FORCING OTHER PLANTATION LABORERS TO CEASE WORK—THE LEADERS IN CUSTODY
NEW ORLEANS, March 19.—Trouble broke out last Monday with the negro laborers on the Dugan and Whitehead plantations, apparently growing out of a strike which is now general throughout the parish for higher wages. Laborers on plantations in that parish are now paid 75 cents a day. They demanded $1. They were refused. Several of the strikers then banded together, and released the stock on the Davenport plantation, on Tuesday, while the overseers were at dinner, and whipped two hands with a bull-whip for endeavoring to prevent them from so doing. Their next scene of action was the old Killmore, now Hymelia plantation, near the line of St. John Parish, where they compelled workmen to cease labor. They then returned down the river, stopping work on every plantation for a distance of 10 miles. The people on the Kelly, Ashton, and Culing plantations were attacked yesterday by an armed band numbering nearly 250 men. On Ashton plantation one of the miscreants was wounded by the overseer. The greatest show of resistance was made on the Kelly place. Kelly and T. J. Harris were surrounded, their lives were threatened, and they were fired upon while fighting their way through the mob. They escaped with only a severe bruise on the hip of Mr. Harris, inflicted with a bludgeon. Mr. Kelly stated that the movement is organized and under the leadership of Jake Bradley and others equally desperate. Jake Bradley is a tall, burly negro, who led the attack on the Parish Jail on Sept. 14, 1878, which resulted in the butchering of Valcour St. Martin, son of the Parish Attorney.
This morning at 4 o’clock, the Louisiana Field Artillery left here on the Morgan ferry-boat and took the train for the scene of trouble under orders from Gov. Wiltz. At 2:30 o’clock this afternoon, Brig. Gen. John Glynn received a telegram from Col. Legardour, at the front, saying: “On arrival of troops, the rioters quietly dispersed. One of the ringleaders, Bradley, has been arrested, and is at present in custody.” Later it was ascertained that the other leaders were captured. The troops arrived home this evening.
New York Times, March 20, 1880.
THE STRIKERS IN ST. JOHN PARISH
A Full Investigation by a Representative of the Picayune
Acting upon the solicitation of the planters, His Excellency, Gov. Wiltz commissioned Major Strong, Secretary of State, to proceed to St. John, for the purpose of investigating the labor troubles in that parish.
The idea actuating his Excellency was doubtless to see if the difficulties referred to could’not be settled without the inconvenience and trouble of sending a detachment of the militia, as was the case in the St. Charles strike. Major Strong was notified to leave yesterday morning by the Morgan Road, and on Saturday night he was furnished with a proclamation by the Governor, a large number of copies of which had been printed in the form of a handbill to be posted in conspicuous places throughout the parish.
State of Louisiana
Whereas, information has reached me that evil doers and mischievous persons are wandering about in the parish of St. John the Baptist, in this State, giving orders to residents of that parish to depart therefrom, and to others to leave their work, thereby causing disorder, and assuming to themselves a right which is prohibited by law; and,
Whereas, I am determined to protect all citizens of this State in the enjoyment of their right and of their liberties;
Now, therefore, I, Louis Alfred Wiltz, Governor of the State of Louisiana, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the constitution, do hereby warn these evil doers and mischievous persons to desist from their evil doings, and do also call upon the good citizens of the parish of St. John the Baptist to discountenance such persons, and to aid and assist the law officer of this State in arresting and bringing to justice all persons who may disturb the peace and interfere with the rights and privileges of the people or of any portion of the people of the parish of St. John the Baptist.
Given under my signature and seal of the State of Louisiana, at the city of New Orleans, this twenty-seventh day of March, A.D. 1880.
LOUIS A. WILTZ,
Governor of Louisiana.
By the Governor:
WILL A. STRONG, Secretary of State.
A reporter of the Picayune was commissioned to Accompany Major Strong
to the scene of action, and to present an immediate report of the condition of affairs.
At Gretna Station, Mr. Bradish Johnson, one of the leading planters in the parish of St. John boarded the train, and a union of the visiting forces was effected. On the way up it was discovered that the strike in St. Charles parish is by no means at an end, although the laborers are now working on the Howard & Morris, the Lulling and the Kelley places, at the old rates, seventy-five cents a day.
Passing the plantations in the upper portion of the parish one could not fail to see the evil effects of the strike in the neglect of the crops which has resulted. The weather now is most favorable for the cultivation of the growing cane and every day lost in this respect must result in serious depreciation of the amount and value of the year’s crop. While the negroes are holding out for an increase of wages and asserting they are almost starving from the low rates paid them the reporter was informed that a neighboring bar-room has been, and is now, doing a thriving business through the patronage of the strikers. This information, if reliable, would go to show what has been charged against the colored people is true and that is that their poverty is due to their recklessness and dissipation.
A pleasant and uneventful ride of forty-four miles brought the party to St. John Station, where conveyances speedily transported the party to the court-house. It was evident that something unusual was going on, for the planters in the vicinity were collected at the hotel, while the negroes were moving on towards Senator Henry Demas’ place, where a mass meeting had been arranged. Before going into the details of the meeting in which Major Strong, the planters and the strikers participated, it may be well to prevent the events which caused it. Where so many conflicting statements were made to him, the reporter was compelled to sift the evidence for himself, and here gives the result of his conclusions.
The Strike Began
last Monday in the lower part of the parish and on the Sarpy place, adjoining St. Charles, who thus became a continuation of the St. Charles strike. The ground for the strike was the same as in the St. Charles case, a demand for an increase of wages from seventy-five cents to one dollar a day. The strikers went from plantation to plantation, inducing others to join them; and although they deny that force was used to increase their numbers, there is very good reason to believe that verbal intimidation was a most potent factor in making the strike general.
The idea the strikers have all along held to was that “the colored people are a nation” (the words of one of them) and must stand together. Hence, while no attack was made upon the whites, every colored man was given to understand that the movement was a race one, and he must, therefore, join it. They believe negroes have a right to make laws for themselves, and in carrying out this theory every laborer was brought into the strike either by suasion or threats.
On Tuesday the strikers drew up a “constitution” as a basis for their visionary government, which every one signed and took an oath to obey.
declares that for the better protection of themselves the signers agree not to work for less than a dollar a day, and any violating his oath shall be punished with a severe thrashing.
One of the prime movers in getting up this document was Lucien Antoine, a laborer on the Lendiche place. A day or so afterwards Antoine was observed busily at work in the fields, and his fellow-strikers being anxious to find out if he was getting his dollar a day, asked the owner what wages Antoine was getting. The answer ninety cents, whereupon Antoine’s fellow-signers proceeded to give him the severe thrashing provided for in the “constitution” as a penalty for violating his oath. Antoine after it was over, remarked he thought he deserved the whipping as he had himself proposed the law.
Two negroes working at Bonnet Carre were also reported to have been thrashed by the strikers, but in the limited time at the reporter’s disposal it was impossible to either verify or disprove the rumor.
According to the statement of Mr. Halloway, the manager of the Johnson Plantation, two of the negroes who live on the plantation, worked on the levee on Tuesday, and that night they were taken from their houses and unmercifully whipped. Mr. Halloway crossed the river after the occurrence was known and tried to find the parish judge, G. Leche, who had gone fishing and could not be found. The justice of the peace for Mr. Halloway’s ward having joined the strikers, no local relief could be had from him. The sheriff of the parish, John Webre, a colored man, either was unwilling, or unable, as he remarked to Major Strong, to arrest so many men, and the only recourse left to the planters was to apply to the authorities outside of the parish for assistance, and the response was the visit of Major Strong.
During His Stay
the reporter mingled almost exclusively among the strikers, for the purpose of getting at their views and expectations. All who were spoken to declared they were ignorant of any outrages having been committed, and in fact had endeavored to keep the peace. They were emphatic in asserting that starvation would soon overtake them if they kept on working for seventy-five cents a day, as the rise in provisions and clothing was so great. They seemed to realize that they had no chance of getting away from their present homes, and when asked what they looked forward to in case their demands were not complied with, they could find no answer.
To the practical eye of the inquisitor it soon became evident that the crowd was divided into two classes—the unscrupulous leaders and the well-meaning but ignorant followers. The majority of the negroes were respectful and good hearted, and while they were anxious to have their wages raised, they were opposed to violence in any shape, and if let alone would doubtless go to work again. The leaders might be sat down upon with advantage to the general welfare, and the reporter thinks it a personal duty to show how several of them lied to him, including Andrew Fox and James H. Davis, the speakers at the meeting.
