Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6, 1863: The Detroit Race Riot of 1863

What follows is a very disturbing story with lots of language that I personally find offensive, but it is a historical document describing a troubling event from this nation's history: the Detroit Race Riot of 1863. I considered posting the document in its entirety because I believe the subject of racism--its roots and history--is an important one. Due to the document's length (24 pages) I have elected to post only a selection of the document, consisting of the full title, the preface, and the first eyewitness account. If this subject is of particular concern to you and you would like to read the entire contemporaneous account of this historical event, then you can find the entire text by clicking on this link. I was unable to find a contemporaneous picture of this event that I could use as an illustration.
MARCH 6, 1863,
NOT LESS THAN $15,000.



The present state of affairs in relation to the colored people is one of great perplexity; and is not only so on account of the South, but also in the North.

There certainly is something mysterious about them. On the one hand they are being mobbed, and everything that is sacred to a people to make a country or home dear are denied them, in many of the large Northern cities. And on the other hand they are marching off to the call of the Government as if they were sharing all the blessings of the most favored citizens!

And it is equally mysterious to see the bitter opposition that a class of men, professing loyalty to the Government of the United States, should have against the colored soldier going out and facing the canon's mouth in defence of a Government that appears to be unable to give them any protection from the rage of the rebels in the South, or their enemies in the North.

But one thing the colored man knows, that the class of men of the same politics as those South are doing the mobbing North; so they are not only ready to suffer, but to die in the cause that promises over three millions of their race liberty.

Whatever, therefore, our treatment may be, so far as the rage of the enemies of freedom may be! Whatever, through cowardice, a ruthless mob of such men may inflict upon our people, they will not be deterred from the duty they owe to their God, themselves and posterity, to do all they possibly can to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free! At the first blast the clarion of emancipation may give to call them forth in the irrepressible conflict, though their houses be sacked, their wives and children turned out of doors naked and destitute, they too well know that the way to glory is the way of suffering; therefore they desire rather to bear a good part in the battle-field rather than to be always exposed to such outrages as slavery entails, on any class it has in its dominion.



Thomas Faulkner, charged of committing the outrages upon Ellen Hover, a colored girl and also a white girl, was to all intents a white man. This is beyond doubt, for he was a regular voter, and the journals of the city that understood his politics state that he voted the Democratic ticket. And an old veteran of over one hundred years of age declares, that in conversing with F. he said: "If he thought he had one drop of colored blood in his veins, if he could, he would let it out." And this was the man that caused the mob on colored men!

On the 6th of March an organized mob made their way from the jail down Beaubien street. They were yelling like demons, and crying "kill all the d--d niggers." In the cooper shop, just below Lafayette street, were five men working, namely: ROBERT BENNETTE, JOSHUA BOYD, SOLOMON HOUSTON, LEWIS HOUSTON, MARCUS DALE. These men were busy at work in the shop until the mob made an attack upon the shop. The windows were soon broken and the doors forced open. The men in the cooper shop were determined to resist any that might attempt to come in. The mob discovered this, and did not attempt to come in, but stood off and threw stones and bricks into the windows, a perfect shower. There happened to be one old shot gun in the shop, a couple of discharges from which drove the mob back from the shop. The dwelling house was attached to the shop, in which were three women and four children, namely: Mrs. REYNOLDS, Mrs. BONN and one child, Mrs. DALE and three children.

Some ten minutes after the mob had fallen back from the shop, they made a rush upon the house in which were the women and children. The men in the shop seeing this, rushed out of the shop into the house to protect the women and children. The windows of the houses were soon all broken in; stones and bricks came into the house like hail. The women and children were dodging from one room to another to escape the stones. The men frequently stood before the women and children to shield them from the stones. Very soon after the men went from the shop into the house, the shop was set on fire by the mob. There were plenty of shavings in the shop, which facilitated the burning. The flames soon reached the house in which were the women and children. The mob by this time had completely surrounded the building. Mrs. Reynold attempted to go out at the back door but could not get out, for hundreds of stones were flying at that part of the building. Mr. Dale, in shielding his wife, got a blow in the face with a stone, which his wife might have gotten had he not stood before her. Some person outside was heard to say "the women will be protected--no protection for the men." Hearing this, Mr. Dale told the women to go out at the front door. Mrs. Dale seeing the blood running from her husband's face, said my dear you are bleeding--you will be killed. Said he to her, go out with your children; they say there is protection for the women, but none for the men. I will look out for myself. Mrs. Bonn started for the door, with her child in her arms, followed by Mrs Dale, with one child in her arms and two children hanging to her. Mrs. Reynolds next followed. When the women approached the door, some fiend in human shape drew back a large club to strike them, but some spectators, having within them a spark of humanity, rushed to the women and rescued them--drawn probably by the screams of Mrs. Bonn. After the women had got out, the men, one by one, made their way out--were knocked down with stones when they came out, and beaten Father Clark happened to be in the house, was beaten after he came out. The last one who came out was Mr. Dale. When he came out into the back yard the heat was so intense that he came near being overcome by it--he had his face badly burned When he came out of the door some twenty dirty-looking Irishmen rushed at him with clubs, crying "kill the nager." But being thoughtful enough to come out with something in his hands, and having a good deal of physical strength he made them get back, and he got out without receiving further injuries. Three families living in the building near the cooper shop, lost all they had; namely, Mr. REYNOLDS, Mr. DALE and Mr. BONN.

The mob, not satisfied with burning the cooper shop, and building adjacent, proceeded up Fort and Lafayette streets, robbing and burning some fifteen houses belonging to colored people.

Of the men who were in the cooper shop one has died from wounds received; namely, JOSHUA BOYD.
I apologize in advance if this topic makes some of my readers uncomfortable, but I believe that you take the bad with the good when study history and we cannot gloss over historical events just because we don't like how they make us feel; that's not history, that's fiction.

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