NY Civil War Draft Riots Were Racist Attacks on Black People

Although the review of “A People’s History of the Civil War,” it erred in suggesting that the draft riots in New York City (and women’s role in them) constituted an “inspiring story.” In fact, the New York draft riots were vicious racist attacks on black people, comparable to the 1919 race riots in which white mobs murderously attacked black communities in many cities after World War I.

In June 1863, the pro-slavery Democratic Party in New York whipped up racist sentiment among Irish and German immigrant workers, declaring that the Civil War was a “n_____ war” and that the Emancipation Proclamation issued in January of that year would lead to a flood of freed blacks moving to New York, driving down wages of white workers and depriving them of jobs altogether.

During the five days of the draft riot in New York City, white mobs lynched eleven (11) black men and burned the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets to the ground, terrifying the newly-homeless 233 black children who had been living there. Thousands of black people fled the city, never to return. For more on this, see Leslie M. Harris, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.  A relevant excerpt can be read at http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.htm.

We must never forget the severity of U.S. racism, both historically and today. It’s central to every aspect of U.S. capitalist history, and remains today the most significant tool that helps the capitalists stay in power.
Anti-racist Red

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2 thoughts on “NY Civil War Draft Riots Were Racist Attacks on Black People

  1. Brian Foley says:

    Lets not forget that the Irish Immigrants coming into America , were fleeing oppression and arriving into anti Irish bigotry in the US . Irishmen were being hoodwinked into the Union Army to fight against the South and they died by the thousands . The draft riots was an Irish expression of anger against the system that sought to exploit them . If anything this reviewer should take the side of the Irish exploited .


  2. Mike says:

    While racism is, of course, terrible, the riots in question had several reasons for them. In Ireland, the Great Potato Famine was going on, so the Irish moved to America in hopes of living better and not starving to death. In America, they were heavily discriminated against, primarily for being Catholic. In store windows, signs that said “No Irish Need Apply” could be seen. Then they started getting drafted into the Civil War. When the New York draft lottery drafted mostly Irish people, they became furious. They blamed Black people for the Civil War, saying it was started because of them. They also blamed the English for oppressing them back in Ireland, and some Americans for treating them badly.

    There was definitely some racism in the riot, and I would not call it an “inspiring story”, but I think it is far too narrow-minded to just call it a “racist attack”. There was a lot more that came into play than that.


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