On this dayDec 07, 1874

Violent White Mob Attacks Black Political Meeting in Mississippi

Image | The Inter Ocean (Chicago)

During the Reconstruction era that followed Emancipation and the Civil War, African American Mississippians made significant strides 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 African American men voted and served in political office on federal, state, and local levels.

Peter Crosby, a formerly enslaved black man, was elected sheriff in Vicksburg, Mississippi in the 1870s – but shortly after taking office, Crosby was indicted on false criminal charges and a violent white mob removed him from his position. On December 7, 1874, in a violent incident known as the “Vicksburg Massacre,” white mobs attacked and killed many black citizens of Vicksburg who had organized an effort to try to help Mr. Crosby regain his office. The brutal attack prompted President Ulysses S. Grant to send troops to mediate the conflict, and Mr. Crosby regained his position as sheriff.

Soon after, in early 1875, a white man named J.P. Gilmer was hired to serve as Mr. Crosby's deputy. After Mr. Crosby tried to have Mr. Gilmer removed from office, Mr. Gilmer shot Mr. 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.

The violence and intimidation tactics utilized by white Mississippians intent on restoring white supremacy soon enabled forces antagonistic to the aims of Reconstruction and racial equality to regain power in Mississippi.

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