Category Archives: African American History

The 1862 Binghamton Race Riot


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binhampton-ny-1876For a few hours on the night of October 7, 1862 in the village of Binghamton, N.Y., law and order vaporized when a mob of white men attacked black residents, their homes, and their churches. The trigger for this race riot was an interracial fight at the circus in town. According to the Broome Republican, the rioters’ expressed goal was to “clean the negroes out.”

Right after the circus performances ended, “all the colored persons present” were attacked. Many suffered bloody injuries at the hands – and stones and clubs – of 20 to 30 rioters. There was no organized resistance as the victims fled for safety. In addition, there were no arrests, or police presence or response. Continue reading

Buffalo’s Dug’s Dive Riot of 1863


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dugs-dive-buffaloNot much has been written about this civil disturbance that occurred on the afternoon of August 12, 1862 when Irish and German stevedores protested against local dock bosses, demanding increased pay for their work, and preventing others from working however when police responded the rioters overpowered them and Chief Dullard and other members of the force injured.

Ultimately the police regained control of the situation with gunfire wounding two rioters and arresting the ring leaders. Continue reading

Kerry James Marshall: The Master is Present


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School of Beauty, School of Culture, 2012. Kerry James MarshallKerry James Marshall, at the Met Breuer exhibition until January 29, boldly claims center stage in American art with his show entitled “Mastry.” A Chicago-based painter, Marshall seizes the spotlight at the center of conversations about American art at the center of the country’s art scene in New York. His mastery unfurls over a grand expanse of work, complemented by his own selections from the Metropolitan Museum’s collections, a curated sidebar that testifies to his confident deployment of art history in his own work. History, genre, cityscape, portrait – Marshall draws from the visual riches of the past, transforming Western art traditions into his own language. His cityscapes suggest how his paintings reclaim space.  Continue reading

The Astor Place Riot/Shakespeare Riots of 1849


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astor place riotThis conflict occurred on May 10, 1849 at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, New York City. When it was over an estimated lay 25 people lay dead and more than 120 injured when militiamen fired into an unruly crowd that had gathered in front of this theatre. Incredibly, the riot was triggered by the appearance at this venue of a famous British Shakespearean actor, William Charles Macready. It seems that he was as involved in a bitter rivalry with an American actor, Edwin Forrest, and each man was revered by a contingent of diehard fans. Continue reading

The Flour Riot of 1837


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flour riot 1837Generally speaking, riots tend to happen on hot summer days but the Flour Riot erupted on a cold winter night in February of 1837. The attack on warehouses was sparked by a fear that food was being hoarded by wealthy merchants in lower Manhattan and people in the lower classes might face starvation. In reality, the rumors which inflamed the crowd were greatly exaggerated, lasted about a day and the vandalism which resulted was fairly minor, especially when compared to such later disturbances such as the Astor Place Riot or the colossal Draft Riots. Nonetheless, the Flour Riot was a significant affair because it underscored a growing divide in the city between New York’s prosperous merchant class and a quickly growing lower class of newly arrived Irish immigrants. The riot was also memorable because new method of communication, the “penny press,” had helped to inflame tensions. These cheap newspapers, widely available to the poor, had spread dangerous rumors and provoked a mob to attack a warehouse where flour was stored. Continue reading

Grave Robbing And The Doctors Riot of 1788


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new york hospitalThe origins of this civil disturbance began in early February of 1788 and broke out in mid April of that year. Actually the City’s doctors did not riot as the name implies. However, it had its origins in the illegal procurement of corpses of free blacks and slaves and poor whites by doctors and medical students at an unaccredited surgical training school in lower Manhattan led by Richard Bailey, a Connecticut-born doctor who had studied in London.

Apparently it was expensive and almost impossible for the school to provide corpses for its teaching purposes and the professors and students resorted to stealing them from nearby Trinity Church yard and other local cemeteries including the one for people of color then known the “Negro Burying Ground” Continue reading

The Slave Conspiracy Riot of 1741


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slave revolt 1741This conflict also known as “The New York Conspiracy Riot” was an amazingly intricate and brutal affair that in addition to its local implications had an international twist as well.

In the context of the longstanding European conflicts, English colonists in New York City felt anxious about the French presence in Canada to the north and Spanish colonies in the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River Valley to the South and West. They also felt threatened by a recent influx of Irish immigrants, whose Catholicism might incline them to spy for France and Spain. Continue reading

Miguel Hernandez: The ‘Negro Riot of 1712’


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Gov. Robert HunterOne of the earliest documented riots in New York State that had a racial component or undertone was the so-called Negro Riot of 1712. It began in the area of a section of the New York City that later became be known as “Five Points” due to the convergence of three streets, Anthony, Cross, and Orange.

At that time the northern limits of British New York were present day Canal St. The population was about ten thousand, of which roughly one-fifth were African slaves. Continue reading

18th and 19th Century Racial and Ethnic Riots in New York


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orange riotLike many states in the nation, New York has a long history of racially and ethnically related civil disturbances, riots, rebellions and uprisings. These unsettling events have had lasting impacts on these communities long after disturbance had passed and relative peace was restored. The following is a descriptive but incomplete list of 18th and 19th century conflicts (principally of those in New York City) in which lives were lost, property was damaged or destroyed and law and order had to be established with the often violent, coercive use of force by police and/or state military units. Most importantly these events occurred in the context of a long-standing history of racial, ethnic and social class conflicts coupled with a triggering incident that set off a more sustained period of communal violence. Continue reading