Anniversary Post: New York City Draft Riots

New York City Draft RiotsOn this day in 1863, the New York City draft riots started. Basically, it was Irish immigrants who were rioting. There is a just side to this and an unjust side to it. Let’s start with the just side.

During the Civil War, young men in the north could avoid the draft by hiring someone to go in their place. That wasn’t generally possible because most of the men around were also being drafted. Or they could just pay a $300 commutation fee. Well, plenty of young working men were angry that rich men could just buy their way out of the war. They were understandably upset. So that’s the just side. The unjust side is that things turned ugly.

Very soon, the draft riots turned into the race riots. The rioters started attacking African Americans. A total of 116 people ended up dead when the riots were put down by the US military three days later. But the whole thing is entirely typical. The working class whites had an actual grievance against the rich elite. But it quickly turned into an attack on African Americans, and even more oppressed group than the working class whites. And we see this same narrative replay itself over and over today in the US.

So we mark the start of the New York City draft and race riots.

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