Eutaw, Alabama was the site of anti-Black aggression during Reconstruction. With the 1870 election on the horizon, white southern Democrats were in fear of what Black Republicans voting could mean for power in the region. Things would escalate into the Eutaw Riot that October.
Leading Up to the 1870 Election
In the lead up to the gubernatorial election, the Klan was in the midst of a terror campaign throughout Calhoun and Greene County. Lynching and kidnapping during the spring and summer, the group sought to keep Black Republicans away from the ballot in the fall.
One event gave the Klan more power to escalate its violence unchecked: the deaths of James Martin and Alexander Boyd that spring. Martin was a Black Republican visiting Eutaw from Union. Boyd is a white Republican serving as County Solicitor. Both were killed on March 31 by a group of 30 masked night riders who rode into the town.
Alabama gave up on attempting to prosecute the Klan as well as trying to curb violence in Greene County. This would embolden the night riders to continue their campaign unchecked.
The Eutaw Riot and Aftermath
On October 25, the Republicans held a rally in Eutaw drawing 2,000 Blacks ready to vote in the 1870 election. The rally would also draw the Klan who harassed the Republicans before opening fire on the rally. Four Black people are killed and fifty-four injured.
The campaign worked and Black Republicans mostly stayed home. Those who did go on Election Day voted Democrat. As a result, the Democrats swept the election and the governor’s seat from Republican power.