What Are the Biggest Riots in American History?

Riots have been a part of American history since its inception. From labor disputes to civil rights movements, the country has seen many incidents of violence and chaos. Here are some of the biggest riots in American history.

The New York City Draft Riots (1863)

The New York City Draft Riots were one of the deadliest riots in American history. The riot was sparked by the newly enacted draft law, which allowed wealthy citizens to buy their way out of military service.

Angry mobs attacked government buildings, burned down homes and businesses, and lynched African Americans. The riot lasted for four days and resulted in over 100 deaths.

The Tulsa Race Massacre (1921)

The Tulsa Race Massacre was a violent attack on the Greenwood District – a prosperous black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The riot was sparked by a false accusation that a black man had assaulted a white woman.

A mob of white residents attacked black businesses and homes, burning them to the ground. The police also joined in the violence, killing and injuring many innocent people. The exact number of deaths is unknown but is estimated to be between 100-300.

The Rodney King Riots (1992)

The Rodney King Riots were sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers who had brutally beaten Rodney King – an African American man – during his arrest. The verdict outraged many residents, leading to widespread protests that turned violent.

Rioters burned down buildings, looted stores, and attacked anyone they perceived as an enemy. The riots lasted for six days and resulted in over 50 deaths.

The Ferguson Unrest (2014)

The Ferguson Unrest was sparked by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown – an unarmed black teenager – by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted across the city, with demonstrators demanding justice for Brown.

The protests turned violent, with rioters looting stores and setting fire to buildings. The National Guard was called in to restore order, and the unrest lasted for several weeks.

The Capitol Riot (2021)

The Capitol Riot was one of the most shocking incidents of violence in American history. On January 6, 2021, a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election.

The rioters clashed with police officers and destroyed property inside the building. The riot resulted in five deaths and multiple injuries.


Riots have been a part of American history for centuries. While they are often sparked by legitimate grievances, they can quickly turn violent and destructive.

The riots listed above are just a few examples of how anger and frustration can boil over into chaos and tragedy. It is important to remember that violence is never the answer, and that peaceful protest is always a more effective way to bring about change.