Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike

Article excerpt

The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike. By John DeSantis. (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2016. Pp. 171. Paper, $21.99, ISBN 978-1-4671-3689-1; cloth, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-5402-0107-2.)

Senior staff writer and journalist at the Times of Houma in Houma, Louisiana, John DeSantis has written a focused account of the historical background and events that made possible the Thibodaux Massacre of 1887. In The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike. DeSantis succinctly describes the nature of the conflict referenced in the book's subtitle and views the massacre as the culmination of numerous labor disputes between black workers and white sugarcane planters in Louisiana's southeastern parishes near and along the Gulf Coast.

DeSantis first heard stories of the massacre in 1995, but his chance to contribute new insights on the event came in 2015 when he found "a long-lost list of eight victims" of the massacre in the archives of Nicholls State University (p. 12). DeSantis followed additional clues that led him to the "pension files of Jack Conrad, a former slave and veteran of the U.S. Colored Troops, who was shot and wounded in the massacre" (p. 12). The files confirmed "the deaths of unarmed people, from the mouths of black people [in testimony] submitted under oath" (p. 12). Using Conrad to anchor the narrative of the strike and the massacre, DeSantis shows the complexities of racial violence as labor strife with deep roots in slavery, through the struggles of several thousand black workers who were members, leaders, organizers, followers, and supporters of the Holy and Noble Order of the Knights of Labor to negotiate with planters over wages and working conditions. …

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