John DeSantis is a reporter based in southeast Louisiana. He uncovered a story about the violent end of a sugar cane labor strike in the nearby town of Thibodaux that occurred in 1887. He wrote about what little he could find of the record of the events which, according to the official count, resulted in the deaths of eight people ” all of whom were black sugar cane workers.
The story led to a book contract which pushed DeSantis to dig deeper into the story. With the help of an archivist at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, he was able to locate the names of the eight people who were listed as those killed in the streets of the town on a single day ” November 23, 1887. That led to yet another discovery which enabled him to get to eyewitness accounts of the massacre.
DeSantis believes the number of black workers killed that day in Thibodaux by white vigilantes was between 30 and 60. Most were involved with the Knights of Labor strikes that had originated in Terrebonne Parish the year before, but carried over into neighboring LaFourche Parish in 1887.
The book is a slim volume that unveils a wealth of detail about labor and raced relations in post-Reconstruction Louisiana and the violent events of that day in Thibodaux that reverberate still today.
We talk about the events, the writing of the book, and the key discoveries that unlocked this story that “nobody wanted told.”
DeSantis is now engaged in the effort to locate the place where the victims of the massacre were buried.