Denise Oliver Velez writes in the Daily Kos:
“When Christians think of the meaning of Easter Sunday, it symbolizes resurrection and hope. When I think of Easter Sunday in the black community, I think of all the ladies in their wonderful hats heading off to church. However, I don’t ever forget that Easter Sunday also marked one of the most horrible massacres of black citizens in U.S. history. It’s hard to erase the images in my mind of black bodies riddled with bullets, blown apart by cannon fire. They died at the hands of white supremacists who lost the Civil War but who won the years ahead, because they were able to destroy Reconstruction. I take a moment of silence and say a prayer for the dead, many of whose names we will never know.
This story from The Root on the Colfax Massacre, written by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., gives the details. It’s worth reading in its entirety.
In Colfax, La., on Easter Sunday 1873, a mob of white insurgents, including ex-Confederate and Union soldiers, led an assault on the Grant Parish Courthouse, the center of civic life in the community, which was occupied and surrounded — and defended — by black citizens determined to safeguard the results of the state’s most recent election. They, too, were armed, but they did not have the ammunition to outlast their foes, who, outflanking them, proceeded to mow down dozens of the courthouse’s black defenders, even when they surrendered their weapons. The legal ramifications were as horrifying as the violence — and certainly more enduring; in an altogether different kind of massacre, United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the U.S. Supreme Court tossed prosecutors’ charges against the killers in favor of severely limiting the federal government’s role in protecting the emancipated from racial targeting, especially at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.
Historians know this tragedy as the Colfax Massacre, though in the aftermath, even today, some whites refer to it as the Colfax Riot in order to lay blame at the feet of those who, lifeless, could not tell their tale. In his canonical history of the period, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, Eric Foner has called the Colfax Massacre “[t]he bloodiest single instance of racial carnage in the Reconstruction era.”
What kind of folks would still have a racist historical marker like this in their community? What kind of state would permit it?
Interesting questions, because we now have an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who wants to turn civil rights enforcement and local police monitoring back over to the very states and localities with appalling records of racism, exclusion, and brutality directed at African Americans and other minority communities. In other words, Sessions actively seeks a return to U.S. Government inaction in the face of white supremacy, discrimination, and violation of minority rights.
While planning to turn his back on the legitimate responsibilities of the Federal Government to protect its citizens rights from overreaching by states and localities, Sessions disingenuously plans to force those states and localities which are trying to protect the rights of those in their communities to assist in Federal immigration enforcement.