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Mon, 07.13.1863

Black History and the New York Draft Riots, a story

On this date, in 1863, the New York Draft Riots occurred. This has been described as Four Days Of Terror, centered on racism over the American Civil War.

Lincoln had freed the slaves, and now he was recruiting Northern men into the army and forcing them to fight and die to make his proclamation a reality.  As a result, many white workers in the North reasoned that free Blacks would compete for their jobs. The unfair draft laws caused deep resentment throughout the North, and in the summer of 1863, protests and outbreaks of violence were common in virtually every Northern state. Secret societies were formed to organize resistance to the draft, and draft officers were assaulted.

"Willing to fight for Uncle Sam," but not "for Uncle Sambo," wrote one Pennsylvania newspaper. Nowhere was opposition to the draft more potent than in New York, where the hard-line members of the Democratic Party, who were openly critical of the administration’s policies, despised Lincoln. The working-class Irish in New York City were particularly resentful of the draft policies that allowed the wealthy to buy their way out of the draft. They were hostile toward Blacks because they had recently been employed to replace striking Irish longshoremen.

On the morning of July 13, 1863, the draft office at 3rd Avenue and 46th Street continued to draw names of draftees from the lottery wheel when a mob of men armed with clubs arrived and burned the building down.  This began a four-day binge of looting, burning, and murder that singled out the city's Black population as the scapegoat for the country's ills.  The mob of rioters burned and pillaged their way down 3rd Avenue en route to an armory at 2nd and 21st, grabbing the 1,000 rifles stored there.

Simultaneously another mob was over at 5th Avenue and 43rd Street, attacking an orphanage where 237 Black children under 12 lived. Possessed rioters attacked every Black they encountered.  Families were chased down and killed; helpless Blacks were lynched.  During the riot, a Native American (Mohawk) was beaten to death because the mob believed he was Black.



Reference Library of Black America Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI

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