The Robert Charles Riots: “Two Suspicious Looking Negros” Lead to Multiple Deaths

Written by Jae Jones

The of 1900 were caused after African-American worker Robert Charles shot a white police officer. There were 28 known people to be killed during the riot. However, there were many other people who were wounded as well. Charles and his roommate got involved in a fight with the New Orleans police officers July 23, 1900. Charles was tortured and killed on July 27.

Charles was a self-educated, and well-spoken activist that moved from Mississippi to New Orleans. He encouraged all people to stand up for their rights and fight back. He felt that all African-Americans should leave the United States and move to Liberia to avoid racial discrimination. Unfortunately, he was murdered before he would see another country. Charles was living during a time in New Orleans when people were divided into three groups, white, free people of color and the enslaved. He was living as a free person of color. The people of free color were usually those who were of mixed descent. However, once the laws were passed that black people could not register to vote, times in Louisiana became a lot worse. The gap between blacks and whites grew even wider.


On July 23, 1900, Charles and his roommate, 19-year-old Leonard Pierce were sitting out on a porch in a predominately white neighborhood. They were considered “two suspicious looking negroes.”  The police questioned Charles and his friend, asking them what were they doing, and Pierce had replied they were waiting for a friend. Charles stood up and one of the policeman considered that an abrupt movement. The police officer grabbed Charles and they began to struggle. Supposedly, the police officer and Charles drew guns on one another, and both received shot wounds to the legs. Charles ran away from the scene, but his friend Pierce was captured at gunpoint. The police soon found out where Charles lived after continuously questioning Pierce. Once they arrived to the home of Charles’, he was ready for them. Charles shot one officer in the heart, another in the head, and killed two other officers before fleeing again.

By July 24, an angry White mob had gathered and were ready to help find Charles and lynch him. Some of the people in the crowd heard that Charles had been captured and went home. The next day the acting Mayor, announced a $250 reward for the arrest of Charles and calling for peace throughout the city. However, the newspapers exaggerated what was going on and made the situation escalate. The streets were not safe for any blacks during this time. Mobs of armed white men roamed the streets and caused injury to more than 45 blacks and 3 other blacks were killed. On July 27, Charles was found hiding out in a house which an informant had given to the police. The police had to burn down the building and catch Charles as he was trying to escape the fire. He was shot exiting the building numerous of times, and then dragged out for a mob of bystanders to beat his body. By the time it was all over Charles had shot 27 white people, killed 7 and four of them were police officers.

Even after Charles was long dead, angry white people continued to try to get to his body to beat it some more. Several more black people were killed and the school for black children  in Louisiana “Thomy Lafon” was burned down. The informant who told police the whereabouts of Charles, Fred Clark, was shot and killed several days later by an admirer of Charles.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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