Reconstruction and Insurrection in 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina

The violent overthrow of a duly elected government by a group of white supremacists. Introduction The Wilmington insurrection of 1898, also known as the Wilmington massacre of 1898 or the Wilmington coup of 1898, occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Thursday, November 10, 1898. It is considered a turning point in post-Reconstruction North Carolina politics.[…]

The Crescent City ‘White League’ and Insurrection in 1874 New Orleans

The Battle of Liberty Place was an insurrection by the Crescent City White League against the Reconstruction Era state government. Introduction The Battle of Liberty Place, or Battle of Canal Street, was an attempted insurrection and coup d’etat by the Crescent City White League against the Reconstruction Era Louisiana Republican state government on September 14,[…]

The Artifacts of White Supremacy: A History of the Ku Klux Klan

Robes, fiery crosses, and even the American flag were all material objects employed by the 1920s Klan to convey their “gospel”. Introduction Discussions about racism—and white supremacy in particular—tend to treat it as a matter of belief, while there’s considerably less talk of how racialized hate becomes tangible and real. And yet, we know the Ku[…]

Charles Sumner: The Fight for Equal Naturalization Rights in 1870

Sumner added fire to an already explosive debate with his amendment to do away with the “whites only” clause of the naturalization law. On July 4, 1870 – 150 years ago this week – Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts urged the U.S. Senate to take a radical step: to strike out the word “white”[…]

History, the KKK, and Christianity

Nationalism (or “100% Americanism”), Protestant Christianity, and white supremacy became inextricably linked. Randall J. Stephens responds to Kelly J. Baker’s essay, “The Artifacts of White Supremacy,” which is featured in the June issue of the Forum. Baker’s essay considers how discussions about racism—and white supremacy in particular—tend to treat it as a matter of belief,[…]

From Grandfather to Grandson, the Lessons of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

More Americans are learning about the 1921 massacre in Tulsa. It is part of this author’s family history. Introduction My family sat down to watch the first episode of HBO’s “Watchmen” last October. Stephen Williams, the director, included quick cuts of gunshots, explosions, citizens fleeing roaming mobs, and even a plane dropping bombs. We’ve come[…]

The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” Introduction The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the[…]

Jim Crow Laws and the American Experience

It would take several decades of legal action and years of nonviolent direct action to spark real change. Introduction The segregation and disenfranchisement laws known as “Jim Crow” represented a formal, codified system of racial apartheid that dominated the American South for three quarters of a century beginning in the 1890s. The laws affected almost[…]

Jim Crow and Racial Segregation after 1876

It was not until 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education and later 1964 with the Civil Rights Act that these laws were finally abolished. Introduction Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and border states of the United States after 1876 requiring the separation of African-Americans from white Americans[…]

‘With All Deliberate Speed’: Brown v. Board and the End of Racial School Segregation

White citizens in the South organized a “Massive Resistance” campaign against integration. A Segregated Society An 1896 Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, had declared “separate but equal” Jim Crow segregation legal. The Plessy ruling asserted that so long as purportedly “equal” accommodations were supplied for African Americans, the races could, legally, be separated. In[…]

A History of Racial Segregation in the United States

De facto segregation continues today because of both contemporary behavior and the historical legacy of de jure segregation. Introduction Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, refers to the segregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation in the United States along racial lines. The[…]

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, and Race in Postbellum America

How did Twain’s Huckleberry Finn engage and challenge popular ideas about slavery and race in nineteenth-century America? By Lawrence HoweNot Pictured Introduction Students in the United States know Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a fixture in the American literary canon and a staple of high school reading lists. But this status has[…]

The Cruel History of the ‘Reverse Freedom Rides’ and Their Long Aftermath

Lela Mae and the others were unwitting pawns in a segregationist game. Introduction After three days on a Greyhound bus, Lela Mae Williams was just an hour from her destination—Hyannis, Mass.—when she asked the bus driver to pull over. She needed to change into her finest clothes. She had been promised the Kennedy family would[…]

Bleeding Kansas: Free-Staters and Border Ruffians Fight over Slavery and Annexation

