Ablaze: The 1849 White Supremacist Attack on the Pendleton Post Office

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Southern Spaces


Emory Center for Digital Scholarship


In 1849 a mob of white supremacists eager to seize anti-slavery mailings attacked the US Post Office in Pendleton, South Carolina. They burned leaflets and letters in a bonfire on the village green to make clear their stance against incendiary ideas. This essay explores the context of these events by considering an initial spate of mailings that happened in 1835. This examination includes: their author, William Brisbane; the Calhounist culture of Pendleton that fueled this demonstration; the sad fate of the young man, John Barrett, who was arrested for the distribution of such materials; and those held captive in the middle of it all, the enslaved African Americans of Pendleton.