300 Mechanics Riot

The interior of the Mechanics Institute during the riot.

The Library of Congress

The Mechanics Institute Riot of 1866 was, in effect, a continuation of the Civil War. The massacre, which left about 40 people dead and 150 injured, started as a peaceful protest by the city’s African Americans who wanted the right to vote. They were also protesting a rewritten code noir that forced African-Americans, including free men of color, into labor.

The group of largely African-American men, many former Union soldiers, marched to the Mechanics Institute on University Place on July 30, 1866, where the Louisiana Constitutional Convention was being held. A group of armed men, most of them former Confederate soldiers, attacked the marchers. They were joined by the city’s white police force. The black men, who were unarmed, were shot and beaten.

None of the attackers were charged, but the riot, which had come 10 weeks after a similar massacre in Memphis in which 46 African Americans were killed, shook Washington D.C. The massacres helped the Radical Republicans push for and win adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868.

The Mechanics Institute was torn down in the 20th century and replaced by The Roosevelt Hotel.