This study examines how the influx of African Americans following the Civil War reshaped perceptions of public order in Evansville, Indiana. A race riot in Evansville in July 1903 reflected the challenges presented to culturally defined notions of public order by the increasing numbers of African Americans. Before the war, the Evansville elite and the Victorian middle class defined public order in relation to the German and Irish immigrants who were entering the city along with new transportation and industrial opportunities. The war scrambled the city's cultural order and introduced African Americans in numbers never before seen in Evansville. Inured by a decade or more of racist rhetoric and stereotypes, many in Evansville saw public order threatened by the newcomers. The civic and moral concern that previously focused on German saloons and beer halls now came to question the order of African Americans. As African Americans attempted to forge a place for themselves in Evansville society at the end of the nineteenth century, the political culture engaged in the exploitation of race anxiety. Thus, when a morally suspect African American man killed a respected white police officer, it touched off an attempted lynching and the deadly race riot. Occurring at a time when race relations were at a nadir in America, the Evansville riot prompted a debate over public order, race relations, and the proper use of civil authority to quell riots. This is the first detailed study of the Evansville riot.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 247-265) and index.
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