The Thibodaux Massacre & How America Deputizes White Citizens

In 1887, the black sugar cane workers of Thibodaux, Louisiana attempted to unionize after realizing there working conditions, long hours and starvation wages were unacceptable. The Knights of Labor, which was one of the only labor unions to organize blacks helped the union workers come up with a plan that would get them higher wages and better treatment After the growers refused to negotiate and fired the union members.

At that point, the strike started and for the next three weeks and estimated 10,000 workers (The largest in the farming industry) went on strike affecting four parishes: Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Mary, and Assumption. As a response to that action, white vigilantes locked down Thibodaux and went door to door looking for black residents who were involved in the strike and didn’t allow any black residents to go in or out of the town.

On November 23rd 1887 the massacre began when shots rang out from a cornfield leaving two white men injured. The planters then persuaded then-governor Samuel D. Mcenery to unleash several units of the all-white militia. Both the militia and the all-white vigilante group went door to door killing anyone they deemed a threat or a striker. The senseless killings left approximately 60 black people dead. Although the massacre was an unspeakable tragedy and ruined many melanated families the southern white press congratulated the militia and vigilantes involved in the massacre.

Statues were erected and public areas have been named after many of the men involved in the massacre. The Thibodaux massacre was another example of how the white citizens of this country are backed by the military when faced with a melanated opposition.

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