New Orleans Race Riots…Democrats Murder Republicans

Today in History, July 30, 1866:

The New Orleans Riot. NOLA had been under Union control for most of the Civil War, although deep South in geography and sentiments. In 1864, a state convention of mostly Confederate sympathies had tried to enforce “Black Codes” to limit the rights of Freedmen.

Now that the war was over, “Radical” Republicans were holding a state convention in The Mechanic’s Institute in New Orleans in hopes of gaining control of the legislature.

A group of black Union veterans formed and marched to the Institute in support of the Republicans, where they were attacked by an armed group of former Confederates, including some authorities (the Mayor and others were Democrat former Confederates). 34-35 black and 3 white Republicans were killed.

Other similar riots in the South occurred, convincing enough voters that more stringent Reconstruction policies were needed.

In November Republicans would sweep into both houses of Congress by 77%. The next year they would force through the Fourteenth Amendment protecting citizenship rights and equal protections over the protests of Democrats in Congress. Before it could be ratified, the Reconstruction Acts were passed…requiring former states to ratify if before they could be represented in Congress.

Republicans Killed by Democrats

Today in History, July 30, 1866:

The New Orleans Riot.

NOLA had been under Union control for most of the Civil War, although deep South in geography and sentiments.

In 1864, a state convention of mostly Confederate sympathies had tried to enforce “Black Codes” to limit the rights of Freedmen.

Now that the war was over, “Radical” Republicans were holding a state convention in The Mechanic’s Institute in New Orleans in hopes of gaining control of the legislature. A group of black Union veterans formed and marched to the Institute in support of the Republicans, where they were attacked by an armed group of former Confederates, including some authorities (the Mayor and others were Democrat former Confederates). 34-35 black and 3 white Republicans were killed.

Other similar riots in the South occurred, convincing enough voters that more stringent Reconstruction policies were needed. In November Republicans would sweep into both houses of Congress by 77%. The next year they would force through the Fourteenth Amendment protecting citizenship rights and equal protections over the protests of Democrats in Congress. Before it could be ratified, the Reconstruction Acts were passed…requiring former states to ratify if before they could be represented in Congress.

Mr. President, Mr. Chief Justice

Today in History, July 11, 1921:

Former President William Howard Taft is sworn in as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, his dream job.

He had been a jurist in several different posts, Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of War and finally President. His former friend Theodore Roosevelt had tried to appoint him to the court several times, but he had refused because he felt responsibilities to the positions he filled at the time.

He never really wanted to be President, but Chief Justice had been his life long dream. President Warren G. Harding gave it to him, making him the only person to hold both jobs, and the only former President to swear in future Presidents.

The Grand Army of the Republic

Today in History, April 6, 1866:

Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty.” The Grand Army of the Republic is formed in Decatur, Illinois, bringing together a Fraternal organization of veterans of the Union (US) Army, Navy, Marines, and “Revenue Cutter Service” (Coast Guard) from the Civil War.

Admittedly an arm of the Republican Party, the GAR was one of the first bi-racial fraternal organizations in the US…white and black veterans worked together to gain veteran’s pensions, elect Republican Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison and McKinley, all Civil War veterans.

At it’s high point, the organization had 490,000 members; it passed with it’s last member’s death in 1956, to be replaced by the “Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Fighting the Good Fight…and Consequences

Today in History, March 22: 1871:

North Carolina Governor William Holden (no, not THAT William Holden) is removed from office by impeachment…the first US Governor to receive this punishment.

His crime? Holden was a Republican and an abolitionist…during his tenure as Governor he hired two dozen detectives to hunt down the leaders of the NC KKK, got a bill passed that called out the militia against the KKK, and suspended habeas corpus to enhance his ability to prosecute the leaders of the Klan.

In 1870 the state’s Democrats won the legislature and quickly moved to impeach Holden for his hard-handed tactics against the KKK.

Holden had enacted these actions to counter the assassination of a Republican Senator and the hanging of an African-American police officer, amongst other crimes. In 2011, the entirety of the North Carolina Senate voted to pardon Holden.

gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.” – Frederick Douglass

Today in History, February 20, 1895:

Frederick Douglass dies of either a heart attack or stroke in Washington DC after having appeared at an event of the National Council of Women where he received a standing ovation.

Thousands paid their respects at his funeral before he was returned to New York City to be interred at Mount Hope Cemetery in his family plot.

Douglass had been born circa 1818 (he never knew his actual birth date) into slavery in Maryland.

In 1838, on his third attempt, he escaped slavery. In the coming years Frederick Douglass became a well respected orator and statesman for the growing abolitionist and equal rights movements, impressing his listeners with his intellect and powerful messages.

“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe.

In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.” – Frederick Douglass

Go West, Young Man, and Grow Up With the Country!


Today in History, May 20: 1862 – President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which would give 160 acres of western lands to anyone that would farm it successfully for 5 years and build a residence upon it (often a sod building). The Act would encourage vastly expanded settlement of the west; bad news for Native Americans, good news for those newer Americans wanting to improve their lot in life. Congress had attempted to pass similar acts in 1852, 1854, and 1859, but each time the attempts were shot down by Southern Democrats who were afraid that if the west were populated by poor farmers and immigrants it would result in more “free” states, which would result in more votes against slavery. Once the Republican Lincoln was elected, and the Civil War began, the Southern Democrats were no longer part of the equation.  As their states seceded from the Union, their obstructionist votes left Congress.   The Republicans soon passed the Homestead Act and the settlement of the west began in earnest. By the end of the war 15,000 settlers (some of which were merely pawns for land speculators) had accepted their lands. Eventually 80 Million acres would be settled.