Toward the end of the 19th century, labor and the distribution of jobs between Blacks and Whites became the centerpiece of a heinous attack that resulted in a riot that left six African-American workers dead. White workers, angered at the prospect that Black laborers were taking their jobs, launched their violent offensive on this day in 1895 in New Orleans.
According to research compiled by the University of Richmond, the conflict had roots starting in February of that year. The Harrison Steamship Line of Liverpool (pictured) fired a number of unionized White longshoremen and crewmen, electing instead to hire 300 non-union and inexperienced Black dock workers. The move, apparently a bid to save monetary resources, was copied by other shipping businesses with the claim that it wasn’t about cutting costs but instead conducting sound business.
On March 11th, a group of White laborers went uptown to confront the Black workers in a show of solidarity. Surprisingly, police deterred the crowd and moved the throng along. An hour later, however, a shot was fired, which struck worker Philip L. Fisher in the back.
The shot was the launching point for the riots that ensued.
The next day, two riots fueled by tensions of workers assisting with the loading of cotton shipping boats sparked off. The unionized White workers felt that the Blacks were undermining their ability to earn instead of coming to an amicable consensus.
Six Black workers were dead and the mobs that attacked and killed the men were never charged.
On March 13th of that year, Black workers, fearing for their safety, did not report to work. Although the state offered protection to the dock workers to return to the docks, it was about a month before they returned to their posts. A grand jury investigation was subsequently launched and many arrests were made.
The White rioters avoided jail time for their crimes, and shortly after, their powerful labor union would disband.