When these worthies found out that some of the honest negroes were trying to get the “constitution” for the reporter, they swore up and down that no such document was in existence or ever had been. This had the effect of discrediting their assertion that no violence had been used. When Davis was asked how long the strikers could maintain themselves without working, he answered: “About eight months, and not steal.”
“But I thought you were on the verge of starvation,” innocently remarked the unsophiscated newsman.
“Suppose there were rich men who could help us and didn’t want their names known, suppose the storekeepers would supply us!”
“That’s so; in fact they say the storekeepers started this affair.”
“But they can’t prove it, emphatically rejoined Davis, and the reporter thought if the storekeepers were innocent their champion displayed unusual excitement.
With regard to the differences between the laborers and the planters as to wages, the reporter did not consider it his duty to take sides one way or the other, since the law of supply and demand cannot be changed by strikes. On the part of the planters it may be said that in other parishes, such as St. James and Ascension, the negroes only get sixty cents, and up to this time have been satisfied that indulgence in bad cigars and worse whisky is what makes the laborer poor.
On the side of the negroes it is urged that the rise in values has not been accompanied by an increase of wages and that they are daily getting behind hand. One old darkey remarked that he was financially better off before the war than now, and this seems to be the general opinion among the negroes.
The Mass Meeting
was held in the enclosure before Senator Demas’s house. Before going to it Major Strong sent for Webre the Sheriff, and explained the object of the meeting, and read him a lecture upon his duty in suppressing rioters, and at the same time handing over one of the Governor’s proclamation.
Webre said he had made no arrests, because no warrants had been issued, and he knew of no outrages having been committed, also adding the strikers were too numerous a body to be arrested by one man. He was told that he could summons a posse comitatus, and if that was not sufficient, the militia could be sent up. Thereupon he promised to suppress all future lawlessness, come what might. Webre is a farmer, whose hands have struck also and his friends were very anxious to assure the visitors that he had done all he could.
About three hundred negroes attended the meeting, and the Demas Brass Band recklessly tackled a number of popular and time-worn airs. Among the planters present were noticed John A. Stevenson, Bradish Johnson, L. D. Martin, M. A. Bechel, the Scheixnayder brothers, L. Landaiche, P. A. Bechel, E. L. Bechel, F. Wehre, J. B. Caire, A. Oubre, O. Roussel and E. Ferret. The small number, comparatively speaking of negroes present was due to the short notice given of the meeting; as all the parish joined in the strike, the number would have been nearer a thousand if a day’s notice had been allowed.
Senator Henry Demas
mounted a high bench and made a very sensible address to the strikers. Being their Representative in the Legislature and yet a farmer whose twelve hands had joined them, his position was rather a delicate one. He explained the difficulty of getting the St. Charles prisoners free and said his mission was to keep his friends from getting into a similar scrape. He told them that they had a perfect right to strike but they had no right to force others to join them. They had the right to meet on the levee and stay as long as they could maintain themselves, yet they could not go upon private property for the purpose of inducing the laborers thereon to join them.
“It is reported in the papers,” said he,”that you have been marching aroused armed with cane knives and guns [cries of ‘No, no,’] and threatening the lives of the whites. [Yells of ‘It’s a lie.’] I don’t say you have done so, but if you have, you have violated the law it’s my duty to tell you just how far you can go and keep within the law. The Governor has sent his respresentative up here with a proclamation which I will read.”
After reading the proclamation Senator Demas went on to say, “I don’t want to have to intercede with the Governor for you. You are charged with whipping negroes and cutting levees.” Cries of “It’s not so;” “That’s a lie.”
Major Strong—In the name of the Governor I call upon the sheriff to enforce order; if you don’t keep silence I’ll have you arrested in a minute.
This command had a soothing effect and Senator Demas pointed out how it was possible to gain an object such as they had in view by peaceful means. He advised the planters and laborers to have a mutual sympathy, as each class contributed to the general good.
He wanted the difficulties settled amicably and satisfactorily. Said he: “If one man can work for five cents a day, that’s his business; if you can’t work for seventy-five cents, that’s your business. Sometimes people do things which they think are right, but which are wrong, and their leaders are unable to protect them.” In closing, he advised them to appoint committees to confer with the planters, as he was satisfied an adjustment of the troubles would result.
Major Strong was then introduced as the
Representative of the Governor,
and without delay expounded the law of individual rights, reading for the purpose a portion of the fourteenth amendment.
“This,” he remarked, “ gives you the right to do what you please so long as you do not abridge the rights or interfere with the property of others. For instance, you signed an agreement which provided that any one who broke it should receive forty lashes. You had no right to sign such a document, and the Governor will not allow any one to be punished who breaks that agreement. I know more about negroes than you think. I was born among them, played with them, taught many of them to read, and all our old slaves live with me still. I know many of you are ignorant, while some have a smattering of knowledge, who are leading you astray. Now, on every plantation there is one negro who is respected and has the confidence of all the others. I advise you to select such a man from each place and let him meet the planter and confer with him upon your troubles. I guarantee if you do this the planters will meet you half way. If they can’t pay you more than seventy-five cents, then you can leave and they can get others. I have come in my uniform today, but without the emblem of war, but if there is to be any trouble I can get that emblem and 10,000 men within four hours from the city. The Governor says bulldozing must stop in this State, and he means what he says.”
A voice—“Boss, I axes you if we ‘plut dat committee, won’t de planters kick ‘em out as sassy niggers?”
“I’ll guarantee not,” answered Major Strong, while Mr. Johnson arose and corroborated the assurance. Continuing, Major Strong said:
“I understand that you believe the Governor pardoned the St. Charles prisoners because they did no wrong. That’s not so. They acknowledged they did wrong before they were pardoned.
A voice—“Well, boss, I begin de year wid nothin’ and end with nothin.”
Major Strong— “I’ll ask you candidly if the corner grocery isn’t to blame for that [laughter]. With $20 a month, cabin and fuel free, you are getting better wages than any laborers in the world.
At this point one of the leaders handed in a petition which had been prepared on Saturday to be handed to the planters on Monday.
To Farmers and Planters of St. John Baptist:
Sir—in consideration of the general advance of the price of provisions, clothing and food, and everything which constitutes materially the cost of living, taken in connection with the revival of business and returning properity in all the channels of trade, the increased demand for labor, skilled and unskilled, in all the industrial pursuits, and also the flourishing condition of present crops and the low rate of State and parish taxes, etc.,
We, the undersigned laborers, do herein respectfully petition you for an increase in our pay from present rates to the following figures: All plantation work, such as field labor for making a crop of cane, corn, rice, etc., one dollar per day ($1) for ten hours labor.
Believing our request is just and consistent and, that the reward for our toils should keep pace with the demands of the cost of living, we earnestly desire you to give our petition your careful consideration. Hoping it may meet with a favorable response, we further ask that you will, after having duly considered the same, grant us a reply.
Major Strong having read the petition, made some remarks upon it and warned the crowd if there was any trouble he would hold the sheriff responsible, and if he didn’t do his duty he would be impeached by the Legislature.
Messrs. Johnson and Stevenson made short addresses, in substance stating that if no arrangement could be made as to wages, the planter and laborer should part company in peace.
Both gave excellent advice, which was well received and applauded by the negroes.
Andrew Fox, one of the colored leaders, spoke for the strikers. He denied most stoutly that the negroes had resorted to violence, as their intention was to keep within the law. He said if the negroes attempted to go to Kansas, the bulldozers would stop them.
He “wished to God” men would stop running down to New Orleans and telling stories about disturbances in St. John. The people were starving and wanted relief. He read from the constitution of 1879 the article which provides that “no law shall be passed fixing the price of manual labor,” and by weak sophistry tried to convince his followers the article referred to the rights of strikers. He closed a demagogical speech by remarking:
“I fought in the United States Army and 10,000 militia wouldn’t change my opinion. If you go to leave I ask if the whites would not bushwhack you and burn your homes?” [Shouts of “That’s so,” “Yes,” “True as Gospel.”]
Major Strong here interposed and informed the burning orator he would have to cease such incendiary and ridiculous assertions, as he would be summarily arrested.
Fox was heard to mumble something about not being afraid to be arrested, and then stepped down.
Evan Colvin another negro, spoke sensibly enough, advising the negroes to be quiet and if they did not get their $1 a day to emigrate to Kansas.
