Philadelphia has a long history of conflict, and very often people have taken to the streets to express feelings of support, anger, and triumph. One example is the Lombard Street riots.
During the first half of the 19th century, the influx of Irish immigrants in Philadelphia paralleled the growing black population, as more and more former slaves moved into the city.
These two large minority groups - Irish Americans and African Americans - were met with intolerance and prejudice in Philadelphia. Though separated by social background, religion, and race, the two groups lived in close proximity and often fought for the same low-wage jobs. Tensions gradually escalated and finally exploded into three days of rioting in August 1842.
Beginning on Aug. 1, members of the African American Young Men's Vigilant Association organized a parade on Lombard Street to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies. More than 1,000 members of the association took part.
As the parade neared Mother Bethel Church on Fourth Street, an Irish mob attacked the marchers, beating many and looting African American homes in the area. The marchers retaliated, prompting the Irish mob to burn down the Second African Presbyterian Church and Smith's Hall on Lombard Street, which had been a hub for abolitionists following the destruction of Pennsylvania Hall in the riots of 1838.
After the initial damage, the Irish rioters headed west toward the home of Robert Purvis, a prominent and outspoken African American leader, who sat on the steps of his house, armed and ready. Ultimately, his home was spared by the intervention of a Catholic priest.
Finally, on the third day of violence, local militia were called to subdue the riots.
In 2005, a historical marker was erected at Sixth and Lombard Streets to remember the riot of 1842.