I remember growing up and thinking that there was nothing particularly special about my hometown or no one famous from there. When asked where I grew up, I usually said, "Thibodaux. It’s about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans and 70 miles southeast of Baton Rouge." Little did I know, especially as a child and young adult, that Thibodaux had a history that was equally devastating and inspiring.
I think I was a sophomore in high school before I heard the words "The Thibodaux Massacre" uttered. At the time, though, there was no Internet (as we know it) and the only sources of information were folklore passed down through generations of families with roots in my small Southern Louisiana town. For many of those families, mention of the massacre brought shame, pain, and outright anger. That is, of course, if they’d heard about it at all.
The mostly Black men who participated in the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike that resulted in the Thibodaux Massacre should be lauded as heroes. Instead, they are barely regarded. Or worse, they are blamed for their own demise. We don’t even have clear evidence of their final resting place and, until John DeSantis' book was published, there was little desire to find it.
When I think of the actual toll of this event, my mind is blown. Estimates of the dead range from eight (official) to 12 (Père Menard) to 30+ (historians). Some have settled at a number about as high as 60. Still, the unknown heroes of this movement lay buried in an unmarked mass grave somewhere in town, making the actual toll of the Thibodaux Massacre far greater than its estimated deceased.