James H. Davis, another colored head centre, who has been alluded to before, followed in the strain of Fox. He also denied any violence had been used and advised the Sheriff to come forward and arrest any one who had broken the law and he promised there would be no resistance. He didn’t see the use of calling on the militia when everybody was so law-abiding.
He said that the negroes had appointed a committee of twenty-seven to meet the planters on Monday and Tuesday, at the court-house. The planters present asked if the crowd would stand by the committee’s action if the conference was held. The reply was in the affirmative if the action was satisfactory. This did not suit the planters, and the crowd agreed to abide the committee’s action, whereupon the planters consented to the conference Jim Lee, a colored divine, made some humorous remarks, which placed matters in a more satisfactory light, and the meeting dissolved.
From the opinion expressed by planters and laborers there seems every chance that the meeting to-day will result in a compromise being effected, by which the wages will be increased, but not to a dollar.
During the afternoon it was rumored that the negroes in St. James had started on their strike, and the probabilities are that, like an epidemic, the strike will spread from parish to parish.
Major Strong will remain in St. John for several days to see if any trouble occurs, but the good effect produced by his speech, in conjunction with the Governor’s proclamation, will doubtless smooth the way for a peaceable compromise.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 29, 1880.
A FULL REPORT OF THE PROCEEDINGS IN ST. JOHN PARISH—CONDUCT OF THE NEGROES—ARRIVAL OF THE MILITIA
[Special Correspondence of the Picayune.]
St. John, March 31, 1880, 3 P.M.
When the Picayune correspondent left on Sunday afternoon for the city the labor troubles in St. John Parish seemed in a fair way of settlement.
The mass of negroes exhibited a disposition to go to work, if they were assured of protection from the assaults of the strikers, headed by the preacher, S. Andrew Fox, James Davis and Bill Lee. These unscrupulous men professed to be anxious to terminate the strike, and in their speeches at the mass meeting Sunday advised their followers to commit no outrages and to keep within the law. Under these circumstances it was natural to believe that the end of the difficulties was near, and that at the conference between the planters and the committee representing the negroes arranged for Monday, a satisfactory settlement would be agreed on.
These expectations, however, proved ill-founded. When the conference came off Col. John A. Stevenson, acting as the spokesman for the planters, made a very sensible address, which, if the strikers had been so disposed, would have opened the way for a compromise. But the negroes, led on by the men before mentioned, were in no humor to think of a compromise, and at the outset proclaimed an ultimatum.
“A dollar a day or Kansas.”
It was in vain that the planters tried to reason with them, or to show them how useless it was to think of going to Kansas without money or provisions.
The patience of Col. Stevenson and his associates entirely gave way when Fox made a most incendiary speech, during which he said that when the United States Government saw the fields going to waste, because of the strike, it would take them away from the planters and parcel them out among the strikers. The cheers that greeted the assertion showed how freely the gullible blacks believed it, in fact, it is the writer’s belief they would swallow anything as Gospel Truth that the leaders would tell them, and some facts will be given to show this belief has good foundation. From this point Fox and his colleagues went on with the wildest declaration. They posed as martyrs and said if any outrages had been committed they were responsible, and wished to suffer whatever punishment the law might inflict.
Later in the day, finding the temper of the negroes growing worse, it was determined to take some decisive steps, and accordingly a number of affidavits were sworn out against those who had been most prominent committing outrages.
The most serious charge related to the whipping of two negroes on Mr. Bradish Johnson’s place, and the arrests were made upon the affidavit of Mr. Holloway.
All of the parties implicated were promptly scored and locked up in the court-house jail. Henry May, a dusky bulldozer, who whipped Lucien Antoine for working for eighty cents a day, was arrested, but the kind-hearted Judge Leche released him on bail of $50. On the charge of trespass, preferred by Col. Stevenson, Floren Taylor, Felice Bethencourt and Valeour Brown were taken into custody.
Although the names are rather high-sounding and trifle romantic, the color would not suffice by comparison with the best brand of May & Day. Auguste Deviesin, another striker, was arrested for carrying concealed weapons, on the affidavit of Lucien Antoine.
As might be imagined, these arrests created some consternation among the strikers, who had previously been under the impression that the law could not touch them. Major Strong who had arrived on Sunday, did all in his power to make the negroes understand that he really represented the Governor, who was determined to protect every colored man who wanted to work. While he would give this assurance to those who wanted to resume work the leaders would move around and caution them not to take his advice, insinuating that he represented no one and his power was merely imaginary. Through fear of the strikers and belief in their statement that the Major had no power to bring the militia up to protect them, the weak-minded negroes informed their employers that they could not go to work until they saw some tangible evidence of Major Strong’s assurance of protection. The strikers to still further carrying out their scheme of intimidation, tore up the printed copies of the Governor’s proclamation and trampled the pieces under their feet.
It then became evident that if any crop was to be made during the year it would be necessary to bring the corps to protect the laborers who wanted to resume work. The story of how Major Strong communicated the facts to the Governor may bear recital, as showing the difficulties of communication between St. John and New Orleans, points only forty odd miles apart.
It was midnight Monday when he started for the city.
The train on the Morgan road has stopped running and no steamboat was to be seen. There was only one way to make the trip and that was by hand car and through the friendly aid of the section bosses on the railroad.
The night was quite cold and there were no overcoats in the party. A kind-hearted old woman observing the condition of affairs, lent one of her blankets which kept the State from losing its Secretary through freezing.
The ride was terribly monotonous, for everytime the brakes went up the Major received a dig in the back, and the digs came at the rate of about sixty a minute. At Westwego the hand car stopped and the traveler had to cast around for a conveyance to the city, and in the darkness and solitude the prospects were anything but encouraging. Wandering along the marshy ground he finally stumbled against a cabin and roused its owner, a burly negro. The colloquy between the two men was short and to the point.
“How much?” queried the Secretary of State, “will you take to row me to Jackson street?”
“How much, boss, will yer give?” was the non-commital reply.
“Five dollars,” was the answer.
“I’ll ask the old woman fust.”
“If you have to ask your wife, I’m off,” responded the representative of the Governor.
“Never mind, boss, I’ll go.”
In a weak and leaky skiff the two headed for Jackson street, which was reached about 3 o’clock in the morning.
The Major’s trouble were by no means at an end and for two hours he hunted for a telephone or telegraph office to summon a cab. By daybreak a cab was procured and the driver directed to go straight to the Governor’s residence. Even while His Excellency was soundly sleeping, forgetful of Supreme Court appointments and the demand of politicians, he was aroused by a ring of the bell and soon found himself giving audience to his representative. The result of the interview was seen in the order to the Washington Artillery and Crescent City Battalion, published in yesterday’s Picayune.
The troops so ordered to proceed to St. John were under the command of Capt. Frank McElroy, of the Washington Artillery. The detachment of the C. C. Battalion was officered by Lieut. B. H. Baker, and Lieut. J. G. Woods, part of the Washington Artillery by Lieut. Beebe and Lieut. Dudley Selph, acting Adjutant.
It was given out that four days’ rations were locked up in the freight car, and this, enabled with the assurance of the commission . . . Lieut. M. Montgomery, that tables would be set immediately on arriving at St. John conjured up pictures of Epicurean Feasts in the minds of the hungry soldiers. St. John was reached at 3 o’clock and the boys marched to the Court-House, where they executed a series of military manoeuvres in the presence of the awe-stricken darkies looking.
In the temple of justice the trial of the men charged with whipping the negroes on the Johnson place was progressing slowly, probably fifty negroes watching the proceedings with absorbing interest. The evidence of the case is appended further on.
After consultation the troops were ordered to pitch a Guard Tent in the Court-House square and quarter themselves in the court-house. The epicurean feasts expected by the boys were abundantly real when the crackers and corned beek was dealt out for supper, and the bread and breakfast bacon for breakfast. What the bill of fare may be for dinner is a matter of supposition.
The Picayune’s young man acknowledges himself a failure as a war correspondent—he never played poker. So when he was invited to “bunk” in the court-house with the militia, with all that the term implied, he declined sorrowfully but firmly and accepted an invitation from Mr. Holloway to visit Carroll Plantation, owned by Mr. Bradish Johnson.
Interviews with the negroes show how thoroughly they have been misled by Fox and his crowd.
“How”, asked the correspondent of a quiet and intelligent looking Creole negro, “do you expect to get to Kansas without money?”
“The Governor,” he replied in very good English, “will send us there. Isn’t it the duty of the Government to protect its citizens in their rights, and ain’t we citizens?”
