September 4, 1875:
Black in the Day
On Sept. 4, 1875, more than 2,000 former slaves crowded onto the grounds of Moss Hill, a plantation in Clinton, Miss., that had turned over to a Republican doctor after the South lost the Civil War. It was during Reconstruction, when Republicans—the earlier version of the party that freed the slaves and supported black rights—were briefly in control of the state, to the chagrin of the Democrats who had lost the war and the right to maintain and extend slavery. The black families were there, along with some whites, for a barbecue and political rally to get newly minted voters excited to vote. The Republicans even invited a Democrat to speak. In an effort to keep the political rally peaceful, alcoholic beverages and weapons were banned, and both a Democratic and Republican candidate were invited to speak. Judge Amos R. Johnston, the white Democratic state senate candidate, gave the opening speech with no problems from the predominantly black crowd. However, the Republican speaker and editor of the Jackson Times, Captain H.T. Fisher, was interrupted during his speech when a white Democrat in the audience called him a liar. Shortly afterwards, shots were fired, and the crowd frantically ran in all directions to get away from the danger. When the gunfire ended, a total of five blacks, including two children, and three whites were dead, and nearly thirty others were wounded. The following days were marked by violence and bloodshed as the white mob indiscriminately shot and killed nearly fifty African Americans in Clinton and the surrounding area. Although Governor Ames requested federal troops to assist in restoring order, President Ulysses Grant denied the request on September 14 and adopted a policy of non-intervention, leaving Ames and the local Black and white Republicans without protection. The Clinton Riot, and other race riots, were part of white Democrats’ efforts to regain political power in the November 1875 election at the end of Reconstruction in Mississippi.