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Jaybirds order black leaders out of Fort Bend County

September
06
1888

On this day in 1888, white members of a political association known as the Jaybirds held a mass meeting in Richmond, Texas, and ordered Charles Ferguson and several other black political leaders to leave Fort Bend County within ten hours. The so-called Jaybird-Woodpecker War was a feud between two political factions for the control of Fort Bend County. The Jaybirds, representing most of the white population, were the regular Democrats who sought to rid the county of the Republican government that had gained control during Reconstruction. The Woodpeckers, numbering about forty persons and also claiming to be Democrats, were the officials and former officials who held office as a result of the black vote for the Republican ticket. Former friends, neighbors, and relatives became bitter enemies as a result of the feud. The election of 1888 engendered much bitterness. After one Jaybird leader was killed and another wounded, the party met in Richmond and expelled a number of Woodpecker leaders. The Woodpeckers won the election in spite of this, and the violence continued. After the riot known as the "Battle of Richmond" in 1889, the Woodpeckers were driven from office. In October a further series of meetings in Richmond established the Jaybird Democratic Organization of Fort Bend County. The whites-only organization dominated Fort Bend County politics for the next seventy years.

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