This Day in History: 1866-05-03

As the day ends, Federal troops finally quell the Memphis Massacre that had begun two days before (on May 1) in Memphis, Tennessee. For three days white residents and policemen rampaged through Black neighbourhoods and the houses of freedmen, attacking and killing Black Union soldiers and civilians and committing many acts of robbery and arson. Blacks suffered most of the injuries and deaths by far: 46 Black and 2 white people were killed, 75 Black people were injured, over 100 were Black persons robbed, 5 Black women were raped, and 91 homes, 4 churches and 8 schools (every Black church and school) were burned in the Black community. Many Black people fled the city permanently; by 1870, their population had fallen by one quarter compared to 1865. Among the causes attributed for the massacre was the desire of white plantation owners to drive Freedmen out of Memphis and back to laboring on cotton plantations, with the violence intended to enforce white supremacist social order after the end of slavery. Learn more.