The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Oct. 19, 1877

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A BRUTAL ASSAULT - On the arrival of the steamer St. Joseph at this port yesterday morning, two of her deck hands left the boat and in their place two colored men were employed. The hiring of colored men to take the place of white men angered a number of white dock loafers who had applied for work on the boat but had been refused, and during the forenoon as they loafed in the vicinity of the steamer they vowed vengeance on the innocent colored men. At about 11 o'clock, three of the "dock loafers" went aboard the steamer Benton, which lay outside of the steamer Joseph, and, catching sight of the fireman, a colored man, they made a rush, and grabbing him, threw him to the deck and began thumping and kicking him in a brutal manner. At that instant Harbor Master Moore, seeing a crowd rushing aboard the boats, hastened to the scene of the struggle and succeeded in securing the leader, who gave his name as John O'Donnell. His companions escaped through the crowd. O'Donnell was lodged at the Central Station, with a charge of disturbing the peace registered opposite his name.

Media Type:
Item Type:
A black fireman was perhaps a little unusual. A list I am assembling of people who died on the lakes contains at present over 4,000 persons, of which only 58 are specifically identified as being black. Of those, 17 are listed as deckhands, 11 as cooks, 8 waiters, 8 "sailors", 7 passengers, 2 porters, 2 stewards, 1 ship's boy, 1 servant of a passenger and 1 fireman. One of the stewards and the servant were women, the rest men.
Date of Original:
Oct. 19, 1877
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Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Oct. 19, 1877