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The Riot at Niagara Falls - National Anti-Slavery Standard - July 29, 1847

Resources » Historical Documents » The Riot at Niagara Falls - National Anti-Slavery Standard - July 29, 1847

img featured article niagara riotsThe Riot At Niagara Falls – A very unpleasant and disgraceful circumstance took place here on our arrival, which disturbed the whole village. A few more such as riots will turn the tide in favour of the Clifton House, on the Canada side. A slaveholder and his slave, a girl of twenty-two years of age, arrived here and took lodgings at the Cataract Hotel, where there are a vast number of coloured waiters. The girl made known her situation to one of them, and stated that she was wretched beyond description because of the cruel treatment of her master and mistress. She wished him to convey her to the Canada side, where she should be protected by British laws. He was determined to free her if possible, but the master watched her so carefully, and kept her so closely confined at night, as to render escape impracticable.

When ready to leave, her master contrived to detain the cars beyond the usual time. This was done to lull the suspicions of the coloured people. He placed the girl in the car, between himself and the window. She was heart-broken when she found she was going back into Slavery. The coloured people attempted to take her out, but were prevented by a mob, who beat them severely. The cars were startled in the midst of the scuffle. One of the coloured men jumped on the car, and followed it to Lockport, hoping to liberate the poor girl there. He was unsuccessful.

The same night, about eleven o’clock, several wicked boys began to fire off pistols, without balls. A report was then circulated through town that the blacks had fired on the whites – a statement utterly false, as I saw the whole transaction from beginning to end. Not a coloured man was seen in the street that night. It was merely a pretext to demolish their houses. A few drunken Irishmen, ripe for destruction, and several wicked young lads, commenced the work of destroying the little shanties of the poor blacks, and they would have burnt the whole of them if not fearful of setting fire to other houses. The mob made the slave case a pretext for attacking the coloured people, because they sell beer instead of brandy, and took away the custom from the grog dealers. On Sunday, the 11th, notices in writing were put up in different public places, ordering all the blacks to clear out in twenty-four hours. I told them not to regard these notices, but to keep perfectly quiet. They did so, and here the matter ended. They are still there as numerous as ever.

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Research contributed by Christopher Densmore, Curator, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.