Dastardly Outrage in the Dayton Race Riots (1841)

(The Colored American/February 27, 1941) Riots have got to be so common in our country, that we have become almost callous at the most daring acts of violence and disorder. We have in our two preceding numbers, informed our readers of the riot in Dayton, O., and had something to say upon the circumstances attending it.

The following slip we take from the Dayton Journal, from which it would appear that the press in the midst of disorder, dares to speak out in terms, indignant at such an outrage upon the colored people. It would appear further, that the lawless ruffians had taken the power into their own hands.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

The Philanthropist just received, informs us that an attempt to obtain the property of the colored people, which had now become very valuable, was at the bottom of this outrage.

We give the following to show “man’s inhumanity to man.” How cruel are the tender mercies of the wicked:

About two o’clock yesterday morning, the houses of several blacks in the outskirts of the town were fired, and burned to the ground with all their contents. The houses were three in number, and were the property of the occupiers.

We have heard a variety of details of this shameful outrage, some of which we can hardly credit.

It is stated that those who were engaged in it actually refused to permit one poor fellow to return to his burning dwelling for a pair of shoes to put on! Others who had money were prevented from getting it. They were only allowed clothing sufficient to cover their nakedness, although the night was extremely cold.

Another man went into his house for his money which he had left in his coat pocket, the door was fastened after him, and he was compelled to make his escape from a window to avoid being burned to death.

The blacks were threatened with death if they gave any alarm, and we believe but few persons knew of the outrage till after daylight.

Of the three houses burnt, two were occupied and one vacant. The incendiaries were kind enough to wake the sleeping blacks, and while they were getting up the houses were fired. They being forbidden, as before stated, to take clothing to cover them, from their blazing homes.

What sort of hearts can beat in the bosoms of men who thus wreak their vengeance, upon such poor helpless creatures as the blacks in our midst, it is hard to conceive.

– Dayton Journal.

More Info: In 1841 Dayton experienced its first race riot. According to some accounts, the violence began after a light -skinned black woman, believed to be white, moved to a black tavern/hotel known as the Paul Pry. A white, pro-slavery mob stormed the area in late January, and the owner of one cabin stabbed and killed the leader of the mob, Nat McCleary. A week later, in the sub -zero temperatures of early February, whites retaliated by driving black people out of their homes and burning several cabins. A number of black residents died from exposure, and many left town. (via Daytonology: A Geographical Take on Dayton Black History Part 1)



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