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Student Research Projects

The Struggle over Black Economic Agency on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Post-Reconstruction Him Crow South

Student Kentoya L. Downing
Faculty Mentor(s) Dr. Sara Sewell
Department History
Course History 460: Senior Project Seminar

Abstract

The Onancock Race Riot of 1907 was a response to blacks trying to gain in on the town's prosperity. As many blacks started to leave the town of Onancock, the shortage of labor became noticeable. Blacks who remained on the Eastern Shore began to realize the value of their work, and began to organize and pass resolutions to fix the price of their labor. Anger and violence over the wage movement escalated when a young clerk failed to pay a rental fee to his white livery owner. In response to a dispute over an outstanding livery bill, local whites rioted and burned black property, estimated at over a couple of thousand dollars. These black leaders provoked fear and resentment among the whites because they represented the symbol of black independence. They were able to advocate to blacks to demand higher wages for their labor. That they could bargain as equals with whites. In the violence that took place these black men actually dared to defend themselves. But in the end, the reaction of the governor, town council, and military did little to redress the basic inequality between blacks and whites on the Eastern Shore of Virginia during the early twentieth century. In the midst of the violence, the two main structures that represented black progress, aspiration, and defiance were quickly destroyed.

 

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