Easter Sunday, in 1873 in #Colfax, Louisiana a mob of white insurgents, including ex-Confederate and Union soldiers, led a bloody assault on the Grant Parish Courthouse, which was the center of where Black citizens had set up to protect the results of the state’s most recent election. The Whites of Grant Parish had mobilized themselves with rifles, shotguns, hunting knives and even a small cannon. According to The Root, “among their leaders were four former rebel officers, including Christopher Columbus Nash,” the Fusionist ex-sheriff in town.” The Ku Klux Klan, had warned that the fight was a struggle for white supremacy. There were over 140 riders who headed to fight at the courthouse.
At the courthouse, the black defenders stood guard, they didn’t have a leader. However, William Ward, dug a trench and found what artillery he could. Most of the white people who were in the courthouse and sensed trouble fled, but about 150 black men remained to fight for the Republican cause. According to The Root, “At high noon, literally, the white riders galloped through town, with former sheriff Nash shouting at the women whose husbands had gone up to the courthouse: “You see these damned sons of bitches have run off and left you to take care of yourself. Now you women get out of here, and not a damn one of you will get hurt.”
Once at the courthouse, Nash and the other members of the white mob set up their cannon and fired it and their guns. The blacks in and around the courthouse met their volley and tried using their own cannon, but in the heat of battle, it simply exploded. When the Black defenders saw that they were outgunned they retreated to the courthouse. Others fled, many of them captured or killed by the whites. The ex-sheriff decided that the quickest way to smoke the rest of them out, was to set the two sides’ long-fought-over prize on fire, which his men did by hoisting kerosene-soaked cotton wads to the end of a bamboo fishing pole and forcing one of their black prisoners at gunpoint to take it inside. Eventually, the other Blacks who were captured were also killed by close range gunshot. It was estimated around 60-82 Blacks were killed this way.
However, what was even more horrifying was the ramifications of the violence. According to the Root, “a total of 97 whites were indicted for the #Colfax Massacre, but only three were found guilty. Of course, they appealed, and early on, the outcome for black civil rights looked ominous when sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley, in reviewing the case at the circuit level, overturned the convictions for defects in the underlying charges.” Even though the event is known as the Colfax Massacre, there are those Whites who try to down play the event and call it the #Colfax Riot. Read more.