writes historian Benjamin Madley, ‘militia expeditions helped inspire vigilantes to kill at least 6,460 California Indians between 1846 and 1873.’ The U.S Army also joined in the killing, Madley notes, killing at least 1,600 native Californians.
Large massacres wiped out entire tribal populations. In 1850, for example, around 400 Pomo people, including women and children, were slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry and local volunteers at Clear Lake north of San Francisco. One of the few survivors was a six-year-old girl named Ni’ka, who stayed alive by hiding in the lake and breathing through a reed.
Meanwhile, white settlers and the California government enslaved native people and forced them to labor for ranchers through at least the mid-1860s. Native Americans were then forced onto reservations and their children forced to attend ‘Indian assimilation schools.’
An estimated 100,000 Native Americans died during the first two years of the Gold Rush alone; by 1873, only 30,000 indigenous people remained of around 150,000. According to Madley, the state spent a total of about $1.7 million—a staggering sum in its day—to murder up to 16,000 people.
Today, despite all odds, California has the United States’ largest Native American population and is home to 109 federally recognized tribes. But the state’s treatment of native peoples during its founding days—and the role the slaughter of Native Americans played in establishing California’s prosperity—is little known today. California only apologized for the genocide it carried out against its indigenous residents in 2019.” (Blakemore, 2017)
One of the most shocking things to me about the history of genocide, massacres, and mass murders in America is the absence of the voice of the church. I am not a Bible college graduate or a student of the history of the American Church at the turn of the century and into the “roaring 20s.”
I can only wonder if there were great prophets, evangelists, and leaders of organized religion at the time. From the viewpoint of the massacres of the Indians and African Americans, the mid-1800s through the 1920s seem like the dark ages to me. There seems to be no national voice, no cry ringing out from the clergy condemning racial violence.
I know that the great Azusa Street revival started in 1906. I share in MGA (Vol I) that the uniqueness of Azusa was its racial makeup and unity. Perhaps it was the spark that God was trying to light in America as the answer to racial hatred. I also share in MGA (Vol I), how the Azusa revival was undercut by racism. It makes me wonder about now. Just as I can’t hear among the pages of history the voice of the church crying out against the massacres of the Native and African Americans, I struggle to hear the church now, as African Americans suffer death at the hands of the police.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish