It’s not just Tulsa: A Brief American History of White-on-Black Massacres
The centennial of the Tulsa massacre has brought a lot of attention to the tragedy that killed more than 800 people and destroyed the wealthiest Black town in America, known as Black Wall Street.
Many Americans have brought up how they never knew of this tragedy. I was one of them. I learned about it after the first episode of HBO’s The Watchmen. It got me to wondering how many more massacres there were that aren’t told in our history books.
The answer is a lot. In fact, there were so many I had to have some criteria to keep the list from getting too long.
First, I was only looking at White-on-Black massacres. There are massacres of Indigenous People, Latinos and Asians that are just as horrific. But each minority race in America has had its own unique struggle. When you throw them all together, you lose sight of those struggles. So I want to keep them distinct.
Second, I kept it to incidents where there were more than 100 victims. There are many more incidents that were under that threshold, but it would be near impossible to include all of them into a single article.
I also don’t believe that my list is in any way complete. It’s not like there’s a database I can draw from. There is a list of massacres in America posted in Wikipedia that made for an excellent starting point, though.
For each instance, there is a brief description of what happened and why, and a link to an article about it.
The New York Draft Riots, 1863
The New York draft riots were a result of a confluence of events, but the underlying cause is one that persists today.
The abolitionist movement was growing in strength in Manhattan, and that made it an attraction for free Black people.
To counter, anti-abolitionists were stoking fears that if the slaves were freed, they would come up to New York and take the jobs of poor Whites.
Against that backdrop two things happened: The Emancipation Proclamation and a change in the draft laws that mandated all male citizens between 20–35 years of age and unmarried males between 35–45 were subject to military service. That…