July 30th, 1866

White Mob Attacks Blacks at Voting Rights Convention in New Orleans

Like most other cities in the South, New Orleans, Louisiana, experienced social turmoil following the Civil War as black citizens gained greater political and economic standing in a state that had not been willing to grant it voluntarily. The Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1864 had granted black people some citizenship rights, but denied them the right to vote. In 1865, Louisiana joined other Southern states in enacting “black codes” to disenfranchise black people, greatly angering Radical Republicans who supported full citizenship rights for black people.

On July 30, 1866, Radical Republicans in the state reconvened the Louisiana Constitutional Convention in an attempt to seize control of the state government. The new convention had many black supporters, including 200 Union Army veterans, who had attended speeches by abolitionists and Radical Republicans a few days earlier. The speakers encouraged blacks to march upon the grounds of the Mechanics Institute in New Orleans to show solidarity with the convention.

After recessing at mid-day on July 30, convention members leaving the meeting were greeted by black marchers. Across the street from the Mechanics Institute, a group of armed white men gathered to confront both marchers and convention delegates. The white mob, which included many Confederate war veterans, was convinced that the Radical Republicans sought to disenfranchise whites while enfranchising blacks. The mob attacked marchers and Radical Republicans, who were unprepared to fight and were chased into the Mechanics Institute. In the ensuing violence, 35 black marchers and three white Radical Republicans were killed and about 100 black marchers were injured.