Mass Racial Violence--Clinton, Miss. (1875) Massacre



The Clinton Riot (Massacre) of 1875 embodied the violent racial politics that spelled the end of Reconstruction in Mississippi. In preparation for that November's elections, Mississippi's Republican Party scheduled political rallies throughout the state to be held on September 4, 1875, one of which was to be at Clinton, Mississippi, roughly ten miles west of the state capital at Jackson. As a token of good faith, the Republicans invited Democratic speakers to the rally as well.

Political rallies in the nineteenth century often featured large barbecues, impassioned speakers, and generous portions of alcohol, and the rally at Clinton was no different. While the organizers banned alcohol from the premises, the roughly seventy-five whites out of an estimated 1,500-2,500 people in attendance brought it anyway. Democratic speaker Amos R. Johnston spoke in peace, yet Republican H. T. Fisher faced hecklers in the crowd. Despite efforts to cool tensions, whites in attendance (members of the racist paramilitary White Line group) opened fire on the crowd. Chaos ensued and left three whites and five Blacks, including two children, dead.

The violence continued over the next few weeks, as White Liners massacred and lynched Black and white Republicans in the area regardless of their participation in the Clinton rally. The Clinton Riot opened what white Democrats dubbed the "Mississippi Plan" in which white Democrats would resort to widespread violence in order to remove African Americans and Republicans generally from the state's electoral politics. President Ulysses S. Grant famously refused to send federal aid to restore order to Mississippi's capital, signaling the retreat of the federal government from protecting the rights of African Americans won through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The Clinton Riot thereby represents an episode of mass racial violence targeted at African Americans that signaled the nation's growing complicity in the development of what would become the Jim Crow system of segregation. (Mississippi Encyclopedia)

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