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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

Harper's Weekly Depictions of Memphis Race Riot, 1866

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Alfred Rudolph Waud, SCENES IN MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE DURING THE RIOT (1866). Courtesy Library of Congress.

Creator Alfred Rudolph Waud
Context The Memphis Riot of 1866 occurred at a time when former Confederates were taking blatant and often violent steps to dominate former slaves.
Audience The educated public, particularly in the North
Purpose To elicit sympathy for the plight of former slaves

Historical Significance

The hopes of former slaves and Confederates often collided in the years immediately following the Civil War.

On May 1, 1866 Memphis police arrested the black driver of a horse drawn hack who was involved in an accident with one driven by a white man. African Americans who were recently discharged from the Army objected to the arrest, and whites—including policemen and firemen—responded with an onslaught of violence. Three days later, at least forty-six blacks and two whites were dead, several black women had been raped, and hundreds of black people's homes, schools, or businesses had been wrecked.

This riot and a subsequent one in New Orleans drew Northerners' attention. This drawing is from Harper's Weekly, a magazine that often called for a stronger federal presence in the South.

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