Friday, November 23, 2007

The Massacre at Thibodaux

I've been writing about African-American resistance of late and always like to remind my readers that African-Americans and European-Americans have throughout U.S. history joined together to fight injustice. One such story unfolded in 1887 when sugar cane cutters tried to organize a union in St. Mary, Terrebonne, and Lafourche Parishes in Louisiana, better known to some as "the sugar bowl."

At the time, most cane cutters were being paid $13 per month in script which could only be spent at the company store. Goods at the company store, of course, were marked up on average as much as 100% or more over retail value which typically meant that most of the workers wound up and often stayed in the red. And local lawmakers did their part by making it illegal for workers to leave the sugar plantation owners' land until their debt was paid. Uh-huh.

On the first day of the crucial harvest period in November of 1887, ten thousand workers--one thousand of them White--let it be known that they were NOT going to harvest the crop and they were NOT going to vacate their plantation-owned cabins. In fear that their valuable crop was going to get caught by a freeze, plantation owners turned to Governor McEnery (a plantation owner himself), who quickly sent in troops to "resolve" the issue.

Over the next couple of weeks, tension continued to build until on this day in 1887, somewhere between thirty and three hundred workers were rounded up and shot to death after being told to run for their lives. To read the whole story, go here.

4 comments:

Rent Party said...

The second bloodiest labor dispute in the U.S.! This is fascinating. Great post.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, rent party. Since I went on the lookout for this kind of information, I've learned a lot myself.

Southernwriter said...

My family is from Thibodaux, Louisiana and this is the second time this month I read about the massacre in Lafourche Parish. Actually my son-in-law in Paris had a book on Louisiana History and he pointed out the story to me.
If you visit Thibodaux, it is such a clean, quiet town, but like the old saying goes..."Still waters run deep" . Keep posting

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, Southernwriter, I will. I will indeed.