n the decade preceding World War I, the marginal gains that blacks made socially, politically and economically after emancipation began to incense white supremacists and led them to launch a new wave of racial violence, aimed at stopping this progress. White mobs began attacking entire black communities, rather than isolated individuals or groups. In these “race riots” — most of which were really massacres — white mobs invaded black neighborhoods, beat and killed large numbers of blacks and destroyed black property. In most instances, blacks fought back and there were many casualties on both sides, but most of the dead were black.
This slideshow features seven of the deadliest of these incidents, drawn from a curriculum developed by the New Haven Teaching Institute at Yale University. You can continue reading about this type of racial violence on their website. A more scholarly source on this subject is The Encyclopedia of American Race Riots. An equally scholarly source that narrates such events in their broader political context is Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow.
Be sure to return Friday for part two of this series, where we’ll examine race riots that blacks initiated. We found one that you may never have heard about, in New Orleans, in 1900. It started when a black man who killed two police officers eluded their manhunt and drew them into a standoff. He shot 23 people, and killed seven of them, including 4 police officers, sparking more than four days of rioting.
1898 Wilmington, North Carolina
“Just before the turn of the century, in November 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina exploded in the first major race riot since Reconstruction. The Wilmington riot followed an impassioned election campaign in which intimidation and fraud brought in a white supremacist government. Plans were drawn up before the election to coerce the Black voters and workers, and to expel the editor of the Black newspaper. Two days after the election, as whites began to execute their plan, the riot flamed. About thirty Blacks were killed in the massacre and many left the city. The white mob suffered no casualties.” — The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950 by Robert A. Gibson