The Riot That Changed America

Reporter Jefferson Morley re-creates the forgotten race riot of 1835 and discusses how it shaped American politics today.

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What was the "snow-storm in August"?

In 1835, the mob went about first trying to lynch Arthur Bowen, the boy who had been charged with attempting to murder his mistress. But he was in jail and they couldn't get to him. So the mob took out its fury on the most successful black man in town, Beverly Snow, who was a free man of color and who opened the first restaurant in Washington. [Snow] escaped, but the people of Washington, in a kind of sardonic reference, always described the riot after that as a "snow-storm."

How is this story relevant today?

The division between the pro- and the antislavery forces crystallized in these years, and it emerges in Congress really in 1835, right after the riot. If you look at our electoral map today, those [divisions] correspond roughly to the divisions between our red states and blue states.

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