Archivist brings awareness to Opelousas Massacre on its 151st anniversary

Photo: Brianne Hendricks
Marie Marcel shares research with Opelousas man at St. Mark Methodist Church

Chazmyne Jackson

On Sept. 28, community members and descendants of Opelousas gathered at the St. Mark Methodist Church, giving new light into the 1868 Opelousas Massacre. 

Marie Marcel, an archivist, shared her research of the event and invited descendants of the massacre to share their history. 

“There is so much history to this church, even the church members are not aware of the history that’s attached to the massacre,” Marcel said to a room full of descendants and participants of the memorial. 

The lack of awareness about the massacre and the need to put all the information in one area motivated Marcel to host the memorial. 

“There are families who have never heard of it and didn’t know their family was a part of the massacre.” 

Marcel gave an accurate account of the events leading up to the massacre, and she revealed new details that historians had gotten wrong. She found records that showed that some people who were thought to have died in the massacre actually survived.

The massacre was the result of racial conflicts in 1868 over voting rights, according to the Smithsonian.  Black voters from Opelousas attempted to join a Democratic group in Washington, D.C. but were driven out by white Democrats of Opelousas. The Knights of the White Camellia gathered thousands of members in preparation for what they considered a Black Revolt or race war. Historians estimate more than 150 African-Americans died as a result.

The Opelousas Massacre Memorial was held at the St. Mark Methodist Church on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. On the conflict’s 151st  anniversary, citizens gathered at the church to show tribute to those whose families survived the event, as well as remembering those who were lost during the 1868 racial clash.