July 13th, 1863

1000 Killed or Injured in New York City Draft Riots

On July 13, 1863, poor white laborers in New York City rioted in protest of the Union draft and a law exempting from the draft all blacks and men able to pay $300 or hire substitutes. Many working class whites already believed the Civil War sacrificed white lives to free black men; the draft law reinforced that belief and reminded poor whites of their precarious social and economic position. The law also signified blacks’ growing political power and the impending exodus of black freedmen to the North. Poor white Northerners feared that exodus would lead to more competition for already scarce jobs and force them into even closer contact with blacks.

On July 11, 1863, the draft began without incident. Two days later, the draft resumed but was quickly disrupted by a mob of working class whites launching a first round of attacks directed at military and government officials. The mob burned down the draft office and beat Police Superintendent John Kennedy nearly to death. As the crowd grew in number and anti-black sentiment, it set its sights on an orphanage for black children. The rioters, which now included women and children, raided the orphanage, taking anything of value and then setting it ablaze. Despite police efforts to extinguish the flames, the orphanage burned to the ground. The mob grew to thousands of angry, violent whites who attacked any black person or business in their path.

By the end of the riots, which by some accounts lasted for several days, more than a thousand people had been killed or injured, most of them black. At least eleven black men were hung and countless homes and businesses were destroyed.


July 13th, 1929

White Mob Forces 200 Black People Out of North Platte, Nebraska

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 13, 1929, more than 200 black residents of North Platte, Nebraska, were driven out of the city by a mob of white residents who were enraged by the alleged murder of white police officer Edward Green at the hands of a black restaurant operator named Louis “Slim” Seeman.

That Friday, North Platte police told Mr. Seeman to either leave the city or pay a $100 fine for beating his live-in girlfirend. Mr. Seeman opted to leave and was placed on a westbound train but he later returned and hid in his home. When the woman he was charged with beating discovered him at the residence, she called the police.

Police officers Edward Green and George Fitzgibbons arrived at the home to search for Mr. Seeman. When Officer Green went upstairs to search, Mr. Seeman emerged with a gun and shot Officer Green as his partner ran for help. Mr. Seeman hid in his chicken hut until an angry mob of police officers and local citizens doused the hut with gasoline and set it ablaze; trapped in the fire, Mr. Seeman was shot and killed by the police or by his own hand.

As officers removed Mr. Seeman’s body, a growing mob of whites seethed outside. Interpreting Mr. Seeman’s deadly standoff as an act of revolt attributable to the entire black community, 500 angry white citizens wielding sticks and ropes demanded that local black citizens leave the city. Facing the threat of deadly violence, North Platte’s 200 black residents departed that night by foot, train, and automobile, leaving behind most of their possessions. A county sheriff later commented, “It was the understanding when they left that they were to stay away. The idea is to keep them out.”