New Orleans Race Riots During the Lead Up to the Nov. 3, 1868 Presidential Election

Pat Young

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While many of us are familiar with the 1866 massacre of Blacks in New Orleans and the 1874 so-called "Battle of Liberty Place," there was also violent racial conflict in the city during the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3, 1868 Presidential Election, which would see Grant become president.

Here is an article on thise violent period:

Race and Violence in Reconstruction New Orleans: The 1868 Riot
Melinda Meek Hennessey
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Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter, 1979), pp. 77-91 (15 pages)

https://www.jstor.org/stable/423186...57507a09ffc9ef7a&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
 

Pat Young

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Unlike many other parts of Louisiana where blacks made up a majority, in New Orleans they were in the minority. However, Republican strength was magnified beyond its normal Southern base because the population included many free people of color who had been prosperous before the war. This mixed race cohort included a larger portion of educated men than existed in any other non-white community in the South. In addition, the city's large German population included many Republican voters.

New Orleans had also begun Reconstruction earlier than the rest of the South. Liberated in 1862, the Black population had a three-year head start on freedom.
 

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Blacks in New Orleans took to organized political activity even before they won the right to vote. Loyal League and other political clubs were popular and by 1868 blacks had achieved an impressive level of self-organization at the city and ward level.
 

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White Democrats also were extensively organized. An unusual formation was the Innocents, a group of Democratic militants that was identified in the public mind with the city's Sicilian population, although its leader and many members were non-Sicilian.

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According to Hennessey, the first inklings of the violence to come occurred in September when Black marchers clashed with white Democrats:

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Pat Young

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While the Sept. 22 violence appears to have been spontaneous, a genuine riot, the next incident of deadly violence was more likely a planned massacre.

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Pat Young

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After this apparently premeditated killing of Blacks, a couple of hours later some African Americans engaged in retaliatory attacks on whites. Two white men were killed and one was badly wounded in violence shortly before midnight.

On October 25 the killings in neighboring St. Bernard Parish were underway, but an uneasy peace was in place in New Orleans.
 

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During the months leading up to the killings, the New Orleans Metropolitan Police had sworn in increasing numbers of black officers. On the 25th, New Orleans's Democratic papers mocked the black cops for failing to quell the riots.

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When violent clashed resumed on Monday, Louisiana Gov. Warmouth asked for Federal troops to take action. The state had no militia and the police were unable to control the situation. General Rousseau, in command of the Federal forces in the city, met with Democratic and Republican political leaders and all sides agreed to a suspension of political marches until after the election.

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Pat Young

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The author says that Monday night saw a new phase in the riots. Armed whites broke into the homes of blacks and robbed them. Black political clubs were raided by mobs and ransacked.

Widespread violence only began to abate on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
 

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