This Day in History: 1873-04-13

The Colfax Massacre occurred on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, in Colfax, Louisiana, the seat of Grant Parish. An estimated 62-153 Black men were killed while surrendering to a white mob composed of former Confederate soldiers, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and the White League (a white paramilitary terrorist organization). Only three white men died. After the massacre, the federal government indicted over 100 members of the white mob under the Enforcement Act of 1870, a law specifically enacted during Reconstruction to protect newly freed Black voters from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist terrorists. Only three members of the mob were convicted, and they appealed. Nearly one year later, the Supreme Court reversed the criminal convictions of the three white men and holding that that the Bill of Rights did not apply to private actors or to state governments despite the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision severely limited the federal government’s authority to legally enforce Black civil rights and protect Black citizens from racial terror at the hands of mobs intent on enhancing white racial dominance. Learn more.