Local government to honor victims of 1887 massacre of blacks


By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, The Associated Press
One hundred and thirty years after white mobs massacred black laborers and their families to end a sugar strike, a Louisiana parish government is expected to approve a resolution to mark the attack’s anniversary and honor its victims.
John DeSantis, who wrote a book about the incident , says he recently learned that the resolution is on the Lafourche Parish Council agenda Tuesday evening in Thibodaux.
The resolution requests a moment of silence at noon Nov. 23 in memory of the victims and encourages continued exploration of the history of the Reconstruction-era massacre to help bring about justice and reconciliation.
On Nov. 23, 1887, white mobs in Lafourche Parish went door to door for more than two hours, shooting unarmed blacks, to end a monthlong strike by sugar plantation field hands.
After his book was published in 2016, DeSantis and descendants of both victims and plantation owners created a committee to raise money for an archaeological survey to learn if there’s truth to local tradition of the location of a mass grave — and to have any remains exhumed and buried in consecrated ground.
They need to raise about $24,000 to get an initial archaeological survey by the Public Archaeology Lab at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Fundraising so far is “horrible,” DeSantis said Monday in a telephone interview from Thibodaux. He’d thought that social justice-oriented groups might be interested, but was told their money is going to the living.
DeSantis said he has turned over $1,000 so far to the ULL Foundation, which has set up an account for the project. “As we get small donations … we’re going to pass it to the ULL Foundation in thousand-dollar increments so we don’t make them crazy,” he said.
A class at Nicholls State University will soon be presenting its plan for a social media campaign to the Louisiana 1887 Memorial Committee, DeSantis said.
He said the parish and the city of Thibodaux, which presented a similar proclamation in September, are setting a shining example at a time of racial division nationally.
“The opportunity to talk about the past and how it relates to the future, I think helps bring us here locally to where America needs to be with all of our aspects of our past,” DeSantis said. “I think it is something that aids the spirits of those who were lost and … those who were involved with perpetrating — the victims and the victimizers.”