Primary Resource

"The Press on the Danville Riot," Richmond Dispatch (November 6, 1883)

In "The Press on the Danville Riot," published on November 6, 1883, the Richmond Dispatch publishes excerpts of press coverage of the racial violence in Danville that on November 3 left at least five people dead. The paper limited itself to those papers that found fault with the city's African Americans and the biracial Readjuster Party (often referred to as the Coalition), led by the former Confederate general and railroad tycoon William Mahone.

Transcription from Original

The Press on the Danville Riot.

With the exception of a few Stalwart-Radical-Coalition organs the Press in and out of the State agree in fixing the responsibility for the Danville riot exactly where it belongs. The Baltimore American (Republican), while expressing the hope that Virginia may be turned over to the "debt-paying Republican party," says:

The rioting which occurred in Danville, Va., and resulted in the death of several persons and the serious injury of others, is but the logical consequence of Mahoneism. The Readjusters acceded to power by appealing to the most debased elements in the State. Their sole object has been to get possession of the State patronage; to obtain their ends they have not hesitated to bring disgrace and shame upon their State, and now, finding their dominion endangered, they are not unwilling to sacrifice the blood of their fellow-citizens to maintain themselves in power.

The Baltimore Sun (Independent) regards the riot as but "the natural outcome" of the deplorable condition of things in the city (Danville) so graphically described in the address recently published by merchants and business-men, and adds:

"It is scarcely worth while to consider how the Danville affray began. From the address to which we have referred it is evident that it had been brooding for a long time, and that it needed only a sudden display of insolence or menace on the one side, and a sudden outbreak of angry feeling on the other, to bring on just such a conflict as that which stained the streets of that city with blood on Saturday. The political campaign in Virginia has been carried on with intense earnestness on both sides; by the white Democrats in the endeavor to wrest the State from the control of Mahone, and by Mahone through the consolidation of the negro vote to retain possession of it. What has made the struggle the more desperate on the part of the latter has been the defection of quite a number of Democratic-Readjusters, who have left Mahone and fallen back into the Democratic ranks, and the opposition he has met with from Independent Republicans, on whose support he had counted. Any one who has watched the progress of what has come to be called Mahoneism, and the unscrupulous means he used to strengthen himself in power—packing the courts and the Legislature with his creatures, distributing Federal patronage among his white and black followers, and turning over the government of the smaller cities to irresponsible negroes, together with the administration of justice in the police courts—any one who has thought over these things might have calculated that the restiveness of the whites who were thus deprived of the management of their own affairs, taxed without representation, and subordinated, as it were, to the will of one man, would ultimately lead to such an outbreak as has just occurred. Mahone is the bane of Virginia. He has kept the two races in a state of antagonism, and no lasting peace can be expected until his influence as a dictator is broken down and the better feelings of the two races are allowed full play.["]

The Norfolk Landmark briefly and forcibly says:

"The lamentable state of affairs at Danville has been foreshadowed by the acts and speeches of Mahone's partisans, and it seems reasonable to believe that it was brought about as part of the scheme to unite the black race against the whites. We trust it may fail. It is a diabolical scheme, and it is a strong argument in favor of the party of law and order."

The Lynchburg Virginian echoes the sentiment that the whole trouble is the legitimate fruit of Mahoneism, and comments further:

"Before this arch enemy of Virginia commenced manipulating the colored voters to strengthen his own cause there was peace between the two races in the State. But now, alas! the heretofore docile race have been influenced by his incendiary appeals and his levelling doctrines, and their conduct is so changed towards the superior race that it seems wellnigh impossible to restore their normal relations."

The Washington Post (Democratic) begins a column review fo the events that led to the trouble with this sententious paragraph:

The fruits of Mahoneism lie stark and bloody in the streets of Danville. The red stain of the dead is upon the skirts of William Mahone.

The Philadelphia Times (independent Republican) declares that "these things" and other disgraceful political methods employed by Mahone can only be halted by his overwhelming defeat Tuesday [i.e., Election Day, November 6], and continues:

Nothing seems too desperate for Mahone to undertake in his efforts to keep Virginia under his control. The Danville riot of Saturday was undoubtedly the natural result of the inflammatory speeches which Mahone orators have been making. It resulted in the loss of six lives, and it is by no means certain that there will not be more of the trouble. In all probability the riot will prove damaging to the Mahone cause, and it deserves to.

The New York World (Democratic) says:

The conflict between the races at Danville, Va., has created intense indignation at Richmond, and at a great mass-meeting last night the responsibility was placed upon Mahone and his followers, and they were so scathingly denounced that it is doubtful whether the political prospects the small—very small—Readjusters would sell for three cents on the dollar.

The Lynchburg News, in an article calling upon the people to visit a withering and crushing rebuke at the polls upon those would make a pandemonium of Virginia, says:

Mahoneism has worked out is legitimate result in Danville. Riot and bloodshed have come to pass. Inflamed and crazed by the diabolical speeches which have been addressed to them by the Mahone Nihilists, the negroes have precipitated the bloody issue, and the whites have been forced to meet it with arms in their hands. The result is what it will always be in a conflict between white and black—the latter have got the worst of it.

The Fredericksburg News expresses the opinion that the time has come to teach Coalition once for all that Virginians rule Virginia, and the white man's government is and shall be supreme, and adds:

"The tragic news of a negro riot in the city of Danville last Saturday evening, the result of 'Coalition rule,' will make the white men and voters of the Commonwealth fully understand and appreciate the present political situation in Virginia. What has occurred in Danville is directly due to the evil teachings of Mahoneism and the inflammatory speeches of Mahone's candidates and hirelings."