New York City Draft Riot (1863)
The Draft Riot of 1863 was a four-day eruption of violence in New York City during the Civil War stemming from deep worker discontent with the inequities of the first federally mandated conscription laws.
In addition, the white working class feared that emancipation of enslaved Blacks would cause an influx of African-American workers from the South. In many instances, employers used Black workers as strike-breakers during this period. Thus, the white rioters eventually turned their wrath on the homes and businesses of innocent African-Americans and anything else symbolic of their growing political, economic and social power.
On July 13, 1863, organized opposition broke out across the city. The protests soon morphed into a violent uprising against the city’s wealthy elite and its African-American residents.
The four-day draft riot was finally quelled by police cooperating with the 7th New York Regiment. Estimates vary greatly on the number of people killed, though most historians believe around 115 people lost their lives, including nearly a dozen Black men who were lynched after they were brutally beaten. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed causing millions of dollars in damage. Up to 50 of the damaged buildings had been burned to the ground by rioters, including the Colored Orphan Asylum, which housed more than 230 Black children.
The East St. Louis Massacre (1917)
During spring 1917 Blacks were arriving in St. Louis at the rate of 2,000 per week, with many of them finding work at the Aluminum Ore Company and the American Steel Company in East St. Louis.
Some whites feared a loss of job and wage security because of the new competition, and further resented newcomers arriving from a rural, very different culture. Tensions between the groups ran high and escalated when rumors were spread about Black men and white women socializing at labor meetings.
In May, 3,000 white men gathered in downtown East St. Louis. The roving mob began burning buildings and attacking Black people. The Illinois governor called in the National Guard to prevent further rioting and conditions eased somewhat for a few weeks.
Then on July 1, white men driving a car through a Black neighborhood began shooting into houses, stores, and a church. A group of Black men organized themselves to defend against the attackers. As they gathered, they mistook an approaching car for the same one that had earlier driven through the neighborhood and they shot and killed both men in the car, who were, in fact, police detectives sent to calm the situation.
The shooting of the detectives incensed a growing crowd of white spectators who came the next day to examine the car. The crowd grew and turned into a mob that spent the day and the following night on a spree of violence targeting Black neighborhoods of East St. Louis. Again, guardsmen were called in but various accounts suggest they joined in attacking Black people rather than stopping the violence.
After the riot, varying estimates of the death toll circulated. The police chief estimated that 100 Blacks had been killed. The renowned journalist Ida B. Wells reported in The Chicago Defender that 40-150 black people were killed in the rioting. The NAACP estimated deaths at 100-200. Six thousand African-Americans were left homeless after their neighborhood was burned.