Hard Scrabble and Snow Town Riots of 1824 and 1831


Hard Scrabble and Snow Town was a predominately black Towns in the Providence of Rhode Island.

History of Rhode Island

Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post- Revolution Era. Slavery was extant in Rhode Island in the 17th century. In 1652 Rhode Island passed the first abolition law in the thirteen colonies, banning African slavery. In the late 18th century, several Rhode Island merchant families (most notably was the Brown’s, for whom the Brown University is named) began actively engaging in the triangle slave trade.

In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchant’s controlled between 60 to 90 percent of the American trade in African Slaves. The 18th century Rhode Island’s economy depended largely upon the triangle slave trade, where Rhode Islanders distilled rum from molasses, sent the rum to Africa to trade for slaves, and then traded the slaves in the West Indies for molasses.

Stephen Hopkins served in the Rhode Island Assembly and in 1774 Hopkins introduced a bill that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony. This became the first anti-slavery law in the new United States. In February 1784 the Rhode Island legislature passed a Compromise Measure for Gradual Emancipation of Slaves within Rhode Island.

The Compromise was:

All children of slaves born after March 1st were to be “apprentices” the girls to become free at 18 years old and the boys at 21 years old. By 1840 the census reported only five African Americans were enslaved in Rhode island.

Hard Scrabble Riot of 1824

Hard Scrabble was a predominantly black neighborhood in Northwestern Providence of Rhode Island were free African American was thriving. Slavery was still extant in the South. On October 18, 1824 a white mob attacked black homes in Hard Scrabble, after a black man refused to get off the side walk when whites approached. The white mob claimed to be targeting places of ill-repute. Hundreds of whites destroyed approximately 20 black homes. Out of the that hundred white rioter only four were tried for rioting, but only one was found guilty. The Hard Scrabble Riot generated little media attention and no sympathy for the victims.


Snow Town Riot of 1831

After the Hard Scrabble Riot 6 years has passed, when in 1831 a riot took placed in Snow Town which was a predominantly black neighborhood and was roughly the same neighborhood as Hard Scrabble. This particular riot was triggered by the shooting death of a white sailor. Once again a white mob targeted the black neighborhood. The mob destroyed blacks homes even though the targeted blacks had no ties with the shooting. This time, the Militia was called out, and killed four rioters.


Zong Massacre Of enslaved Africans


The Zong was originally named Zong (meaning “Care” in Dutch). Zong was a square stern of 110 burden slave ship. In early March of 1781 the Zong was purchase by William and James Gregson. The Gregson named Luke Collingwood a surgeon as captain of the Zong. Collingwood lacked experience in navigation and command, but he was a surgeon and surgeons were typically involved in selecting slaves for purchase in Africa. Their medical expertise supported the determination of “commodity value” for a captive.

On September 6, 1781 the slave ship Zong departed the coast of Africa with 470 slaves and 17 crew member. Since this human chattel was such a commodity at the time, Captain Collingwood took more slaves than the Zong could accommodated in order to maximize profits. The Zong was built to carry 1.75 enslaved people per ton of the ship’s capacity, the Zong ratio was 4.0 per ton.


The Atlantic Slave Trade was a common business practice that it was normal that the owners of slave ships took out insurance on the Cargo, slaves was consider as Cargo. The ship’s insurance covered the loss of slaves at 30 Euro’s a head.

On September 19 the ship was near Tobago in the Caribbean but failed to stop in Tobago and replenish the water supplies, Fear if they make too many stops it the enslaved on board would start a rebellion. By November 29, 1781 Captain Collingwood was gravely ill, Several of the crew men died and many of the enslaved African begun to die from overcrowding, accidents, disease, malnutrition, and lack of water, While the Captain Collingwood was sick it’s not clear who was in charge of the ship navigation. On the next day the crew sighted Jamaica at a distance of 27 nautical miles, but misidentified it as the French colony of Saint Dominque on the island of Hispaniola. The Zong continues on its westward course, leaving Jamaica behind. This mistake was only recognized only after the ship was 300 miles out. One of the Crew men that took charge when the Captain was sick James Kelsall let the remaining crew men know there was only four days’ of water left and Jamaica was 10-13 sailing days away he would later testify in court.

