Civil War & Beyond (1861 – 1867)

On April 12, 1861, the attack on Fort Sumter marked the start of the Civil War. But conflict was not confined to the battlefields alone.
By 1860, Brooklyn was the third largest city in the United States. It was home to a culturally diverse society including people of Dutch, English and African. There were also increasing numbers of German and Irish immigrants.

The Irish and Black communities were among the most marginalized in American society. They often competed for the same low paying, low-skilled jobs. During the Civil War, the Irish came to fear that fugitives and newly emancipated men and women would arrive in Brooklyn and take the few jobs available, exacerbating hostilities. In the summer of 1862 Irish mobs attacked men and women at the Tobacco Factory on Sedgwick Street in Brooklyn. The Tobacco Factory Riots foreboded Manhattan’s Draft Riots that erupted a year later. Few could have foreseen its immense and devastating consequences.

At the end of the War, emancipation came without equality. During Reconstruction, African Americans in Brooklyn and beyond faced intense hostility and difficulties with education, employment, housing, and voting. Nevertheless, Brooklyn’s abolitionists and anti-slavery activists continued the struggle for equality, using their proven organizing skills to help rebuild the nation.