FROM THE LEFT- The Daily Commercial:
Insurrection not new to America
by Patricia Jackson Guest columnist
On Jan. 6, Americans watched in horror, disbelief and shame as they witnessed the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol in order to prevent the certification of November’s election results. Although many feel that this is not their America, others will argue, sadly, that it is.
Insurrection in America is not a 20th century phenomenon for history recounts two incidents in the 1800s. Although almost 200 years apart from the Jan. 6 insurrection, the common themes of racism, white supremacy, violence, attempt to overthrow the government, disenfranchisement and voter suppression, via intimidation and absence of accountability or consequences are present in these events.
The 1898 Wilmington insurrection
The city of Wilmington, North Carolina was a bustling port city which helped to establish a growing and prosperous African American middleclass community, in spite of prejudice and discrimination. In addition to their burgeoning financial status, African Americans were also engaged in the pursuit of higher education and home ownership.
Turning their sights to politics, African Americans joined with whites to form a coalition called the Fusionists who sought free education, debt relief and equality for African Americans. However, the Democratic Party of the 1890s, unlike today’s party, opposed the Fusionist’s platform in support of racial segregation and stronger state’s rights.
They labeled themselves “the party of white supremacy” and used news-papers, speechmakers and intimidation tactics to ensure that their platform won. A group of “concerned citizens” known as the Red Shirts, because of their attire, rode on horseback intimidating potential voters.
Tensions between African Americans and white supremacists had reached a fevered pitch and on Nov. 10, 1898 the city of Wilmington faced a barrage of white supremacists who were emboldened by supremacists’ politicians and businessmen focused on destroying African American owned businesses, murdering African American residents and forced the elected government officials to resign.
In addition, laws were enacted disenfranchising African American voters and upended their civil rights. These actions voided the rights and freedoms given to former slaves at the end of the Civil War in 1865.
As you may expect, after the insurrection no one was held accountable promoting similar actions in the future. What may be the greatest casualty of the insurrection is that the Fusionist movement had the potential of serving as a role model for the new South.
New York City draft riots
The city of New York found itself engulfed in an insurrection which was perhaps the deadliest on record in July of 1863, ten days after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The 1860s represented economic uncertainty for the city with the potential loss of the South as a trading partner due to the Civil War and dependence on cotton as its leading commodity shipped from the city’s ports.
The Emancipation Proclamation exacerbated this situation since white workers feared they would be replaced by freed slaves. White workers were also subject to conscription law which made male citizens between 20 and 25 and unmarried men between 35 and 45 required to serve and were entered into a draft lottery. Those excluded from this lottery were wealthy white men who could pay $300 to the government for their release and Black men who were not considered citizens.
As a result, rioters stormed the draft office, beating city officials before marching to the streets looting and burning homes and businesses of wealthy residents. Blacks, representing a threat to white men, were beaten and lynched with their homes and businesses burned. At the end of four days, additional troops arrived to restore order to the city.
When we proudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it should remind us that this nation was not founded under any one person, political party, platform or personal ambition but “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
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