On December 2, 1781 the crew gathered and to come up with a plan, realizing if the enslaved Africans died onshore, the ship owners would have had no redress from their insurers. Which mean if the slaves died a “natural death” at sea, then then insurance could not be claimed. If some of the slaves were jettisoned in order to save the rest of the “cargo” or the ship, then a claim could be made under the notion of “general average”.

The crew assemble to consider the proposal that some of the slaves should be thrown overboard. Kelsall later testified he disagreed with the plan at first but soon agreed that throwing the enslave Africans overboard to save the ship. 54 women and children slaves were thrown through cabin windows into the sea. On the next day 42 male slaves were thrown overboard, 36 more slaves followed the same fate in the next few days. Others in a display of defiance at the inhumanity of the slavers and jumped into the sea. One slave requested that the remaining enslaved Africans be denied all food and water rather be thrown into the sea. The request was ignored and they too meant the same fate.


Upon the Zong’s arrival in Jamaica, James Gregson, the ship’s owner, filed an insurance claim for their loss. Gregson argued that the Zong did not have enough water to sustain both crew and the human commodities. The insurance underwriter, Thomas Gilbert, disputed the claim citing that the Zong had 420 gallons of water aboard when she was inventoried in Jamaica. Despite this the Jamaican court in 1782 found in favor of the owners. The insurers appealed the case in 1783 and in the process provoked a great deal of public interest and the attention of leading abolitionist at the time Granville Sharp. Sharp used the deaths of the slaves to increase public awareness about the slave trade and further the anti-slavery cause.  It was Sharp who first used the word massacre.


Publicity surrounding the Zong Massacre and the first case led William Murray, the Earl of Mansfield and the Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, the highest court in Great Britain, to order a second trial.  Mansfield presided and ruled in favor of the insurers. He also held that the cargo had been poorly managed as the captain should have made a suitable allowance of water for each slave.

Sharp attempted to have criminal charges brought against the Captain, crew, and the owners but was unsuccessful. Great Britain’s The Solicitor General, Justice John Lee, however, refused to take up the criminal charges claiming:

“What is this claim that human people have been thrown overboard? This is a case of chattels or goods. Blacks are goods and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honourable men of murder… The case is the same as if wood had been thrown overboard.”

Although those who were responsible for the Zong massacre were never brought to justice.




Truth about “Forty-Acres and a Mule”



I was about nine-years old when I first heard the phrase “forty-acres and a mule”. I interpreted “forty-acres and a mule” as free land and a mule that the government was giving to enslaved African American for all the hardship. This phrase came up again 19 years later and I decide to do my own research.

The Truth about the Forty-Acres and a Mule

In 1862 the United States President Abraham Lincoln signed a passage called Compensated Emancipation Act. The act was for the government to set aside $1 Million. This one million was set aside to give union slaveholders up to $300 per free slave. An additional $100,000 allocated by the law was to be used to pay each newly freed slave only $100 if he her she chose to leave United States and colonize in other places such as Haiti and Liberia. As a result of the act’s passage 3,185 slaves were freed.


The forty-acres and a mule was not up on the table yet. On January 1, 1863 United States President Abraham Lincoln emancipated all slaves in the United States. Many freedmen claimed they were told by various political figures that they had the right to own the land that have worked as slaves and they also claimed they were told that they had the right to legally claim 40 acres of land and a mule after the war, which made the newly freed slaves eager to start controlling their own property.


In September of 1863 President Abraham Lincoln announced and ordered 20,000 acres of land to be confiscated in South Carolina and sold to the freedmen in twenty-acre plots.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase expanded the offering to forty acres per family and a mule to get them started in making money for their families. These plot would be purchase at $1.25 per acre, with 40% paid upfront and 60% paid later.

Free African Americans in the South expected the land would be redistributed on Christmas of 1865 or on New Year’s of 1866.

