From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Election Day Riot (Frankfort, KY)

On the evening of August 7, 1871, the election polls had just closed when a race riot developed between African American and white voters in Frankfort, KY at the market-house precinct. It was the second year of voting for African American men in Kentucky, and tensions were high.

After a scuffle, whites and African Americans took cover on separate sides of Broadway and began shooting and throwing rocks and boulders at each other across the railroad tracks that ran down the center of the street. Police Captain William Gillmore along with Officers Jerry Lee and Dick Leonard rushed to the scene; Gillmore was killed and Lee and Leonard were injured. Other police arrived, but they were driven back. A Mr. Bishop, who was also white, was killed;  several others on both sides were injured.

State Troops were ordered into downtown Frankfort to bring the rioting under control.  African American Henry Washington, who supposedly fired the first shot, was apprehended for the murder of Captain Gillmore. Frankfort Mayor E. H. Taylor, Jr. had appointed the state militia to guard the jailhouse.

After the State Troops had gone, the militia dispersed when about 250 armed and masked white men stormed the jailhouse at mid-morning and removed Washington and another African American, Harry Johnson, who was accused of the rape of a Mrs. Pfeifer. Both men were hanged.

For more see "Kentucky Elections. Rioting reported in various places - Two whites killed in Frankfort - Negro prisoners lynched," New York Times, 8/9/1871, p. 1; and "A Democratic riot," reprinted in the New York Times, 8/15/1871, p. 6, from the Louisville Commercial, August 10, 1871.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The New York times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Louisville commercial (newspaper)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Election Day Riot (Frankfort, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-08-21 15:56:47