What Is the Largest Mass Lynching in American History?

In the history of the United States, there have been several gruesome incidents of racial violence that have left an indelible mark on the country’s conscience. One such incident is known as the largest mass lynching in American history.

The incident took place in Los Angeles, California, on October 24, 1871. It involved the lynching of 18 Chinese immigrants by a mob of around 500 people. The Chinese immigrants were accused of killing a prominent local rancher named Robert Thompson and assaulting several others.

The background:

In the mid-19th century, California experienced a massive influx of Chinese immigrants who were brought in to work on railroads and in mines. Despite their contributions to the American economy, they faced widespread discrimination and violence from white Americans who saw them as a threat to their jobs and way of life.

The tension between Chinese immigrants and white Americans came to a head in Los Angeles in 1871 when a gunfight broke out between two groups of men. Robert Thompson, a local rancher who was not involved in the dispute, was killed in the crossfire.

The white community immediately blamed the Chinese immigrants for Thompson’s death and demanded that justice be served. However, due to lack of evidence and conflicting eyewitness accounts, no one was arrested or charged with Thompson’s murder.

The lynching:

Frustrated with what they saw as a failure of justice, a mob of around 500 people gathered outside Los Angeles’ Chinatown on October 24, 1871. They broke into several homes and businesses owned by Chinese immigrants and began dragging their occupants onto the streets.

The mob proceeded to beat and torture these individuals before hanging them from nearby trees or lampposts. In total, 18 Chinese immigrants were lynched that day – making it the largest mass lynching in American history.


Despite the brutality of the incident, none of the perpetrators were ever brought to justice. In fact, some prominent members of the white community openly praised the lynching and called for more violence against Chinese immigrants.

The incident had a profound impact on Chinese Americans and led to increased discrimination and violence against them in the years that followed. It was not until 2017 – over 145 years later – that a formal apology was issued by the Los Angeles City Council for its role in the lynching.


The largest mass lynching in American history is a tragic reminder of the country’s dark past of racial violence and discrimination. It serves as a stark warning against the dangers of prejudice and mob mentality, and highlights the importance of justice and equality for all individuals – regardless of their race or ethnicity.