White Mob In
Killed Nearly 300 Blacks
Over The Right To Vote.
September 28, 1868, The violence started when three local white men beat up another white person and friend of the black community Emerson Bentley, he was also a school teacher and editor of a local newspaper. Bently was beaten for registering blacks to vote, especially for an upcoming sheriff’s election. . False rumors spread throughout the black community in Opelousas that Bently was murdered. Several local armed African Americans came to the defense of Bentley and held the town of Opelousas under siege for several days.. Because of a city ordinance passed by outlaw politicians banning blacks only from owing guns, not many had weapons at their disposal. That day, at least two dozen unarmed African Americans were arrested and hung that same night. The following days, local whites went on an animalistic savage rampage against blacks. At least 200 unarmed African Americans were killed in the fields and swamps. 30 to 50 whites were killed when they confronted blacks with arms.
Other tactics used to suppress black voting rights were to allege charges of larceny, robbery and other property offenses against prominent blacks and whites sympathetic to voting rights causes. This was a another tactic used in addition to murder in order to influence an election in their favor. In many instances, the charge of stealing chickens was used to justify the lynching of blacks and whites of the Republican party trying to register blacks to vote. Many emanate black politicians also met with the same fate on trumped up charges of stealing hogs, chickens and cattle. Regularly accusing white republicans of inciting blacks to murder and robbery, White newspapers all over the state including the Opelousas Courier downplayed black casualties and justified attacks against blacks, whites and republican newspapers sympathetic to the black cause and as a result, became greater targets of white racist rage..
Most African-Americans and white sympathizers during this period belonged to the Republican Party aka “The Party of Lincoln. The white confederate racist belonged to the Democratic Party. The Republican Party of this period should in no way be mistaken for the Republican party of today, In fact many of the racist white descendants of the Democratic Party switched parties and now belong to the Republican Party of Today.
There were many incidents causing their switch to the republican party: Lyndon Johnson passing of the civil rights act, Ronald Reagan’s southern campaign strategy beginning in Philadelphia, MS a hot bed of southern racism, and the strong democratic primary performance by the Rev. Jessie Jackson in the presidential races of 1984 and 1988, All were factors in getting southern racist like Strom Thurman, Jessie Helms, George Wallace and their followers to abandon the democratic party.
African Americans began to leave the democratic party when democratic candidate John Kennedy in October of 1960, less then three weeks before the presidential election, Martin Luther King Jr., already recognized as Black America’s most prominent civil rights leader, had been arrested in Georgia on a traffic technicality: he was still using his Alabama license, although by then he had lived in Georgia for three months.
A swift series of moves by the state’s segregationist power structure resulted in King being sentenced to four months of hard labor on a Georgia chain gang. He was quickly spirited away to the state’s maximum security prison, and many of his supporters, fearing for his life, urgently called both the Nixon and Kennedy camps for help.
Nixon, soon to campaign in South Carolina with hopes of wining the state’s majority Democratic vote, said nothing. Kennedy took action. He telephoned a frantic Coretta Scott King, telling her, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.” King was soon released after the call and many African-Americans remembered the gesture by voting for him. Another important event was the signing of the Civil Rights Bill by President Lyndon Johnson the most any president had done for blacks since Lincoln and Grant including Kennedy.
The old south still has not changed much when it comes to race relations, with polls showing most whites in the southern states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, would not vote for an African-American even though they where not happy with the republican candidate or party. Voter Suppression and false allegations against opposing party candidates are still very much a part of the old confederate strategy within the new republican party.
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Here Are More Incidents In Opelousas History and African-American Life In Louisiana During This Holocaustic Era
The Louisiana Democrat Party’s taste for blood didn’t stop there. Just six years after The Opelousas Massacre, and eight years after the “Massacre of the Innocents”, Louisiana Democrats again turned violent.
September 14, 1874: Racist white Democrats stormed Louisiana’s statehouse to oust GOP Governor William Kellogg’s racially integrated administration; 27 are killed.
Emboldened by the federal hands-off policies, 3,500 armed White Leaguers a KKK like organization originating from Opelousas assembled in New Orleans on September 14, 1874, and demanded that Republican Gov. William Kellog resign. Opposing the White League were 3,600 policemen and black militia troops under the command of ex-Confederate General James Longstreet. Supported by two Gatling guns and a battery of artillery, Longstreet’s force formed a battle line from Jackson Square to Canal Street, guarding the Customs House, in which the governor and other Republican officials had taken refuge. The White Leaguers fled when Union reinforcements arrived. Total casualties in the one-hour fight that has become known as the Battle of Liberty Place were 38 killed and 79 wounded.
