A Negro Riot in Washington

July 14, 1866


A large gang of blacks pass house to house, robbing and beating everyone. The leaders of the gang were arrested, but the crowd fought back and were not obedient to white authority.


Yesterday afternoon a gang of vagrant negroes passed about from house to house in the second precinct, taking what they wanted and beating any one who remonstrated with them. They entered the store of Mrs. Margaret Murphy, a very old woman, on Tenth street, and after getting something to eat and drink, refused to pay her, and being about to leave her, she seized one by the leg. The scamp turned and kicked the old woman from the shop into the street. She called her son, who went to her aid, but finding them too numerous, he ran to the stationhouse, and Sergeant Johnson went with him to arrest the negroes. The Sergeant went into the crowd and arrested the leaders of the gang. The negroes turned upon him, but the Sergeant used his billy freely, and the negroes seeing they had to fight to escape, commenced a general attack upon him, knocked him down several times, and some of them were laid out by his billy. He called an Irishman to his aid, who responded promptly, but receiving a very hard blow from one of the negroes, he left, and went to where a number of Irish laborers were employed on the street. In a moment the laborers, about twenty in number, knocked their picks from the handles, and arming themselves with those and with spades, came running to the Sergeant's aid. In the mean time, officer Poole had arrived, and aided the Sergeant in securing the leading negroes. The crowd of negroes had increased to fifty or sixty, and the Sergeant, seeing the laborers coming, had to hurry his prisoners and use his best endeavors to prevent a collision that would have resulted in loss of life to both white and colored. Fortunately, he got his prisoners to the station before the laborers reached them, and then, by a prudent appeal to the crowd around, quieted the men of both parties.
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Brooke Beam




“A Negro Riot in Washington,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/257.