“Certainly,” responded the news gatherer, “but not only does the law not authorize the Governor to transport strikers to Kansas, but even if it did, he has no money to do it with.”
The negro looked perplexed at this and could only reply, “How is it, boss, all you whites take up for one another?”
The opinion held by this man is the opinion of the entire batch of the deluded laborers. They expect that one of three things will happen; that the Government will divide out land among them; that the Governor will send them to Kansas, or that Grant will come up and make the planters pay the extra wages demanded. Some amusing incidents happen every day. Yesterday one of the negroes on the Carroll plantation agreed to go to work at seventy-five cents, but when night came he had not touched a plow. When he was asked why he had broken his agreement, he replied:
“Well, boss, when I got into dat big field and no udder nigger ‘round, my heart failed me. I just quit.”
So it is with all of the laborers. They are afraid of their own associates.
Your correspondent after hearing both sides of the question, has reached the conclusion that seventy-five cents a day is sufficient for the laborers to live on except where there is a very large family of children who are too young to work. . . .
They have land to plant corn and vegetables, and can raise chickens and hogs, but it is said they are nearly all too lazy to cultivate the patch given them. On Saturday afternoons they have a holiday, and are allowed to use plantation mules to work their crop.
Gambling is one vice which many indulge in, and the greater part of their wages are lost in throwing dice. Whisky and cigars are dear to the negro heart, and some of the most experienced planters assert that at least one-half of their earnings go for such luxuries.
The credit system which prevails is one that directly encourage the negro to buy whatever his fancy may covet, whether he needs it or not.
With all these habits against him, it is no wonder the ignorant darkey continues poor, and were he to receive $5 a day he would have more whisky, more cigars and more trinkets, and would save nothing. At least this is the opinion of those who know him best.
As to the ability of the planter to give one dollar a day, your correspondent is assured that the result would be a loss to the employers. Last year was a successful one, and yet in this parish very little above expenses was made by the mass of the planters, and they are convinced that they cannot afford an increase to a dollar and make anything.
The Court House Wednesday morning, was the centre of attraction. The militia were removed and spread their tents some distance away. About nine o’clock, crowd of negro men and women began gathering and discussing the situation of affairs. The presence of the militia seemed to have a depressing effect and they were unusually quiet and respectful although they persisted in asserting that there was no reason for sending up the troops. In the cells below the court room, the prisoners were interviewed, and of course protested their innocence.
The trial of the whipping cases was continued at 10 o’clock, L. Depoota, District Attorny pro tem, acting for the State.
Mr. Holloway, of the Carroll plantation, testified to the facts in a case of bulldozing perpetrated by the strikers against a negro on the said plantation.
William Wallis, a negro, recognized the prisoner as being a part of the attacking crowd, but could not swear that they took a hand in the whipping. On the cross examination he stated that he did not go to work because he was afraid of another whipping.
John Joseph, the other laborer, who was whipped, lives in the next room to Wallis. The attacking party called upon him to come out, but his wife went to the door, and, peeping through, saw a lot of men disguised in women’s clothes. He then refused to come out, and went to get his gun to defend himself, but before he could make any use of it the party broke in the door and captured him. They dragged him out twice and gave him a severe beating with whips and hoops. He exhibited a scar on his cheek caused by one of the blows. He identified the prisoner as being among the attackers, and recognized several by their voices.
At the conclusion of the evidence, the Judge decided to remand the prisoners to jail to stand trial before the District Court. The decision was not well received by the strikers. In the cases of Devesin and the four negroes for trespass, a preliminary examination was waived and the accused remanded to the District Court.
Affidavits are now being made out against Fox, Lee, Davis, and others for inciting the laborers to riot and disturbing the peace and using incendiary language. If they can be disposed of the trouble will be at an end.
If they have enough influence they may arouse the negroes to riot, and it is needless to say who will suffer if such a thing should occur. When arrested, they will likely be brought to the city for safe keeping. In the meanwhile intelligence comes from St. James that the labor troubles have begun in earnest, and Major Strong is now waiting for news which, if unfavorable, will cause him to step aboard the special train held with a part of his command and hasten to the scene of action.
The planters have found out that the best protection is a militia company of their own, and on both banks of the river they have formed companies, and will apply to the Governor for commissions.
The officers for the right bank are: L. Bechel, Captain; L. D. Martin, First Lieutenant; S. L. Giuol, Second Lieutenant; Gustave Roussel, Third Lieutenant.
For the left bank: Capt. Frank Reid, First Lieut. Lucien Montegut, Jr., Second Lieut. Jos. L. Bourgeois, Third Lieut. Burris Edrinton.
It would not do to close this letter without referring to the gallant conduct of the militia. Although many are here to the neglect of their private business, they responded promptly when called upon, and have behaved splendidly since their arrival.
Waiting For Orders.
A rumor was circulated yesterday that the colored strikers in the parish of St. John had refused to surrender the ringleaders to the militia when desired to do so by Major Strong, and that the latter had dispatched a special messenger to the Governor with this statement, and a request for more troops, as an attack upon the militia was feared, as the strikers were said to number four thousand.
This rumor, although apparently having no foundation in fact, caused considerable excitement in and around the several armories, the Washington Artillery, two companies of the German Battalion, twenty-five men of the Vaudry Rifles, and twenty-five men of Capt. Pinckard’s company, having assembled at their respective armories waiting orders from headquarters.
Up to 10 o’clock last night, however, Major Gen. Behan had received no orders from the Governor to send an additional force to the parish of St. John and the information from there received by his Excellency being of a satisfactory nature the severe commands were relieved for the night. Gen. Behan, however, made the request that inquiry be made at the armories in the morning, as announcements or orders would appear on the bulletin boards in case a demand for more troops is made.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 1, 1880.
RINGLEADERS ARRESTED AND THE MILITARY RETURN TO NEW ORLEANS—THE NEGROES GO TO WORK AGAIN—AMUSING EPISODES
The labor troubles in St. John parish may now be regarded as settled. The militia sent up to quell the disturbances there returned yesterday afternoon, bringing with them the ringleaders in the strike, who were taken to the Parish Prison to be kept until the proper legal proceedings can be instituted against them.
The account of the event which occurred upon the arrival of the troops at St. John Court-House, published in yesterday’s Picayune, gave the condition of affairs up to 3 o’clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, and very clearly foreshadowed what result might be anticipated.
The negroes who had gathered at the court-house to attend the preliminary examination of their fellow-strikers for whipping the two laborers on the Johnson plantation, were much dissatisfied when the prisoners were remanded to stand trial before the District Court.
The presence of the militia, however, had a most salutary effect and prevented any resistance being made. As the afternoon wore on a band of strikers came from across the river, bearing a white flag labeled Peace—One Dollar A Day.
This accession to their forces made the negroes assume a strong numerical appearance which inspired the leaders to hold a mass meeting upon the levee.
Speeches were made by Fox, Lee and others, who spoke to the same effect as on the previous Sunday. While advising that the strike should continue, they were particularly careful to caution their followers against committing any outrages, or to do anything which might be construed as a violation of the law.
But even these peaceful counsels were not sufficient to protect the men who had hitherto given nothing but incendiary advice. So when Fox and his colleagues stopped their glowing remarks the sheriff tapped them on the shoulders and arrested them on the charge of being accessories before and after the fact to the whipping of Wallis and Joseph. This was the critical moment of the strike. Either the arrests would settle the strike, as predicted in the Picayune, or else the influence of the leaders would incite a riot.. Major Strong and Capt. McElroy showed their appreciation of the importance of the situation by drawing up the troops in line ready for instant action. This movement had the desired effect upon the strikers, and it could be seen in a moment that they had weakened most perceptibly. Fox, Lee and May, the latter the brother-in-law of Senator Demas, at once signified their willingness to go to jail, with the Sheriff without the coercion of the militia, and taking them at their word Sheriff Webre escorted them to the cells beneath the Court-House. To further impress the negroes with the importance of the militia, Capt. McElroy put the boys through a series of war-like movements, such as loading and firing, and the promptness with which they were executed as well calculated to show the ignorant strikers how hopeless it was to think of rescuing their leaders. Later on Senator Demas addressed a meeting in the Court-House, and advised his constituents to return to their homes and to go to work on the best terms they could.
His hearers were in a mood to obey such good advice, and lost no time in following it out, so far as dispersing to their homes was concerned. The evening thus closed quietly enough, and the guardian of the peace, in the shape of the militia, soon lit the camp up, and made preparations for the evening banquet.
