How the Opelousas Massacre Rolled Back Progress for Black Americans

In 1868 White men killed nearly 250 Black people to stop them from exercising their right to vote. Let’s unpack this.

Allison Wiltz
Momentum

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The Ku Klux Active | Photo Credit | New York Tribute/ Archives

After the Civil War, a period of Reconstruction brought prosperity to many Black people. In The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones describes this period as a time when “Black Americans pushed an all-white Congress to enshrine equality into the Constitution, powerfully shaping what the country would be like after its second founding.”

Sadly, many White people would not embrace this vision of a multiracial democracy. Doing so would mean giving up the power they gained through the antebellum slave era. After already having lost the Civil War to Northerners, the only thing White aggrieved Southerners had left to fight against was Black progress.

In 1867, “703,000 Black Americans voted, compared with 627,000 White citizens, a political imbalance that spurred reactionary violence.” Instead of accepting a more diverse coalition of citizens, many White people participated in widespread violence against Black people.

When Black people take two steps toward equality, White backlash pushes them three or more steps back…

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Allison Wiltz
Momentum

Black womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder allisonthedailywriter.com https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola