Opelousas Massacre: When over 150 Black Republicans were hanged by White Democrats

On September 28, 1868, Democrat Judge James Dickinson led a mob that killed over 150 black residents in Opelousas, Louisiana. The event is known as the Opelousas Massacre.

It started when local blacks expressed outrage when a white newspaper publisher, Emerson Bentley, was severely beaten. Bentley was beaten because he published an article that criticized white democrats for beating and removing black Democrats from the local party.

Dickinson, and a small army of heavily armed white supremacist members, converged on the city to wipe out its black population. The above photo is of the remaining blacks being hung for speaking out against the Democrats for beating Emerson Bentley.

According to BlackPast.org:

The Opelousas Massacre occurred on September 28, 1868 in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. The event is also referred to as The Opelousas Riot by some historians. There is debate as to how many people were killed.  Conservative estimates made by contemporary observers indicated about 30 people died from the political violence.  Later historians have placed the total as closer to 150 or more.

While most Reconstruction-era violence was sparked by conflicts between black Republicans and white Democrats, the initial catalyst for the Massacre was the attempt by some Opelousas blacks to join a Democratic political group in the neighboring town of Washington.  White Democrats in Opelousas, mainly members of the Seymour Knights, the local unit of the white supremacist organization Knights of the White Camellia, visited Washington to drive them out of the Party.   In response Emerson Bentley, an Ohio-born white school teacher and editor of The Progress, a Republican newspaper in Opelousas, wrote what many local whites thought was a racially inflammatory article which described the violence that the Seymour Knights had used against the African American Democrats in Washington.  Bentley argued that such violence should persuade the blacks to remain loyal to the GOP.

Shortly after the article appeared, Bentley was assaulted by a group of whites while he taught his class.  He was severely beaten and whipped although he survived the assault.  In response he fled the town, literally running for his life for nearly three weeks before escaping back to the North.

Meanwhile numerous reports circulated that Bentley had been killed in retaliation for his news article. His mysterious absence was enough to support rumors of his death.  Now black Republicans urged retaliatory violence on the Knights, who in turn viewed this as the beginning of the long anticipated, and inevitable, “Black Revolt” and race war.  The Knights of the White Camellia mobilized thousand of members. Both sides were armed and prepared for conflict as they gathered in Opelousas.

It is unclear as to who initiated the battle that began on September 28.  What is clear is that the white Democrats had the overwhelming advantage in numbers and weapons.  By the afternoon of September 28 the battle had become a massacre.  A number of blacks were shot and killed or captured and later executed.  Those who were not captured were chased into the swamps and killed on sight.  Twelve leaders of the black Republicans who surrendered were executed the next day on the edge of town.  Those executions seemed to encourage a wave of anti-black violence that spread throughout the parish.  No one will ever know how many people were killed but the best estimate is that the number was at least 150 and may have exceeded that total.


Ted Tunnell , Crucible of Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984); John Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1910).

8 replies
  1. MikeyParks
    MikeyParks says:

    The Dems don’t lynch people any more. They just rob them of their initiative in order to keep them under tight control and gain votes. Then they blame it on the Republicans. I hope I’m around when the Black people catch on.

    • Scott
      Scott says:

      Blacks need not be a member of EITHER group!!!!!!! Neither group represent Blacks!!!! This country must first “OWN” the wrong it has done, and is “STILL” doing!!! The massacre in 1923, Rosewood, Florida killed over 150 Blacks!!! Allbecause of a “LIE” !!!!! The massacre in 1924 Tulsa, Oklahoma where over 300 men, women, and children were murdered when the government dropped a bomb on “BALCK WALL STREET” !!!! They called it “RACIAL CLEANSING” !!!!! Also the massacre in 1868 Opelousas, Louisiana over 400 Blacks executed, murdered to prevent Blacks from voting!!!!! These are the worst mass killings in American history!!!!!!!!!

      • Kevin Schmersal
        Kevin Schmersal says:

        This country “owned” the injustices of the past a long time ago when it created the largest welfare program ever known to mankind under Lyndon Baynes Johnson under the guise of the “Great Society.” It was nothing more than a “mea culpa” to blacks who were mistreated for a Century before. What it turned into, however, was one big colossal excuse for blacks not to accept responsibility for themselves, their education, their wealth, their success, their standing in the community and rather gave them a continued sense of entitlement that they were “owed” all of those things. Today you are reaping the fruits of that “Great Society.” The numbers don’t lie; unwed mothers, children without fathers, black on black murder, the list goes on. And here you are demanding more!!!! Good God, just stop the madness. How long will this go on that you will find a reason that you should “get something.” Sure it was horrible, nobody disagrees with that, but I didn’t do it and I’ll be damned if I accept responsibility for anyone 200 years ago who did do it or anyone now that acts with hate, but the time of whining about what is past is over. It’s over. What you are saying is not what Dr. King’s dream was about, and we are now 50 years past that dream and going backward. Just stop. Take responsibility for your own actions; as an individual, as a community, as a race of people.

        • Frank Gilbert
          Frank Gilbert says:

          America today is a melting pot of so many different races that it is ridiculous to continue blaming America for past wrongs. Let go of the past and work on making the future better. Quit blaming others and WORK to better your lives and this you love. Great article, but the one response is beyond wrong. I’m with Kevin!!

        • Apeteshi
          Apeteshi says:

          Mr Kevin Schmersal…

          It is always very laughable when explanations like yours are crafted in answer to european-american massecre others and then do a cover up with irrational empty explanations… Kindly explain what you european-americans are still doing by indiscriminately killing african-americans, or mainly, brown-skinned people? You are of same mentality as the rest of your ilk to suggest the things you have stated. Come clean and own up for what is going on now. We are all of one race, cousins: Skin colour is irrelevant. The earth was not created by your father and that we are insignificant trespassers living on it!!
          We, largely built America. ALL we ask is to be treated like human beings. Stop discriminating against us due to our skin colour; that as any educated person know, no one choses their skin colour before being born!!!
          You target us right from birth with lies, lies, lies!!! When we graduate from higher education and seek work so to help further build our country together, you discriminate against us. You do all you can to ensure our achievements in all areas of inventions and contributions are not spoken of. You whitewash our history. Stop it and we too will stop reminding you of your psychopathic nature!!! Tell the truth. Treat us right. The land we know as America does not belong to you. Just like how the land Israel does not belong to people of Yiddish extraction who claim it is theirs. Be not afraid of our achievements as fellow human beings. Relish in the fact that we have not premeditated an all out mass murder of your type as you have done and are systematically, by any means necessary each day playing this out. Look, you do not own the air we breath, nor the rain that falls on us all, nor the sun that shines for God’s benefit. This earth belong to all of us whether you like it or not. The sooner european-americans BE civilised the better we all can share this beautiful place called earth!!!
          Thank you.

          • Marcus Wilbanks
            Marcus Wilbanks says:

            Can you share with everyone here just one personal example of you yourself being discriminated against in any way shape of form.

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