The events in Bleeding Kansas directly foreshadowed the American Civil War. Introduction Bleeding Kansas, sometimes referred to in history as Bloody Kansas or the Border War, was a sequence of violent events involving anti-slavery (“free-staters”) and pro-slavery “border ruffians” elements that took place in Kansas–Nebraska Territory and the western frontier towns of the U.S. state[…]

How Black Pastors Resisted Jim Crow and White Pastors Incited Violence

Religion was no barrier for Southern lynch mobs intent on terror. White pastors joined the KKK, incited racial violence and took part in lynchings. Introduction White lynch mobs in America murdered at least 4,467 people between 1883 and 1941, hanging, burning, dismembering, garroting and blowtorching their victims. Their violence was widespread but not indiscriminate: About[…]

Henry W. Grady: Journalism and White Supremacy in Late-19th Century Georgia

Grady wanted to promote northern investment in the South, and he was willing to ignore lynchings and the exploitation of black labor. Introduction The press is an essential guardrail of democracy. As The Washington Post tells its readers, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” But the press has not always been a champion of democracy. In the[…]

‘The San Francisco Illustrated WASP’: Racism and Satire in the 19th Century

The Wasp meted out ridicule to a myriad of caricatured subjects, from senators and presidents to Chinese immigrants and Mormon polygamists. By Nicholas Sean Hall Introduction The West Coast was going down in flames. Or at least that was how The San Francisco Illustrated Wasp depicted the region to its readership of middle- and working-class[…]

Rights, Resistance, and Racism: The Story of the Mangrove Nine

Examining what prompted the backlash of black British people against the police. By Rowena Hillel and Vicky Iglikowski The trial of the nine arguably represents a high point of the Black Panther movement in the UK, showing the power of black activism and the institutionalised police prejudice. But what prompted the backlash of black British[…]

Slavery and the Origins of the Lost Cause Myth

States’ rights and slavery, while theoretically distinct, were in praxis intertwined. Here’s what a Jeffersonian analysis of Jubal Early’s lost-cause apologia can teach us. The two most significant issues that led to war between the North and South were, most scholars acknowledge, slavery and states’ rights. Northern states had fully abolished slavery by 1804, when[…]

Commemoration, Race, and World War II: History and Civil Rights at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

History and civil rights are intertwined at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. Introduction Moton Field was a training flight facility for African American pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, operating from 1941–45. Through the extant buildings and interpretive exhibits, the National Park[…]

Elegy and Effigy: The Struggle for Integration

The similarities between the effigies of James Meredith and the thousands of black bodies hanged and burned by southern lynch mobs over the years were intentional. An effigy dangled outside the second-story window of Vardaman Hall, a men’s dormitory on the University of Mississippi campus. Its head crooked from the rope tied around its neck,[…]

The Voices of Civil Rights

Photographs documenting pivotal events in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Overview This exhibition draws from the individual accounts and oral histories collected by the Voices of Civil Rights project, a collaborative effort of AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Library of Congress. The exhibition celebrates the donation[…]

James Byrd, Jr., John William King, and the History of American Lynching

We need a historical understanding of how lynching discourse continues to shape America’s enduring “dialogue on race.” In February, 1999, John William King – who was executed in Huntsville, Texas on April 24, 2019 –became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person.  How that black person, James Byrd,[…]

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the first monument to commemorate the over 4,000 African Americans who were lynched in the United States between 1877 and 1950. Introduction Located in Montgomery, Alabama, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the first monument to commemorate the over 4,000 African Americans who were lynched[…]

A Chilling Proposal in the 1920s for an Orphanage Scientific Study

The history of race science is a history of racist science, as epitomized by this proposed but never carried-out experiment from the early 20th century. In the late 1920s, scientists hatched an outrageous plan to settle a question at the heart of American racial thought: were differences between racial groups driven by environment or by[…]

Maria Stewart: The First Black Feminist-Abolitionist in America

Nearly two centuries before Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to the U.S Congress in November, Maria Stewart took the stage of Franklin Hall in Boston in 1833. By Jeff Biggers / 12.09.2018Historian and Journalist Nearly two centuries before Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to the U.S Congress in[…]