RSS Feed

Bossier Race Riots of 1868


January 3, 2014 by elhseven

The following excerpt was taken from Burton, Wilie. (1993). On the Black Side of Shreveport: A History (2nd edition.)

The ending of the civil war in 1865 brought changed status from both blacks and whites in the south. White southerners unaccustomed to the Negro’s new free status felt, that the Negro would be a menace to society.  Accordingly whites continue to treat, and to consider blacks as slaves and inferior beings.  The former slave, seeking protection from the Federal government, was eager to take advantage of his newfound freedom.  Such a situation inevitably led to numerous confrontations.

Such a restive situation existed in Caddo and Bossier parishes.  The Shreveport News newspaper reported an 1865 that “scarcely a day has passed from the latter end of the last week that some Negro has not been killed.”  In Bossier parish, the prewar slick patrol was established to arrest anyone found along the rows of data job the Louisiana black codes

The stationing of Negro troops in the area of Shreveport and Bossier from 1865 to 1867 resulted in frequent melees between the Negro troops in the white citizens.  A riot almost broke out between soldiers and the white citizens of Shreveport on July 04, 1866 after Captain Calvin L. Haskell, the white commander of the company of black soldiers, was attacked for parading through the town with black women.  The carriage was assailed by a shower of paving stones, the women heckled, and the captain sent to his quarters bleeding.

Upon learning what had happened, a squad of black soldiers rushed to the city, charge the mob with muskets, and arrested some of the participants.  A full scale confrontation was avoided the next day by the timely intervention of the commanding general of the region.

By 1868 the situation in Bossier had become almost unbearable for many whites.  Not only had the Black Codes been stricken down, but blacks were voting, the proposed revised Louisiana constitution of 1868 was about to be passed, and the Negroes were demanding land.

The first serious confrontation occurred on a hot, humid day in September of 1868.  The Southwestern newspaper called it an insurrection when some 200 or more Negroes camped out in rural Bossier.  Some of them were armed for the purpose of asking the whites to divide the mules and land with them.  Promises of the Freedmen Bureau agents, Republicans, and others had many of the ex-slaves believing that they were going to share in the land that their sweat and blood and that of their ancestors had toiled on to make others rich.

Such a large gathering of blacks brought  fear to whites in the vicinity, many of whom left their homes, seeking help from the federal troops.

All the Negroes were rumored to have been armed and planning to annihilate the whites in order to become the “sole masters of Bossier parish.” This fear brought out armed white citizens who arrested 40 “insurrectionists,” twenty-one blacks were found guilty of plotting an insurrection.  The jury also included eight blacks.

In the weeks that followed, tensions were high.   There was talk about the “uppity” attitudes of the Negroes and how they were getting out of place.  Whites in Bossier were bent on not having another show of force like this by blacks.

The opportunity came in October of 1868.  What sparked the riot in Bossier that saw over 150 blacks slaughtered was the arrest of two white men who were accused of being part of a mob, supposedly from Arkansas, that killed several Negroes.  The arrests were made by Negroes who, according to reports, killed the two men when it appeared that they might be rescued.

Over 100 armed white men gathered and began to hunt down Negroes and shoot them indiscriminately.  When the smoke cleared, over 150 blacks had given their lives to a legacy of injustice in America.



  1. Altorio Holden says:

    Wonderful piece of history, keep the stories coming.

  2. Altorio Holden says:

    There are so many stories like this one that many of us have not heard.

You must be logged in to post a comment.