The Lombard Street Riot was a three-day race riot which occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1842. The riot started on Lombard Street, between Fifth and Eighth streets.
On August 1, 1842, more than 1,000 African Americans gathered to participate in a temperance parade to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. The group was attacked on Fourth Street by an Irish mob that beat many of the marchers and destroyed black homes in the area. The attack went on for three days.
The Irish rioters headed west toward the home of prominent and outspoken African American leader Robert Purvis at 9th and Lombard. Purvis sat on the steps of his home armed and ready.
Although his home was spared from the inferno by the intervention of a Catholic priest. Purvis eventually relocated permanently to his rural Bucks County home.
The Irish immigrants and African Americans lived in the vicinity and often competed for the same low paying jobs and places to live. Both groups felt their hard work and economic gains were being constantly threatened.
During this period of time, free African Americans were never truly safe because of fugitive slave laws, and in 1838 Pennsylvania stripped free blacks of their right to vote. The strength and vitality of Philadelphia’s fast-growing free-black community generated fear, frustration which ultimately led to violence on the part of the Irish immigrants.
Of those arrested by the militia, most were found not guilty or otherwise released. The three or four who were convicted received only light sentences.