During the night a wandering canine stole into the tent of a Washington Artillery mess, and ran off with half the rations, consisting of a piece of bacon. No other tent suffered from such a depredation, as the inmates were awake and engaged in a game played with cards and grains of corn, the latter being valued at five cents a piece. Yesterday morning, however, the provisions increased both in quantity and attractiveness as the good people of the neighborhood had contributed chickens, wine and other delicacies in profusion.
In this connection it may be well to say that the troops feel very grate ful to Father Ravoire, Messrs. Laurent Martin, E. Leger, M. Pecnel, Joseph, J. B. Caire, and Gaiol, for attentions such as soldiers never fail to appreciate.
The events of Wednesday were singularly devoid of interest. In the camp the most notable incident happened to Lieut. Dudley Selph, who was officer of the day. He, in a fit of absent-mindedness, mounted a war horse, which imbued with military ardor took to his heels and ran off with the gallant sharpshooter. At least this was the explanation given by the officer of the day when he was captured about a mile and a half from camp, enjoying himself in the limited amusements of the adjoining country. Two privates, belonging respectfully to the Washington Artillery and Crescent City Batallion, started off on a tour of exploration on their own account without the necessary leave and failed to escape the argus eye of the sentinel. Their punishment was two hours of extra guard duty.
Such escapades, however, were rather laughed at, as the presence of the militia had already done the good which was anticipated. The negroes were no longer to be seen at the court-house, and it was very soon found out that on most of the plantations the laborers had agreed to go to work, and many could then be seen in the fields busily plowing or hoeing the long-neglected ground.
At the Carroll Plantation the prospects were cheering, and although a few persisted in saying they would hold out, it was evident the backbone of the strike was broken. This was the case substantially on all the plantations between the Carroll Plantation and the court-house. Even in cases wher the strikers would not yield it was understood that they would be turned out from the plantations on which they were working, and would ask employment on other places, at the old rates. In this way an exchange of labor would be ha and when a plantation lost some of its hands it made up for the deficiencies by recruits from other places.
Affairs being so satisfactory, Major Strong decided to return to the city with the troops, and to bring Fox, Lee and the seven negroes who were sent before the District Court, to the city.
The necessary affidavits to effect this were made by citizens, stating that the force at the command of the sheriff would be insufficient to maintain the prisoners in jail in case an attempt to release them was made. Judge Leach declined to order them taken to St. Charles or St. James, as there were similar troubles in those parishes, and he accordingly made out the commitment for the Parish Prison. May was released on a peace bond, signed by Senator Demas, and the nine others were brought to the city and locked up in the Parish Prison.
On Monday next, Mr. Sewell of St. Charles, will apply for a writ of habeas corpus, and will endeavor to have them released.
Last night, after the militia had disbanded, Major Strong entertained the officers of the command at dinner at Victor’s and a very pleasant time was spent discussing the events of the trip.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 2, 1880.
There were strikes in some parts of this State, but they were similar to the labor troubles elsewhere, and were devoid of race antagonism. It was not a rising of blacks against whites, but of employees against employers. In the parishes of St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Charles, during the month of March, negroes went from plantation to plantation, requiring others who had not joined in their movement to desist from work, and even to leave these parishes. They rode about in armed bands, broke into cabins, frightened the inmates, took quiet laborers from their work in the fields, and whipped them. No outrages were committed except on colored persons. The Governor’s proclamation produced no effect upon the rioters, and the militia was called out and sent to the two or three points of disturbance. The ringleaders were arrested without bloodshed or difficulty, and were brought to New Orleans, tried, and imprisoned. The other strikers appointed a conference committee to arrange their difficulties with the planters. A colored Senator, Demas, wrote out the following petition in behalf of the St. Charles strikers, which shows the misconception of their rights under which they acted:
New Orleans, March 23, 1880.
To His Excellency Governor Wiltz, of the State of Louisiana.
The undersigned, having pleaded guilty to trespass before Judge Augustin, holding court at St. Charles Court-House on Saturday, March 20th, and having been brought to New Orleans to serve out their sentence, ask you for a remission of the same on the following grounds:
We, as well as the majority of our people, were misled as to our rights when we acted as we did in the recent strike; and when we were guilty of trespass, we did not know we were exceeding our rights; we really thought we had a right to go where other laborers were working, even though it was on the property of an individual, and induce those laborers to join us.
We now understand we have no such rights; we understand we have no right to go on the property of other people against their will, and we propose to obey this law hereafter.
We feel sure the laborers in our parish understand this question now, and are equally certain they never understood it before.
We feel sure the laborers in our parish will respect the law, as we intend to hereafter, and believe quietness and peace will continue from this time, and that when laborers differ with their employers hereafter about the price of their labor, it will be in a peaceable manner, and with law always on their side.
For these reasons, your Excellency, we would ask a remission of our sentence, and allow us to return to our wives, our children, and our work.
This was signed by the prisoners, and the Judge and the militia officers concurred in recommending that Executive clemency be extended. They were accordingly released, and quiet was restored.
Appletons’ Annual Cyclopedia, 1880, p. 482.
COLLISION WITH SPECIAL POLICEMEN
A strike of the workmen in the saw mills, situated just below Jacksonville, Fla., has been going on for some days. Last Friday night it culminated in a collision between some special police detailed for duty by the Mayor of the city and the strikers who had assembled to interview the men who had been induced to continue their work. In the collision one policeman was shot. The ball struck him on a lower rib on his right side, and, glancing lodged in his back. Three of the strikers were wounded, but none killed. Twenty-five or thirty shots were fired before the riot was quelled. Saturday morning the fight was renewed to some extent, and a policeman received three shots, but without serious damage. Some of the strikers were seriously clubbed, but none killed. More trouble is anticipated, but preparation is being made for all emergencies. The mills shut down at first but they are now running short-handed.
Labor Standard (Fall River, Mass.), July 3, 1880.
COLORED LABORERS DRIVEN FROM THEIR WORK
THE AUTHORITIES UNABLE TO SUPPRESS THE RIOT—THE SHERIFF OF ST. JOSEPH REFUSES TO INTERFERE.
C. A. Parker, contractor for the excavation work of the packing house of J. M. Smith, East Atchison, Mo., having engaged several colored men, to whom he was paying a dollar and a quarter per day, a furious mob armed with revolvers and knives, made its appearance Wednesday and compelled them to quit work. From there, the crowd increasing, proceeded to the brick yard of Seth & Co., where seven colored men were employed, and compelled a suspension of all work, and drove the colored men over the river. The mob then, numbered several hundred, and it was addressed by the Mayor of Atchison and others, urging peace and order, but without avail. The colored drivers of transfer teams were compelled to turn back over the bridge, and the colored porters at the various freight depots and other darkies in town hunted up and sent over into Kansas. The authorities, finding all efforts to quiet the mob useless, telegraphed to Sheriff Spencer at St. Joseph, to come and exercise his authority, but he refused to come. The mobs have possession of East Atchison and defy the law and the militia.
Labor Standard, (Fall River, Mass.), July 14, 1880.
On the first of September a strike for higher wages will be inaugurated by the combined labor of the city. The cotton yard men and those connected with the handling of cotton, have made a tariff which will not be agreed to by press owners and others. The different organizations will parade about the 15th of September with over four thousand men in line. The white and colored laborers are working in unison and are governed by the same rules and regulations.
New Orleans Weekly Louisianian, August 13, 1881.
