Today marks the 152nd anniversary of the Richmond Bread Riot, during which hundreds of workers—the majority of whom were women—took to the streets of the Confederate capital to protest food shortages, hoarding, speculation, and rampant inflation. After Virginia’s governor, John Letcher, declined to meet with the protesters, the group, led by Mary Jackson and Minerva Meredith, marched on the city’s business district and began looting government warehouses, grocers, and other mercantile establishments while shouting “Bread or blood!” The crowd finally dispersed after government officials called out a local artillery unit and threatened to fire on the looters. Over sixty women and men were arrested and tried for their participation in the riot. Throughout the final two years of the Civil War similar riots erupted in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama.
Illustration from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 23 May 1863.