Carnival of Fury: Robert Charles and the New Orleans Race Riot of 1900 (Updated)

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  • One July week in 1900, an obscure black laborer named Robert Charles drew national headlines when he shot twenty-seven whites in a series of encounters with the New Orleans police. Charles believed it foolish to rely on southern whites to uphold the law, let alone to acknowledge even minimal human rights for blacks, and therefore systematically armed himself, manufacturing round after round of his own ammunition before undertaking his intentionally symbolic act of violent resistance. After the shootings, Charles became an instant hero among some blacks, but to most people he remained a mysterious and sinister figure who had promoted a "back-to-Africa" movement. CARNIVAL OF FURY follows Charles from childhood in a Mississippi sharecropper's cabin to his violent death on New Orleans's Saratoga Street, piecing together the story of a man who tried to achieve dignity and self-respect in a time when people of his race could not exhibit such characteristics without fear of reprisal.