Lithograph of the July 7, 1844 Southwark "Bible Riot," Philadelphia County, PA, 1844.
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Lithograph of the Southwark Bible riot scene

Credit: Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Between May and July, 1844, riots between Nativists and Irish Catholic immigrants in Philadelphia shook the city. The worst violence occurred on July 7th, when battles among Protestants, Catholics, and state militia left 15 dead and more than 50 injured. The initial provocation was a dispute over the use of the King James Bible in the public schools. When Catholics objected and compromise failed, bloody street violence ensued. The riots in Philadelphia and elsewhere reminded residents that educational policy had potentially explosive social repercussions.

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