[News] The Robert Charles Riots in New Orleans - 1900

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Wed Feb 13 16:49:57 EST 2013


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    Robert Charles Riots (1900)

The Robert Charles Riots began when whites in New Orleans became 
infuriated after Robert Charles, an African-American, shot several white 
police officers on July 23, 1900. A manhunt for Charles began after he 
fled after an altercation with New Orleans police officers. The race 
riots lasted over four days and claimed 28 casualties, including Charles.

Robert Charles came to New Orleans from Mississippi and was a 
self-educated, articulate activist.  He believed in self-defense for the 
African-American community and encouraged African-Americans in the 
United States to move to Liberia to escape racial discrimination.

On the night of July 23, 1900, three white police officers, Sergeant 
Jules C. Aucion, Joseph D. Cantrelle, and August T. Mora, found Charles 
and his roommate, Leonard Pierce, sitting on a porch in a predominantly 
white neighborhood. After some police harassment, Charles and Mora drew 
their guns and exchanged shots. Although neither was killed, Charles 
fled to his residence for refuge. Later in the evening, the police 
interrogated Pierce to determine the location of Charles' home. Upon the 
policemen's arrival at his house, Charles fired his rifle in their 
direction, killing two officers, including the chief, Captain Day. While 
the rest of the officers sought cover, Charles fled the scene, leading 
to a police manhunt.

The next day, a crowd of white New Orleans residents gathered at the 
location where the policemen were killed and called for the lynching of 
Charles. Numerous events of lawlessness and civil unrest as mobs of 
whites roamed the city to terrorize the city's African-American 
community occurred over the next three days. On July 25, three 
African-Americans were killed, 11 others were hospitalized and over 50 
were injured. Exacerbating the rioting were local newspapers reporting 
that African-Americans were to blame for the unrest. Also some 
African-Americans provided assistance to Charles while others were 
sympathetic because of the growing voting and civil rights restrictions 
in the city long known for its racial tolerance.

On July 27, the police and white vigilantes surrounded another house 
where Charles had taken refuge. An ensuing shootout occurred throughout 
the day between the men outside and Charles, who returned the fire. The 
police then decided to set the building on fire. As Charles attempted to 
escape the smoke-filled building, Charles Noiret -- a Tulane University 
medical student who was assisting the police -- shot and killed Charles. 
In anger, the mob of bystanders continued to beat and fire their guns at 
Charles's body.

By week's end, Charles had shot a total of 27 whites, killing seven, 
including four police officers.  The rioting ended when New Orleans 
Mayor Paul Capdeville deputized 1,500 special police and asked for 
assistance from the state militia.

*Sources:*
William Ivy Hair, /Carnival of Fury: Robert Charles and the New Orleans 
Race Riot of 1900/ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 
1976); Joel Williamson, /The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in 
the American South Since Emancipation /(New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1984).



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