American Pogroms


What is a pogrom? The Oxford English Dictionary defines pogrom—from the Russian gromit, destroy by the use of violence—as “an organized massacre in Russia for the destruction or annihilation of any body or class: orig. and esp. applied to those directed against the Jews.” Its definition has since come to encompass organized acts of “violence against a group of people for racial or religious reasons”—sometimes officially organized, almost always officially sanctioned.

On May 31, 2021, the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, musician and activist Common tweeted a map showing massacres of Black people in the US with the exhortation to “pick a massacre and research it!” This was one of our starting points.

There have been many outbreaks of mass violence against many minority groups in many places across the US—for daring to become prosperous (e.g., Tulsa), or for having the temerity to exercise their franchise (e.g., Colfax, Louisiana, 1873), or for simply occupying a patch of land that other people coveted (Numerous Native American tribes and nations, e.g., the US–Dakota War of 1862 that concluded with the execution by hanging of 38 Dakota men.

And when one does the least bit of research, one finds more. Ocoee, Florida, 1920. Forsyth County, Georgia, 1912. Elaine, Arkansas, 1919. Atlanta, Georgia, 1906.

Some events, such as the WWII internment of Americans of Japanese descent, do not quite rise to the level of a pogrom; while there was the threat of violence—official and not—backing up the implementation President Roosevelt’s executive order, their neighbors did not engage in mass violence. (Looting? Property theft? But of course. But not rape, dismemberment, or murder.)

White supremacists, before, during, and after slavery, constanatly raised alarms about the (mythical) Black man whose primary goal in life was to sexually assault as many White women as he could. “Protection” of White women was the pretext for lynchings—sometimes with the cooperation of law enforcement, sometimes despite officers’ attempts.

US history classes, with a very few exceptions, simply do not teach these incidents. And the recent outcry over what people mislabel Critical Race Theory to be is likely further intefere with the accurate teaching of this history. This echoes in part early 20th century attempts to attribute Black Americans’ waning patience with the status quo, especially post-WWI, to Bolshevik and other “radical” outside influences.

Credits & Sources

American Pogroms is a book in progress by Edwin Black supplemented by a series of essays and resource pages written and compiled by Eve M. Jones.

Images (via Wikimedia Commons):


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