Hope of the “40 acres and a mule” specifically was prevalent beginning in early 1865. The expectation of “40 acres” came from the explicit terms of Sherman’s Field Order and the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill. The “mule” may have been added simply as an obvious necessity for achieving prosperity through agriculture. Sox months later Sherman put the forty-acres in affected and confiscated some land from the South. Sherman issued the order, 40,000 former slaves lived on 400,000 acres of this confiscated coastal land.


United States president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. Andrew Johnson was now president of United States, and soon after Johnson was in office he intervened in the forty-acres and a mule and ordered that the vast majority of the confiscated land be returned to the white owners.

Many African Americans saw “forty-acres and a mule” as the key to freedom, but by the 1870’s many started losing hope of the Federal land redistribution.


The forty-acres and a mule was not free land to be given to African Americans for their hardship but was to be brought by the freeman to become apart of United States Society.

Lynching of Hayes and Mary Turner


Hayes and Mary Turner was husband and wife. Hayes Tuner was born August 15, 1892. Hayes and Mary Turner Married on February 11, 1917, in Colquitt County, Georgia. Very little is known about Hayes Childhood. Mary Hattie Graham/Turner was born on December of 1890 in Brooks County, Georgia to Perry Graham Sr. and Elizabeth Betsy Johnson. Mary had one older sister named Pearl and two younger brothers named Perry Jr. and Otha. Mary and Hayes two children named Ocie Lee and Lester.

On the evening of May 16, 1918 Hampton Smith a white plantation owner was shot and killed and his wife was injured. Smith was known among the black community his a abusive boss. Many blacks avoided working for him. Smith had his ways of solving his labor shortage. Smith would bail black men out of jail, people typically arrested for petty crimes and having them work off their debt (bail money) by working for him on his plantation. Nineteen year old black man named Sydney Johnson was arrested for rolling dice and fined thirty dollars. Smith bailed Johnson out exchanged that John would have to work for him until his debt was paid off. A few days working on the Smith’s plantation, Johnson asked Smith for his wages but Smith refused to pay Johnson and one day Johnson missed work because he was sick and Smith beat him for being sick and missing work.

On May 16, 1918 Fed up with Smith abusive ways Johnson got a gun and shot up the Smith home. A bullet came through the Smith window one his Smith’s wife in the arm the other bullet hit Smith in the head killing him instantly. Smith’s wife claimed that after she and her husband were shot through the window, she ran into the front yard after the shooter, and she claimed that Johnson responded by beating her. Mrs. Smith claimed that after she was beaten by Johnson a group of black robbed her home.

A Lynch mob gathered and lynched 13 blacks including Johnson, but among the lynched was some of the innocence like Hayes Turner. Hayes had his own history with Smith. When Smith beat Hayes wife Mary, Hayes went to Smith and threaten him and Hayes was sent to a chain gang for the threat, but Hayes was not near the Smith’s plantation when the shooting happened but he was still lynched.

Mary Turner was 8 Months pregnant with their third children. Sadden over the lynching of her husband Mary spoke out publicly about the lynching saying her husband was innocence and threatening to have members of the lynch mob arrested.

The mob then turned against Mary saying they were “determined to teach her a lesson”.

After learning the mob intent Mary fled but was captured on the noon of July 18 1918. The mob of about several hundred brought her to a bridge, where they pregnant Mary ankles and hung her upside down from a tree, doused her in gasoline and set her alight. While Mary was still alive, a member of the mob split open Mary abdomen with a knife. Her unborn child fell on the ground, Where it gave out a cry, then was stomped on and crushed. Mary body was riddled with bullets. After lynching of Mary and her baby she was cut down and buried under a tree with a whiskey bottle marking the grave.

Hayes and Mary two remained children was sent to live with Mary’s relative’s.

Following the lynching’s more than 500 black residents fled the area, despite threats against the lives of anyone who tried.

Hayes Turner was 26 years old at the time of his death.

Mary Turner was 28 years old at the time of her death.