When ‘Taking Our Country Back’ Led to a Massacre

treasonby Calvin Schermerhorn

On July 30, 1866, “taking our country back” left our country bloodied and scarred in a now-forgotten event called the New Orleans Massacre.

One of Reconstruction’s deadliest days started over the refusal to accept civil rights as a verdict of the Civil War and, more broadly, because whites left behind tried to turn back the clock with violence. The New Orleans Massacre left 48 men dead and over 200 injured, nearly all African Americans. The massacre was naked political violence, organized beforehand, and directed at black delegates to the Louisiana constitutional convention of 1866. Attackers included policemen led by ex-Confederate Mayor John T. Monroe.

On a hot summer day, a gathering of over 200 African American New Orleanians marched to the Mechanic’s Institute (now the Roosevelt Hotel on Canal Street and Roosevelt Way) where 30 of them planned to take part in drafting a new state constitution that included the right to vote for all men.

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