The Hamburg Massacre
Back in the day on July 8th, 1876 an incident occurred in South Carolina that would be known to history as the ‘Hamburg Massacre.’ Days before, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of “Independence Day,” an African-American company of the state’s militia had been marching on a public street when two whites approached in a buggy. A conflict ensued as the whites wanted to continue on their course without any consideration to the fact that they had ample room to move around the militia. The very next day, the two white men sought warrants for the arrest of some of the African-American militiamen for their supposed offense. The defendants failed to show up to trial on July 8th out of fear of the number of white citizens who began arming themselves. A mob mentality soon ensued as an illegal demand was voiced that the militia be disarmed. Negotiations took place on that very issue and when they broke down, violence erupted. James Cook, the town marshal and non-militia member, was the first black killed. Many others were taken prisoner and five of them were summarily executed.
The Hamburg Massacre, investigated by South Carolina’s Attorney General, prompted Governor Chamberlin to ponder, “What hopes can we have when such a cruel, bloodthirsty spirit waits in our midst for its hour of gratification. Is our civilization so shallow?