Established in 1809, Pulaski, Tennessee is a town located north of Ardmore, Alabama. It is historically significant for being the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan in 1865 during Reconstruction. Less than three years later Pulaski would be the site of a race riot known as the Pulaski Riot.
The Pulaski Riot
Months earlier in the summer of 1867, a Black man named Calvin Carter got into an argument with Calvin Lamberth. The origin of the argument was business in nature but their feud escalated on January 7, 1868. It was that Carter made a comment about Lamberth’s Black mistress and from Lamberth’s account, his mistress was threatened by Carter and his friend. The first bloodshed of the Pulaski Riot saw Carter’s friend shot.
News of the dispute reached white citizens of the town and the majority gathered weapons and set out to find Carter. Meanwhile, Carter was with a small group of men at a Black-owned store. As it often happens in these riots, word spread around town and a large number of white citizens formed a mob.
The mob met the group of Black men as they were leaving and opened fire. One man was killed, four others were injured. Calvin Carter was also shot and later died of his injury. This spiraled into further violence in the town and throughout Giles County. As the 1868 election neared, roughly 1,300 Blacks were killed throughout the county.
Since the KKK formed in the town less than three years prior it is believed that the organization made up the bulk of the mob and orchestrated the Pulaski Riot. When the smoke cleared on the events of January 7, 1868 no one involved in the mob was held responsible for the deaths and injuries that occurred.
In 1868, the population was nearing 2,000 citizens. It’s estimated that Pulaski now has over 7,700 people in the city. The population is mostly white at 70-percent with Black people making up around 27-percent.