On this day in history, up to hundreds of African Americans were lynched for coming to the defense of the first Black sheriff in a Mississippi county in 1874. It is one of the more shameful aspects of American history that has seemingly been forgotten amid this country’s purported nationwide racial reckoning.
The carnage was called the “Vicksburg Massacre,” named for the town in which it took place. Vicksburg was part of Warren County Sheriff Peter Crosby’s jurisdiction. But the racist white men living there didn’t like having a Black man as its top law enforcement officer and “forcibly removed him,” the Vicksburg Post reminded its readers in a news story published in 2015.
Crosby was a former slave and fought in the Union army, which further enraged the group that the Vicksburg Post kindy referred to as an “angry mob.”
When they were finished with Crosby, they went after Vicksburg’s Black residents. The Zinn Education Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes teaching history, estimated anywhere “from 75 to 300” Black people were killed — or lynched, a violent, hateful term that does not only refer to hangings.
The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit criminal justice organization, has written extensively about the “Vicksburg Massacre” and property put the ugly stain on American history into its proper perspective:
“During the Reconstruction era that followed Emancipation and the Civil War, Black Mississippians made progress toward political equality. Despite the passage of Black codes designed to oppress and disenfranchise Black people in the South, under the protection of federal troops in place to enforce the newly established civil rights of Black people, many Black men voted and served in political office on federal, state, and local levels.
Following this brutal attack, federal troops were sent to Vicksburg and Mr. Crosby was appointed as sheriff again. However, in early 1875, a white man named J.P. Gilmer was hired to serve as Sheriff Crosby’s deputy. After Sheriff Crosby tried to have Mr. Gilmer removed from office, Mr. Gilmer shot Sheriff Crosby in the head on June 7, 1875. Mr. Gilmer was arrested for the attempted assassination but never brought to trial. Mr. Crosby survived the shooting but never made a full recovery, and had to serve the remainder of his term through a representative white citizen.”
It’s important to recognize that this type of violence has continued up until this day in America; it just presents itself differently.
White domestic terrorism has not just endorsed the decades since the racist coup that targeted Sheriff Peter Crosby in Vicksburg. It has also thrived.
Nevermind the fact of how police are killing Black people at will and getting away with it because their purported fear for their lives left them with no other point f recourse than to shoot to kill…
While the numbers pale in comparison to the kind of vigilante violence that killed Black people just for being Black in the 1800s and before, that was precisely the same reason why three white men racially profiled Ahmaud Arbery, went to arm themselves, jumped in pickup trucks, hunted him down, boxed him in, shot him in broad daylight on a Georgia road and most got away with it for months — in 2020.