The White League, organized in Louisiana in 1874, was a broad-based paramilitary movement consisting of autonomous local “clubs” committed to White Supremacy. It first appeared at Opelousas in April and then spread rapidly throughout the state. White Leagues held large rallies, disrupted court sessions, and threatened to assassinate Republican officeholders in order to coerce them to resign from office and to drive both black laborers and Republicans from their homes. On 30 August leaguers were involved with the murder of six Republican officials from Red River Parish, and on 14 September the Crescent City White League successfully battled the Metropolitan Police and occupied the city hall,statehouse, and arsenal in New Orleans. They withdrew the next day, when federal troops arrived in the city. The league disappeared after having attained its objective with the election of a Democrat as governor in 1876.
Relative to the Police of Recently Emancipated Negroes or Freedmen, Within the Corporate Limits of the Town of Opelousas
Whereas the relations formerly subsisting between master and slave have become changed by the action of the controlling authorities; and whereas it is necessary to provide for the proper policing and government of the recently emancipated Negroes or freedmen, in their new relations to the municipal authorities;
Sect. 1. Be it therefore ordained by the Board of Police of the Town of Opelousas: that no Negro or freedman shall be allowed to come within the limits of the Town of Opelousas without special permission from his employer specifying the object of his visit and the time necessary for the accomplishment of the same. Whoever shall violate this provision shall suffer imprisonment and two days’ work on the public streets, or shall pay a fine of two dollars and fifty cents.
Sect. 2. Be it further ordained that every Negro or freedman who shall be found on the streets of Opelousas after 10 o’clock at night without a written pass or permit from his employer, shall be imprisoned and compelled to work five days on the public streets, or pay a fine of five dollars.
Sect. 3. No Negro or freedman shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within the limits of the town under any circumstances, and any one thus offending shall be ejected, and compelled to find an employer or leave the town within twenty-four hours. The lessor or furnisher of the house leased or kept as above shall pay a fine of ten dollars for each offense
Sect. 4. No Negro or freedman shall reside within the limits of the Town of Opelousas who is not in the regular service of some white person or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of said freedman. But said employer or former owner may permit said freedman to hire his time, by special permission in writing, which permission shall not extend over twenty-four hours at any one time. Any one violating the provisions of this section shall be imprisoned and compelled to work for two days in the public streets, or pay a fine of five dollars.
Sect. 5. No public meetings or congregations of Negroes or freedmen shall be allowed within the limits of the Town of Opelousas, under any circumstances or for any purpose, without the permission of the Mayor or President of the Board. This prohibition is not intended, however, to prevent freedmen from attending the usual church services conducted by established ministers of religion. Every freedman violating this law shall be imprisoned and made to work five days on the public streets.
Sect. 6. No Negro or freedman shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or otherwise declaim to congregations of colored people without a special permission from the Mayor or President of the Board of Police, under the penalty of a fine of ten dollars or twenty days’ work on the public streets.
Sect. 7. No freedman who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry fire-arms or any kind of weapons within the limits of the Town of Opelousas, without the special permission of his employer, in writing, and approved by the Mayor or President of the Board of Police. Any one thus offending shall forfeit his weapons and shall be imprisoned and made to work five days on the public streets or pay a fine of five dollars in lieu of said work.
Sect. 8. No freedman shall sell, barter or exchange any articles or merchandise of traffic within the limits of Opelousas, without permission from his employer or the Mayor or President of the Board, under the penalty of the forfeiture of said articles, and imprisonment and one day’s labor, or a fine of one dollar in lieu of said work.
Sect. 9. Any freedman found drunk within the limits of the Town shall be imprisoned and made to labor five days on the public streets, or pay five dollars in lieu of said labor.
Sect. 10. Any freedman not residing in Opelousas, who shall be found within its corporate limits after the hour of 3 o’clock P.M., on Sunday, without a special written permission from his employer or the Mayor, shall be arrested and imprisoned and made to work two days on the public streets, or pay two dollars in lieu of said work.
Sect. 11. All the foregoing provisions apply to freedmen and freedwomen, or both sexes.
Sect. 12. It shall be the special duty of the Mayor or President of the Board to see that all the provisions of this ordinance are faithfully executed.
Sect. 13. Be it further ordained, that this ordinance is to take effect from and after its first publication.
Ordained the 3rd day of July, 1865.
(Signed) E. D. ESTILLETTE,
President of the Board of Police
JOS. D. RICHARD, Clerk