One of the greatest questions which confronts the South is the labor question. It is a problem which if not met by some practical solution, it must eventually entail agricultural and commercial ruin. It is essential to New Orleans especially, because of its great importance, situated as it is upon the greatest commercial highway, it must necessarily be a great centre of trade, and its importance is being considered by other large metropolists, and the natural competition for supremacy makes New Orleans a target for all kind of scandal; and everything will be resorted to to obstruct its agricultural and commercial facilities. The labor of the South is a peculiar one. Notwithstanding all of the theories, and speculations in connection with this great question, we assert without successful contradiction that nature has decreed, that colored labor is the only labor that can give satisfaction in this section. That labor must be contented and retained. The North and West have found out that it can be successfully utilized in all of their industries, and it is being utilized. To-day we have ten thousand colored laborers from the South successfully employed, in the mines, upon the railroads, and in other industries in the North and West, and the great railroad centers which will soon lead out of New Orleans, traveling all over the country, will be a great source of temptation, to bereft this State of its vitality if the colored labor is not contented. It is very good for our political journals to say “let them go, they can be replaced by others,” but in reality our planters know that if they are forced to go, the State is necessarily ruined, hence this labor must be contended. It must be guaranteed all of its educational, its civil, and its political rights. The LOUISIANIAN as the defender of this labor, must call the attention of our business men to the great trouble now before us as far as colored labor is concerned. It is an unfortunate and lamentable spectacle to see the present conflict between labor and capital which threatens to seriously embarrass the commercial relations of this city. Some method must be brought about to prevent the occurrence of these labor strikes which must eventual drive our shipping away to other ports where they will not be detained by these periodical upheavals. Whilst we cannot antagonize capital we must admit that the laborer has some right which the capitalists are bound to respect. By a careful analysis of this matter, it will be found that the seeming exorbitant rates exacted by strikers lies in the fact of the uncertainty of employment. The laborer who handles the great cotton staple of this State can only find employment for six or seven months during the year, there being no equalization tariff throughout the year they must earn sufficient during these six or seven months to support themselves and families during the rest of the year. The question to be solved is, can the merchant or cotton factors by any process whatever bring about an equalization tariff which will give a reasonable compensation the year round for these men in whose hands are placed the destinies of the city and State? Upon calculation it will be found that six dollars a working day will aggregate the large sum of one hundred and forty-four dollars per month, making the amount of eight hundred and sixty-four dollars earned per laborer for six months. This is true to a greater or less extent with all of our industries in connection with the cotton trade. Suppose the same number of men who are now employed in handling the staple could be guaranteed regular employment throughout the whole year upon averaged salaries. We find that two dollars and a half per day which would be an averaged salary would be sixty dollars per month, making seven hundred and twenty dollars per year, a gain of one hundred and forty-four dollars. If such a system could be established the laborer would have no just cause to complain, and the merchant, the ship owner and in fact, all parties concerned would be free from the serious complications which now confronts us. This seems to be a question worthy of consideration and we submit it to the consideration of all parties concerned. It will guarantee to the laborer permanent support for his family during the whole year, it will secure to the merchant a contented and stable labor, it will pass out of existence these associations which are continually menacing the capitalists, and it will place New Orleans upon the highway to success. We trust that the matter be thoroughly investigated and in short we will have a compromise of the serious trouble now upon us.
New Orleans Weekly Louisianaian, September 10, 1881.
MAYOR SHAKESPEARE’S PROMPT AND DETERMINED COURSE—THE PLANS OF THE STRIKERS AND THE WORK OF THE POLICE—THE BURIAL OF THE FIRST VICTIM—EFFORTS FOR ADJUSTMENT
Between two and three thousand persons attended the funeral of James Hawkins, the negro teamster who was shot and instantly killed by Sergeant Reynolds on Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, at No. 337 Tehoupitoulas street. After the autopsy had been held by the Coroner, the body was removed to the colored church on Levee, between Gafennie and Erato streets, where it was laid out, and the church was visited by numerous persons, white and black, male and female, adults and children, all curious to see the first victim of the war between capital and labor. The crowds were not demonstrative or boisterous, and what conversation passed between them was carried on in a subdued tone of voice far more impressive and ominous than loud threats of vengeance or wails of grief.
At 9 o’clock quite a number of the members of the different labor organizations, mostly colored, who had determined to attend the funeral, had arrived, and at 11 o’clock the cortege moved.
After the hearse, which was escorted by pall bearers selected from the different societies in the line, came seven carriages containing relatives and friends of the deceased. The St. Joseph Colored Society, the Teamsters’ and Loaders’ Union, the colored cotton yard men, the colored longshoremen, a delegation from the white cotton yard men, and one also of the white screwmen, followed in the above order, and constituted the procession, which was several blocks long.
Out Gafennie to Magazine, to Washington Avenue, thence to Lafayette Cemetery No. 2, moved the procession without any interference whatever. Perfect order prevailed, both in the ranks and on the sidewalks, where large crowds of colored people were following the cortege on foot.
Each society was headed by a brass band, and when the cemetery was reached, the coffin was carried through the open ranks of the societies to the tomb of the St. James Society, where it was placed in the vault, after the sermon had been preached and the ceremonies incidental were performed.
The programme as mapped out by both sides for Monday promises to be one prolific of excitement, bloodshed and riot.
The Factors’ and Employers’ Union appear to be determined to compel the labor organizations to surrender unconditionally, while on the contrary, the laborers are more determined than ever that they will not be whipped into submission without raising an arm of defense of their cause.
If the issue comes, they say, and blood is spilled, no one is to blame but the cotton factors and their allies who refused peremptorily to accept any of their propositions looking towards a compromise, although they made all the concessions they possibly could. On Saturday morning, prior to the news of Hawkin’s death at the hands of Sergeant Reynolds, they took things in good part, and were more than anxious to come to terms; but now blood had been spilled, and unless some unforeseen obstacle in the shape of effectual settlement arises, more will follow.18
The Labor Bureau, under whose auspices the Savannah Screwmen were brought to the city, are determined that those men shall go to work on Monday morning, and it is believed that the British steamship Cella is the objective point where services will be utilized. Per contract, the longshoremen and others are equally determined that those importations shall not work in the ships, and if the attempt is made trouble is bound to follow.
They also threaten to keep any of the boss draymen from sending out teams, and say that they will stop them at the gates and drive them back into the yards. The boss draymen, or at least some of them, express a firm determination of sending out their floats, no matter what the result may be.
The cotton presses will also be debarred from delivering cotton aboard vessels, if the plans of the laborers are carried into effect. The Liverpool Shippers and Orleans Presses all have deliveries to make this morning, and it is the intention of the cotton press owners to carry out their contracts even if they are compelled to place an armed squad on every float.
The various precinct commanders were all ordered to report at Chief Boylan’s office at 7 o’clock last night and were promptly on hand. The state of affairs was discussed at length among them and orders given for their various forces to be on hand at an early hour this morning.
Mayor Shakespeare seems to be determined if possible, to put an end to the existing troubles to-day, and will put forth every effort in that direction. He last evening issued the following order to the Chief of Police:
T. N. Boylan, Esq., Chief of Police:
Sir: You will give instructions to your force to keep all idlers off the wharves where vessels are loading. Respectfully,
JOSEPH A. SHAKESPEARE, Mayor.
This order is intended as a precautionary measure, as presumably the strikers will move towards the vessels in small squads, when it will be much easier to manage them than if they came in force. At the different Armories and Arsenals of the militia a guard was kept all night, to protect the State property, and signals will be agreed upon.
At Exposition Hall Mayor Shakespeare, Generals Behan, Glynn and Meyer, Major Williams, Chief of Police Boylan, and Police Commissioner Schomberg met at 8 o’clock, in conference, the subject being the plan of action, in anticipation of the troubles to-day. It was determined that the police force in its full strength was to be concentrated somewhere in the vicinity of the expected troubles, and would move in solid phalanx at the very first intimation of any interference on the part of the laborers.
A general order was also issued calling the militia to their respective armories at 1 o’clock this morning, there to be held in readiness in case of emergency.
Those members of the police force who were ordered to report in the morning were sent home off their beats at midnight, and the necessary orders given them.
It appears to be the policy of the officials to bring matters to a crisis at once, and effectually settle the question.
THE ROLL OF RIOTERS
How the Police Force “Overpowered” Themselves on Saturday.
The following named negroes will be brought up before Judge Davey, of the upper districts, to-day, for attempting to incite a riot and disturbing the peace:
Perry Jones, a laborer, arrested at the corner of Richard and Chippewa streets by Officers Garney and Abadie.
Humphrey Mitchell, arrested by Officers W. Murphy and Tully at the corner of Chippewa and Terpsichore streets.
John P. Colbert, a white laborer, arrested at the corner of Richard and Chippewa streets by Officers J. T. Gallagher and J. D. Donovan.
The negro driver, Henry Williams, arrested at the corner of Tehoupitoulas and Thalia streets, by officers Knapp and Tholemer, for interferring with drivers of cotton floats and attempting to incite a riot, will soon make his appearance before the bar.
The next in line will be the negroes who showered the cooking utensils upon the police when they attempted to make an arrest at the corner of Thalia and Tehoupitoulas street. It took seven officers of the law to arrest the following named negro women and lock them up in the Second Precinct Station: Edwina Thomas Manly Richards, Winnie White, Ellen Alexander, Annie Williams, Letty Bailey and Isabel Wilkinson.
