In 1799, New York passed a law gradually emancipating slaves, but that did not erase hostility toward African Americans. The nonstop arrival of white immigrants displaced skilled black laborers, who were forced into menial jobs, like “tubmen” or outhouse cleaners.
Anti-black feelings also led to violence. In July, 1863, the Draft Riots broke out in New York. What started as a protest against the rich who could buy their way out of serving as soldiers in the Civil War, turned into a rampage against black New Yorkers.
Many who fell into the hands of the mob were tortured and killed, including one man who was beaten with clubs and paving stones, before being hanged from a tree and set on fire. Even the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue was torched. No one knows the exact death toll, but some estimates put it as high as 2,000.
I spoke with Gene Dattel, author of “Cotton and Race in the Making of America,” on the following topics:
1. Cotton Is King
2. Freed Slaves Trapped
3. Northern Imperialism
4. Black Labor Serves Cotton
5. Civil Rights Protests
To listen to the podcast, click here. To buy this book in North America, click here.
(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)