North Augusta, SC (WJBF) — People gathered in North Augusta today to recognize and honor the victims of the Hamburg Massacre of 1876 with a new historical marker.
On July 8, 1876, the African-American community of Hamburg, South Carolina across the river from Augusta, erupted in violence as the area’s black militia clashed with rural whites.
“There was a plan in place in Edgefield. They wanted to overthrow Reconstruction,” said historian and author Wayne O’Bryant. “And they needed an event to jump start it.”
Thousands of whites descended upon about 37 African American militiamen, who retreated into their armory.One white man was killed, and two black men were killed in the conflict.
“Not a good ratio for that kind of force to have one white and two blacks dead… so they took four members out of the prisoner group that they had, and executed them,” O’Bryant said.
This execution is now known as the Hamburg Massacre.
However, North Augusta did not officially acknowledge the seven African Americans who were killed that day for 140 years.
“North Augusta ha[d] a monument to the one white victim of the Hamburg Massacre, but none to the African victims who died during that incident,” said Brenda Baratto, the director of the Aiken County Historical Museum.
The one white who was killed during the skirmish was honored by a monument in downtown North Augusta in 1916. The seven blacks who died during the altercation, as well as the white man, were all honored with a historical marker unveiled on March 6, 2016.
“And so now, for the first time, we’re going to recognize all those who lost their lives to this event that changed the course of U.S. history,” O’Bryant said.
O’Bryant also said that the Hamburg Massacre set off a ripple effect of violence against freed slaves across the the United States that halted Reconstruction and denied African Americans the rights that they were supposed to have won after the Civil War.
“And so we’re going back, and we’re trying to right some terrible wrongs.”