Three prisoners were subsequently transferred to the Central Station, in the Black Maria, on account of the rickety condition of the Second Station House. It had been repaired several times as being in an unsafe condition, but no attention has ever been paid to it.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, September 12, 1881.
During the past week another of those horrible crimes which causes honest men to blush, was perpetrated by officer Reynolds, who shot down the man Hawkins with the same deliberation that he would use in shooting down a mad dog, and the strangest thing about the whole affair is that a few hours afterwards, before any testimony had been taken in the case, officer Reynolds was turned scott free upon a nominal bail under the same old pretense, self-protection. It is evident that if justice was done in ferreting out the facts, officer Reynolds could give no reasonable excuse for washing his hands in the blood of this poor colored man, every inquiry about Hawkins shows that he was a law-abiding, peaceful man, with honest convictions and a christian character, and was shot down for no other cause than that a negro has no rights which a police officer is bound to respect. The nature of the affair is well known to the community. Thousands of men had banded themselves together, white and colored, to conduct a strike for higher wages and other demands, we are not here to say whether they were right or wrong, but we do say that the colored portion of the strikers should not have been selected by the police as chosen objects for personal violence. The daily papers which really took no position in the strike neither for or against labor nor capital, passed the most of their time discussing about excited Negroes and Negro women, whilst the white men and women belonging to the strike numbered three to one and was more violent in their demonstration than the Negro dared be. Yet the policemen could find naught to say against the white strikers, but the colored portion must be beaten and killed. Every individual both white and colored who witnessed this awful tragedy states that it was one of the most deliberate and cold-blooded murders on record. The greatest offence alleged is, that Hawkins protested against being arrested, he was not armed, he had nothing with which to defend himself, notwithstanding this he was shot down by officer Reynolds, and with hardly a protest from our public journals. Is it strange that we should have strikes, upheavals, lawlessness, opposition to commerce and every other kind of deviltry whilst the authorities and our merchants are blind to these barbarous outrages? If an officer of the law cannot make an arrest without taking a life, then it would be better for the commonwealth for such an officer to resign his charge. If the judges cannot protect the sacrecy of the law, let them relegate back to the people that responsibility, and let it be bestowed upon some one who can fill it with dignity and with safety. The Democratic party is making for itself a record, by the toleration of these crimes from which its representatives cannot shield them. There seem to be no law in this community with which to punish the murderer of a Negro.
Here stands before us three peace officers with their hands dyed in the blood of colored men with no condemnation whatever. Must we strike back, or shall we be protected by the law? The solution cannot be delayed much longer. We appeal to the tribunal of justice again in this case and ask a redress for the murder of Hawkins. Let the murderer be brought to trial and hung as a living example to those who seem determined to ruin the reputation of this City.
It was a source of satisfaction to see the sympathy expressed by the white laborers association. Their popular indignation were expressed by the large numbers who turned out to pay their last tribute of respect to the unfortunate man. More than two thousand souls formed the funeral train. We trust that this public demonstration will be an incentive to the authorities in meeting out justice to officer Reynolds.
New Orleans Weekly Louisianaian, September 17, 1881.
LEADING SOUTHERN PAPER ON THE NEGRO AS A MANUFACTURER AND MINER
It is an undeniable fact that the Negro is making his way, and is winning a more forward position than had been thought possible in the same generation that saw him a slave. While that people can produce a Douglass and a Senator Bruce, it is impossible utterly to despise them. Their children are absorbing education with a power of assimilation they had never been credited with possessing, and events are proving that as working men they are not to be tied down to the position of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water. The Iron Age has an article upon “The Negro as an Iron Worker and Miner,” that shows there are decided powers of progress among them. It remarks upon the prevalent belief in the South that the Negro could never become a skilled workman, able to accomplish results requiring judgment, dexterity, and a shrewd application of human powers. In the iron business, however, he has become a skilled puddler, heater and roller. He fills those occupations at the Tradegar and Old Dominion works in Richmond, Virginia; as a puddler he proves very efficient. At Pittsburgh he first was introduced during a strike and proved a success. At the Knoxville, Tennessee Ironworks, he is a puddler, heater, roller and shearer, and whatever else is required in the iron manipulation. At Atlanta, Ga., he is at work in similar departments. The better wages these men get is arousing ambition and, as the Negroes become more widely educated, they desire comforts that a better income wins. They do not all make good skilled workmen, no more do all the whites, but they are pronounced teachable and are strong, they understand the heat well and are competent for duties it had been thought they had not the brain to perform. In the coal mines and in ore mining they are pronounced to be excellent, faithful, steady and not given to “sprees.” Whatever may come in the future, however—when education is more general among the Negroes and they come to have the discipline and other benefits that come from experience—the Negro does not yet become a superintendent, plan how work is to be done, allot it among the men, and oversee its accomplishment; that is done by whites. All this is a beginning with the Negro, he has proved that he can handle tools, work among machinery, and attain skill in manufacturing operations, the question is how far may a race that has made such amazing strides in one generation attain; in how many trades and occupations may he be—not a mere fag, a helper, a sweeper out of rooms, a blacker of boots—but a competent steady, and valued workman? Should he fulfill present promise, the Negro as a citizen is likely to take a more prominent place than has usually been anticipated.19
People’s Advocate, (Washington, D.C.,), October 1, 1881.
We learn that a colored man named Ben was killed at Jeanerette, a few days ago under circumstances which deserve investigation. It seems he had been arrested for stealing chickens, was confined in the town jail, but was assaulted by a mob, taken from the jail, and whipped, and when he ran, was shot and killed. . . .
New Orleans Daily Picayune, October 8, 1881.
We are often asked, “Are colored men admitted to this Order and can we form colored Assemblies?” We answer yes. We have already several Assemblies composed exclusively of colored men, and many other Assemblies have colored members, and the testimony is, that for fidelity to their obligations, strict attendance on all meetings, prompt payment of dues, good conduct, and all that goes to make good members and good citizens, they are not excelled by any other class of men in the Order.
We should be false to every principle of our Order should we exclude from membership any man who gains his living by honest toil, on account of his color or creed. Our platform is broad enough to take in all.
In every portion of our broad land, whenever a strike is resorted to, as the only means of resisting a further reduction of wages, already below living rates, what is the first thing done by the employer? Does he not seek far and near for those who will take the place of the men on strike, without inquiring their nationality, color, or creed? Certainly he does. The only question asked is, “Will he work for less wages?”, and if he will, he can go to work at your job, and you can go tramping. Why, then, should workingmen allow a foolish prejudice against the color to keep out of our organization any one who might be used as a tool to aid the employer in grinding down wages? In the coal regions of Illinois, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia, during the strikes of the past winter, colored men were put into the mines to take the place of the strikers, and we ask any white miner who objects to the admission of colored men into our Order, this question: If you are forced to strike against a reduction of wages, will your employer stop to inquire the color or nationality of any man who will take your place at the reduction offered?
Journal of United Labor, August 15, 1880.
The Local Assembly is not a mere Trade Union, or Beneficial Society; it is more and higher. It gathers into one fold all branches of honorable toil, without regard to nationality, sex, creed or color. . . .
Proceedings, General Assembly, Knights of Labor, 1884, p. 780.
The platform was occupied by white and colored representatives of every labor organization in the District. The Committee representing all trade unions presented the following resolutions which were unanimously adopted.
Whereas the only hope for the masses, in bringing about a more equitable and just distribution of the wealth of this country, consists in the more thorough and complete organization and harmonious affiliation of the classes of wage-paid labor, regardless of caste, creed, color, or sex; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the efforts of all working men and women should first be devoted to the compact, thorough organization of all trades or callings whatsoever, regardless of sex, creed or color, with the single purpose of elevating and protecting labor, and to this end ceaseless agitation and education must be conducted.
National Republican, (Washington, D.C.), February 5, 1884.
The Central Committee of the Austin, Texas Labor Organizations has issued the following circular to workingmen:
Are you a workingman?
If so, sit down and for ten minutes think, even if you never thought before in your life. . . .
Join some organization in the interest of labor.
Organization is strength through union, it is education through discussion, it is efficiency through intelligent effort. Without organization nothing can be accomplished. Organization is life, development, progress. If there is a union of your particular trade then join it. If there is none then endeavor to organize one. If you cannot succeed then seek to join the Knights of Labor, an order which admits every man of good, moral character, who is a bonafide worker and producer. It makes no other distinction, but recognizes in every worker a man and a brother, without reference to race or creed, section, condition, or occupation.
