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Not far from Tulsa, a quieter but consequential correction of the historical record

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09.06.2021

In recent weeks, the country has been focused, appropriately, on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Less than a day’s drive to the southeast, meanwhile, another long-overdue reckoning with historical racial violence was occurring, quietly, in rural Colfax, La., population 1,569.

Truth prevailed, thanks to an individual of conscience, a committed public official — and a pragmatic local politician or two.

On April 13, 1873, about 165 armed White men overran the courthouse in Colfax, then as now the seat of Grant Parish. They were bent on routing roughly 150 Black men, also armed, but much more lightly, who had occupied the site in defense of local officials whom their votes had helped elect in 1872.

In the ensuing day of slaughter, the mob killed somewhere between 62 and 81 Black men, most after they had surrendered. Three White men lost their lives — two of which were probably shot by their own comrades in the chaos.

The bloodiest incident of Reconstruction, the Colfax Massacre shook the nation. The Grant administration tried to prosecute, but the Supreme Court overturned what few convictions the government obtained. That precedent weakened civil rights enforcement for decades, during which Louisiana disenfranchised Black people and falsified the Colfax events as a “Negro Riot.”

Growing up in Shreveport, La., Dean Woods heard little of this atrocity. When he did learn the facts in recent........

© Washington Post


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