This Day in History

Sept. 28, 1868: Opelousas Massacre

Time Periods: 1865
Themes: African American, Reconstruction, Democracy & Citizenship

On Sept. 28, 1868, one of the worst outbreaks of violence during Reconstruction took place in Opelousas, Louisiana.

The event started with three local members of the KKK-like Knights of the White Camelia beating teacher and newspaper editor Emerson Bentley — while he was teaching class — because he had promoted voter registration and education for all.

After some African Americans came to his rescue, armed white mobs roamed the countryside in a murderous rampage, killing more than 150 people, mostly African Americans.

These violent acts became known as the Opelousas Massacre.

Learn more from and from The Deadliest Massacre in Reconstruction-Era Louisiana Happened 150 Years Ago in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Find lessons on the history of the fight for voting rights and on Reconstruction below.

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.