ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (KLFY) — A vigil held in St. Landry Parish Wednesday remembered the victims of the Opelousas Massacre 154 years ago that killed nearly 300 Black people.
It happened Sept. 28, 1868.
Families were killed in their homes, shot in public, chased down and murdered.
It was the deadliest instance of racial violence during the reconstruction period.
The story of the Opelousas Massacre is seemingly forgotten, said Wilken Jones, founder of the Rural African American Museum.
“I was born and raised in this community and went to high school and college and I had never heard of this massacre at all,” Jones said.
Those in attendance at Wednesday’s event lit candles and said prayers.
“That’s not counting the people that lost their homes, that were driven out of their homes, that lost their businesses, all because they wanted to continue that march towards a more perfect union and have voting rights, equal access to education, some of the same things we are fighting for today,” Rod Sias, Vice President of the St. Landry Parish Chapter of the NAACP said.
He says tension between black people and white supremacists is what eventually led to the massacre.
By 1868, he said, black men finally had the right to vote.
“You have to know all of this about what happened in the past so you don’t make the same mistakes in the future and now in the present,” Sias said.
“It’s important that people today understand what happened so that the history is not tainted, and we can learn from past mistakes and lessons. That’s why it’s important,” he added.