What Your History Books Never Told You: Massacres on American Soil

William Spivey
Jun 7 · 5 min read

Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of young people in Tiananmen Square in Bejing, China. The protesters had been gathering daily to voice their disapproval of high inflation and rampant corruption, and for freedom of the press and free speech, among other issues. China eventually declared martial law, positioning tanks and troops throughout the city, eventually marching into Tiananmen Square. Soldiers fired at the students with assault rifles. Killing a still unknown number (estimated between several hundred and several thousand with thousands more injured. On this anniversary, the event is barely spoken of in China with the government accusing the outside press and US government officials of a “violation of International Law” for bringing it up. The US demands that China talk about its darkest moments which is quite hypocritical given the scant mention of numerous events on US soil, almost all perpetrated against minorities.

Here is a list and brief description of a limited number of events either not taught in schools, skimmed over, or totally distorted from their true nature:

  1. The Ocoee Massacre — I always name this first because it happened in the same County as Orlando, FL and 95% of the people that live here know nothing about it. Because two black men had the nerve to try to vote in the 1920 Presidential Election, white people from Orlando (including a former police chief), Winter Garden and surrounding communities, shot and killed random black people and burned out the rest. Ocoee had no black residents for the next 40 years. To their credit, the current leaders now mention it and are organizing a memorial. Depending on who you believe, the death toll for blacks was between 39 and 500. The headline the next day in the major newspaper read, “Two Whites Killed in Race Riot.”
  2. Black Wall Street — It started when a young black shoeshine boy was accused of raping a white elevator operator in a building he had permission to enter to get water and us the bathroom. She didn’t file a complaint and press charges but officials went ahead anyway and arrested Dick Rowland. White people formed a mob and demanded he be lynched. Black men stood outside the courthouse until a white man with a gun approached and confronted an unarmed black man. There was a struggle over the gun and the white man was shot. Black people retreated to the Greenwood District, probably the richest black township in America. Greenwood had black-owned banks, restaurants, hotels, and businesses. They formed a barrier and awaited the assault. White people outnumbered the black people greatly, including members of the National Guard who used planes to drop nitroglycerin bombs on the black citizens. When it was over, 35 blocks and over 600 homes had been destroyed. The official death toll was 26 black victims but estimates range as high as 500. Be on the lookout for the upcoming film, “Tulsa 1921.”
  3. The Colfax Massacre — Another election-related massacre in 1872 where the black citizens of Colfax, LA were under the misconception that Reconstruction was still ongoing and they could vote. Democrats and the Klan which were often one and the same. Using rifles and a cannon, they surrounded the black people in the local courthouse, killing some and taking dozens captive for several hours before ultimately killing them too. A few of the perpetrators were convicted but ultimately freed after the US Supreme Court declared the Fourteenth Amendment only applied to the government and not individuals, nullifying rights previously passed by Congress to protect the Civil Rights of black people.
  4. Opelousas Massacre — In the fall of 1968, several black men from Opelousas, LA attempted to join the local Democrat Party in nearby Washington. They were rejected and the local unit of the Knights of the White Camellia (Klan) gathered to oppose them. An 18-year-old white teacher wrote an article and invited blacks to become Republicans. He was beaten nearly to death and fled to the North. Thinking the teacher had been killed, blacks marched on the courthouse, some armed although they didn’t have the same right as white citizens to bear arms. After a confrontation; 29 black people were taken prisoner and put in jail. 27 of them were killed, touching off weeks of the Klan randomly killing black people in the area. When it was over, Republicans said 200–300 black people had been murdered, Democrats put the number between 25–30, presumably not including the original 27 removed from the jail and then killed.
  5. Hanapepe Massacre — Kaua’i, Hawaii was a paradise in 1924 unless you worked on the sugar plantations. The newest minorities on the block were from the Philippines, having less status than the Chinese and native Hawaiians. By 1922 the Filipinos had begun to organize and in 1924 a strike was called demanding $2 a day and limiting their workday to eight hours. Ultimately, strikers were assaulted by police with clubs and guns (the strikers were unarmed). Fourteen Filipinos and four policemen were killed. It goes without saying that the Courts sided with the companies in denying the workers a living wage. It has always been thus.
  6. Chinese Massacre of 1871 — It struck me as funny strange that this massacre broke out on Calle de los Negros (Street of the Negroes). Black and mulatto had been displaced by the Chinese in what could graciously be called a slum. Chinese residents had little protections from whites as laws had been passed prohibiting them from testifying against white people. An incident occurred and a white policeman was injured, blowing his whistle for reinforcements. When it was over, between 17–20 Chines had been hanged and displayed in multiple locations. They didn’t suffer as they’d been shot and killed first. Ten of the mob of over 500 were arrested and eight were convicted of manslaughter. The convictions were all later thrown out on technicalities. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I apologize for not providing examples of the massacres of Native Americans. There were so many, Wounded Knee and the Trail of Tears are relatively known. There are so many examples that I got a little depressed trying to pick some and decided to let it go. Let’s just say that every treaty brokered between the US Government and Native Americans ended the way of the land crossed by the Keystone XL Pipeline. When the Government wanted what they’d bartered away, they took it back. In they met resistance, they used violence.

When I say these were limited examples I was underestimating. The history we’re not taught paints a far different picture than what we are. Legislators in Texas are trying to impose yet another history on us in which American Exceptionalism is to be highlighted and slavery was like summer camp. The next time we want to point out other nations failure to honestly discuss its history. We should take a closer look at our own.

William Spivey

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Writer, poet, wannabe philosopher. Elsewhere I write about politics, race and social justice at Enigmainblack.wordpress.com. Here… it’s personal!