William Ivy Hair's Carnival of Fury elaborates on the life of Robert Charles and the events leading New Orleans to the race riot of 1900. Hair quoted newspaper articles printed during Charles' life to include society's reaction and provide a white-Southern perspective of African Americans. Hair's original objective was to uncover what Charles experienced during his youth, and discover what prompted him to shoot innocent people from the second floor of 1208 Saratoga St. on July 27, 1900. Although the South vilified Charles and deemed him the catalyst for the race riot, Hair sought to clarify Charles' motives and discover what led him to commit senseless violence.
Hair's first chapter described the birthplace of Robert Charles, Copiah County, Mississippi. Charles was born not long after the Civil War ended. The next chapter introduced the reader to the condition of politics in the South. The chapter described the voting process in Copiah and involved individuals being threatened or murdered if they were suspected to vote against Democrats. The following chapter discussed black migration, either to Liberia or somewhere out of the South. Many whites and blacks alike supported the concept of migration. Charles also moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi and worked for the Louisville, New Orleans and Texas Railroad. This chapter also included Charles' first gunfight, while he and his brother, Henry Charles attempted to recover Robert's stolen pistol. In the next chapter, Charles returns to Copiah County under the alias Curtis Robertson. It was necessary for Charles to avoid being associated with the shooting he and his brother were earlier involved in. Shortly thereafter Charles was forced to flee Copiah after not pa...
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...s aimed at blacks. I was horrified while reading the fate of Georgia resident, Sam Hose (or Holt), and believe that that occurrence alone would motivate Robert Charles to murder. I was also disgusted with the South's lack of justice. Some whites were tried for murder, and although clearly guilty, received no punishment.
I was impressed by how much Carnival of Fury reads like a novel instead of a history piece. Hair credited every fact by including the article from which it was recorded.
Carnival of Fury taught me that Louisiana's foundations supported injustice by overlooking murder, promoted racial segregation, and condoned the murder of human beings. William Ivy Hair., Carnival of Fury: Robert Charles and the New Orleans
Race Riot of 1900 (Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
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