Its motto is, “AN INJUSTICE DONE ONE IS THE CONCERN OF ALL.” No matter where destiny or choice may place a toiling brother; no matter what race he belongs to, what section he hails from, what altar he bows to; no matter how heavy his labor, hard his lot, and lowly his position, he is equally welcome, equally respected. . . .
Central Committee of the Austin Labor Organizations
Irish World and American Industrial Liberator, July 12, 1884.
A large audience was assembled and great enthusiasm was manifest. Upon the platform was assembled several of the more prominent members of the Order. Among them was Johnson from Virginia, the only colored delegate in the General Assembly. As Master Workman Powderly was speaking, he turned to the brother from Virginia, and taking him by the hand, pledged him the services of the Order for his race to fulfill for them their complete enfranchisement in common with those whose faces were white. The applause was tremendous.
Frank K. Foster in John Swinton’s Paper, October 25, 1885.
The entertainment and ball at Fort Worth sponsored by the colored K. of L. Tawani Assembly No. 4000, was a very merry affair. The colored brethren covered themselves with great credit, and the occasion will long be remembered as one of the most enjoyable of the season.
John Swinton’s Paper, November 8, 1885.
COLORED AND WHITE WORKERS FRATERNIZING IN THE PROCESSION—SHAMEFULLY CROWDED SCHOOLS—OBITUARY—PERSONAL MENTION.
Baltimore, Sept. 7.—The labor parade here on Monday far exceeded in magnitude the expectations of the promoters, there being fully twenty-five thousand persons in line. It was a very imposing procession, and was reviewed by Grand Master Workman Powderly from the balcony of Ford’s Opera House. The procession was just one and a half hours passing a given spot. Nearly every trade and branch of labor was well represented, many of them carrying the implements of their craft or a representation of their skill. Many of the assemblies carried handsome banners. Among the most handsome was that of the T. V. Powderly Assembly 2397 of Colored Knights. Colored men were well mixed in and through the procession. In some instances you would see an assembly composed entirely of colored Knights; another assembly would be perhaps half colored, and in some instances one solitary colored individual would be marching with any number of his white trades-brothers. After marching to Druid Hill Park, where the parade was dismissed, addresses were made by Grand Master Workman Powderly, M. A. B. Gantt of Washington, Mr. Charles H. Litcheman of Massachusetts and others. The procession was a very orderly one, the colored and white fraternizing as if it had been a common thing all their lives. I wondered how much of that fraternity would be left in the park and how much would be brought back to the city. The hod carriers did not take any part in the procession, but went on an excursion to Harper’s Ferry. They took a large crowd with them as usual.20
New York Freeman, Sept. 11, 1886.
The first Local Assembly in the world composed wholly of colored people was organized and instituted at Hot Springs, January 11, 1883, and is known as Freedom Assembly, No. 2447.
For about two years no progress was made in the State outside of Hot Springs and vicinity. L. A. 2677 was organized at Pine Bluff in May, 1883, but very soon after lapsed.
Journal of United Labor, September 25, 1886.
The State Assembly of Arkansas was temporarily organized November 26, 1885, the law authorizing State Assemblies not coming into effect until January following; and on January 6, 1886, the charter was issued and the permanent organization effected. Prior to this time all local assemblies of the State were attached directly to the General Assembly, but most all of them joined in its formation, and became at once attached to the State Assembly.
The recent semi-annual session of the State Assembly at Hot Springs showed an increase in new Assemblies added since the regular annual session in January of five to one, and in the membership of Assemblies previously organized of about one third the establishment of a State journal—the Industrial Liberator—on the co-operative plan of and by the Order, and otherwise demonstrated a healthy growth and interest throughout the State, almost unparalleled in labor organization. A plan for a co-operative wagon factory at Malvern was submitted and recommended and the colored Delegates spoke of a project to establish a co-operative steam gin in a rich cotton district below Little Rock, east of the river. All this, in connection with other evidences of increased and increasing interest and prosperity in the face of a great railroad strike, and other reverses; the disposition and vigorous effort of its enemies to slander, misrepresent and in every way damage the Order, evidences the purity of its principles and the utter impossibility to shake its foundations—most, convincing to skeptics and most gratifying to the workers who have put forth such noble and earnest efforts in its behalf.
The organization of the colored people on the plantation was a new as well as an important feature for consideration by the State Assembly. To this State Organizer Tomson has devoted particular pains and care. Due caution in selecting the material from the thousands of colored planters and plantation hands who make application has been exercised, realizing that the task is a delicate one. This feature in fact is almost a new departure in the Order—not because our platform has not always been broad enough to admit those of every race, creed, sex and color, but because such great care is required that Organizers have been loathe to undertake the work and assume the responsibility. Scarce more than a score of years ago slavery was abolished, and these people, illiterate, ignorant, even superstitious, and entirely without culture, imported from a semi-barbarious land in a semi-civilized condition; bred slaves and reared in hovels; directed by the lash of a master and cut off from every privilege of citizenship, were set free in a land made desolate by war and demoralized by adventurers, renegades and scoundrels, who sought self-aggrandizement on the misfortunes of others and fortune from the spoils of revolution. Almost naturally these colored people were devoid of ambition, improvident and sadly lacking that independence characteristic of an American citizen. In this condition, without means, they were made citizens of a country in which each individual [is responsible to the body politic].
Appreciating these facts, other organizers have felt a reluctance to clothe the colored people with the power that organization gives; but our organizer, who is a Southern man born and bred, having had a lifetime of experience among them, was satisfied that thousands could be found among their ranks who were capable of exercising their power with the caution enjoined by the Order, and who would not only be benefitted by its teachings, but would be enabled to benefit others, less fortunate, of their race. He undertook the work as an experiment, fully convinced of its ultimate success. The result so far is most gratifying. A short time since an effort was made to involve the colored Assemblies in this county in trouble. The Sheriff of the county, during the progress of a petty strike undertaken by a few plantation hands, made a raid on the house of an inoffensive colored man, who was shot by one of his deputies. A large number of deputies were then hurried to the scene to attack any party of colored men who might congregate in the vicinity. They made one such attack, but fortunately no one was injured, although they fired several shots, the colored men forbearing to return the fire. There is no doubt that these outrages were committed in the hope that the colored people, being organized, would resist, and that, this would serve as a pretext to break up organization among them. But the colored people proved equal to the emergency and kept within the bounds of law, even under such trying circumstances. After this test Mr. Tomson is more convinced than ever that the colored men can be relied upon, that they will profit by the teachings of the Order, and with their white brothers march onward in the army of progress and eventually raise themselves to that high and efficient standard of industrious and dignified citizenship, that must be obtained before the masses can assert and maintain their right to the full product of their labor.21
Journal of United Labor, September 25, 1886.
The members of the Order in D.A. ‘s 84 and 92 (white and colored) have succeeded in establishing a soap factory on the co-operative plan, and have now established the fact that they have come to stay. They make a first-class article, and our members should help it along by demanding from their grocers the soap made by the Co-operative Soap Co., of Richmond, Va. They have a brand called “Knights of Labor,” which is imitated by a firm in Philadelphia, named Chas. W. Young & Co., who do not employ a Knight of Labor. Journal of United Labor, August 25, 1886.
I am a colored man. I had a letter sent me from Georgia by a colored man asking if colored men would be recognized in the K. of L., and I have had similar questions from others of my race, both in New York and Brooklyn. My answer is yes and I especially refer to the case of the colored delegates to Richmond from District 49. I myself belong to a local that is wholly composed of white men, with two exceptions, and I hold a very high position of trust in it. I was elected junior delegate to the District Assembly, and there is no office in the organization that I could not be elected to. I will say to my people, Help the cause of labor. I would furthermore say to colored men, Organize. I also appeal to you to support Henry George and the Knights of Labor. You will never gain anything from the Republican Party but the titles of “Mrs. Johnson” or “Mr. Johnson.” You are a man. Let us break this race prejudice which capital likes. Let us put our shoulders to the wheel men, and victory is ours.
John Swinton’s Paper, October 10, 1886.
Our Order is now established in every State and Territory of the United States. Rapid strides have been made in the South, especially in the States of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. One year ago South Carolina had no Assembly within its borders.
The colored people of the South are flocking to us, being eager for organization and education, and when thoroughly imbued with our principles, are unswerving in their fidelity.
Report of General Secretary-Treasurer to the 1886 General Assembly, Knights of Labor, Proceedings, General Assembly, Knights of Labor, 1886, p. 44.