This Day in History

July 30, 1866: New Orleans Massacre

Time Periods: 1865
Themes: Reconstruction

The New Orleans Massacre (also known as the New Orleans Riot) occurred when white residents attacked Black marchers gathered outside the Mechanics Institute, where the reconvened Louisiana Constitutional Convention met in response to the state legislature enacting Black Codes and limiting suffrage.

The New Orleans Riot at Mechanics' Institute | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

As explained in “An Absolute Massacre: The 1866 Riot At The Mechanics’ Institute“:

The parade of marchers had thwarted off the mob on the other side of Canal, but once they made it to the Mechanics’ Institute, where the convention was taking place inside, they were beset by more violence. A gang of white supremacists and ex-Confederates attacked. Fire sirens went off, signaling police to attack. They were sent by the mayor.

“There was panic because the police and firemen, armed, surrounded that building and began advancing,” says [Caryn Cosse] Bell. “The attack was premeditated. Lead police chief Harry T. Hayes, what he was doing at the time was recruiting policemen from Confederate veterans. They stormed in and started shooting, chasing people down the street.”

The brutal attack led to a total of 150 casualties, including 48 deaths (44 African Americans and three white Radical Republicans).

The New Orleans and Memphis riots strengthened the argument by Radical Republicans (a faction in the Republican Party) that President Johnson’s Reconstruction plan was insufficient and greater protection of African Americans was needed.

Read more at Black Find resources below to Teach Reconstruction and to teach about the long history of the fight for voting rights.

Learn more in the Zinn Education Project national report, “Erasing the Black Freedom Struggle: How State Standards Fail to Teach the Truth About Reconstruction,” and find teaching resources on Reconstruction below.