White Line Violence Spreads to Mississippi (1875)

Eugene B. Welborne, a prosperous black farmer and state representative, explained in this way how a White Line attack began in Clinton, Mississippi, in 1875:

They had a barbecue and there were speakers invited. It was a kind of joint discussion. Amos R. Johnston [a Democrat] spoke first. After he got through Capt. H.T. Fisher, who was a Republican, was called upon to speak. There were a couple of young fellows standing in front of me—Sivley and Thompson. These gentlemen were a committee sent from Raymond. In the event that the Republican speakers told anything that they thought was not so, they had a right to contradict them. Captain Fisher had spoke two or three minutes when this Sivley says, “Come down out of there, you god damned radical, you. We don’t want to hear any more of your lies.”

I spoke to Aleck Wilson who was one of our officers there to keep the peace. We had about thirty men that we got the magistrate to deputize. I saw Wilson and said, “I want you to stand here and prevent anything. I see a difficulty brewing.” Thompson had a bottle of whisky in his hand. He was drinking, and every now and then they would holler, “Come down! Stop your damned lying there, and come down.”

Wilson went up to Mr. Thompson and said, "Mr. Thompson, we listened very quietly to your speaker and you must not go on in that way.” He told him he was an officer and that he would have to arrest him if he did not stop. When Wilson said that, they all got right together around Thompson. He said, “Get away from here.” Then Wilson attempted to arrest him and Thompson pulled his pistol out and shot him down. When Wilson fell, every [white] man in the line pulled out their pistols and began to fire on the crowd.

On Sunday—that was on Saturday—they just hunted the whole county clean out. Every man they could see they were shooting at him just the same as birds. I mean colored men, of course. A good many they killed and a good many got away. The men came into Jackson, two or three thousand of them. They were running in all day Sunday, coming in as rapidly as they could. We could hear the firing all the time.1

  1. Citations

    • 1 In Dorothy Sterling, ed., The Trouble They Seen: The Story of Reconstruction in the Words of African Americans (Da Capo Press, 1994), 442–443.

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