Sep. 4, 2017

Massacre In Clinton, Mississippi

This Day In Black History
Our Black History Need Never Be A Black Mystery

Massacre in Clinton, Mississippi
September 4, 1875

As the summer winds day today, Labor Day historically denotes the unofficial end of summer. The last national holiday before the autumn breezes begin and the leaves turn red and fall. I would like for all of us to take a moment to go back into Black American History to Saturday, September 4, 1875. This is a day that should be forever etched into the minds and souls of any person who understands the human sacrifices that black people of this nation survived to be able to labor freely in America.

The beginning of September has always it seems to be the time when the political campaign season begins. It was no different for Hinds County, Mississippi on September 4, 1875. This date, however, should go down in history as a day of infamy for justice, truth, and equality. For it was on this date that the reconstruction efforts essentially ended in Mississippi for recently freed black people. Reconstruction virtually ended at this political rally that was sponsored by the Republican Party. The day began with so much hope of promise ended in terror and fear for people of color. Any hope that blacks could indeed achieve some measure of respectability and pride in the state of Mississippi ended brutally with an unknown number of black bodies spewed all over the town of Clinton, Mississippi. It ended with black blood filling the byways and roads of Clinton, Mississippi. It ended because whites were not ready to share any measure of power with their recently freed slaves.

I never learned about the Massacre of Clinton, Mississippi in any history book that I read as a child. Most likely whites were ashamed of the brutality exhibited on that day and the two days that followed. Yet it is a day that should never be forgotten by any person who seeks to eliminate injustice. Between two, and three thousand people met at Moses Hill a former plantation for a Republican political gathering that was arranged by Senator Charles Caldwell, a 43-year-old former slave who was a trained blacksmith, as well as an active politician who worked at securing voting rights for people of color in Hinds County, Mississippi. On that day of supposed festivities, who doesn't enjoy a grand black folks barbeque, it was intended to focus initially on speeches from the Republican candidates for elective office. However, Senator Caldwell being what he felt was diplomatic allowed the Democratic Party to participate in the program. He, however, restricted the consumption of liquor and anyone being armed for fear of possible disruption. You see the Democrats were the former slaveholders, they always assumed superiority over their former slaves. They wanted power back and blacks were meant to be subservient not politically dominate.

So the whites that attended that weren't Republican attended for the sole purpose of disrupting the day. They came in the form of a group called the "White Lines" a militia group whose main purpose was to strike fear and terror in the lives of people of color. They along with a band of white troubleshooters intended to inflict harm on black people at Moses Hill that day and they were successful. It started during the Republican candidate, Captain H.T. Fisher's speech which was never concluded because during his speech those who were sent to disrupt completed the mission. After the initial melee that saw white men shoot into crowds striking men, women, and children. All hell broke loose as black men defended themselves at end of this initial encounter 5 blacks laid die including 2 children and 3 whites died as well.

Yet we know that in these situations the white mob rules and once word got out whites from all over the area converged on Clinton, Mississippi. These mobs liberally leaving black bodies scattered over the whole of Hinds County, Mississippi. Among the dead was Senator Charles Caldwell who along with being a state senator also ran the Republican Party for Hinds County, Mississippi. They say between 50-100 blacks died in the aftermath of the initial confrontation at the Moses Hill Plantation. However, we know that death totals for blacks killed in white mob violence were always tempered by the white press. We do know this that an honest political rally intended to lift black fortunes and deliver some possible freedoms and justice to Black Mississippians ended up striking terror and fear into the lives of those same people. It also delivered for almost another century a new type of bondage that evolved around inflicting pain, spreading hate, and expanding bigotry in the bowels of a state that prided itself on its ability to dish out injustice to Black Americans.