The Anti Abolitionist Riots of 1834


The Englishman known as George P. Farren had to perform the greatest act of his life to keep away 4,000 angered Americans.

The Anti-abolitionist riots of 1834 (The Farren Riots) were a series of riots which began in New York City on July 7, 1834. It was believed that the riots started when an Englishman, George P. Farren, made anti – American comments. What made the incident so dreadful was the fact that the stage manager of the Bowery Theater was born in England. He was, in addition, an abolitionist who had fired an American actor.

White Mobs Attack Pro Black Associations

There were anti-abolitionists from all over New York City who posted handbills describing the actions of what Mr. Farren had done. This drew angry protest from many New Yorkers from the White communities. So a gathering of concerned Whites turned into a lawless mob and attacked businesses, churches, and even the homes of people who were linked with helping Black Americans.

The Chatham Street Chapel was a good target of mob vandalism. Then on July 9, 1834, the home of Lewis Tappan (1788-1863) was next on the mob target list. Mr. Lewis Tappan was celebrated for his acquiring of council for Black Africans caught aboard the Spanish schooner La Amistad after it was the victim of a slave rebellion. The Spanish captain and his crew members were arrested for illegally shipping African slave contraband through U.S waters.

Lewis Tappan Defended Africans Arrested for Murder

The Black Africans were arrested by the United States Revenue Cutter Service and made to stand trial for murder. As an abolitionist and very strict Calvinist, Tappan followed the events of the case closely. Every little detail was reported to the readers of the abolitionist paper The Emancipator. After the case was over, he lobbied for economic support for the freed Africans and was able to raise enough money to have them sent back to Africa.

The Troupe Calm Down the Angered Mob

About 4,000 rioters visited the Bowery Theater during production of Metamora. And while it was in progress, the manager of the theater, Thomas S. Hamblin and actor Edwin Forrest, desperately tried to calm down the fuming mob. However, it was Mr. Farren who was able to do so by displaying the image of the U.S flag. Meanwhile, stage actor George Washington Dixon performed the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Zip Coon” in blackface. The song “Zip Coon” was also known and sung to the same tune as “Turkey in the Straw” which was another familiar American folk song in the 19th century.

White actors like George Nichols, Bob Farrell, and George Washington Dixon were known for singing it in their acts. The New York City mayor and the actor Dixon addressed the crowd and were able to get them to leave without doing any significant damage.