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Kemper County, Mississippi

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Kemper County, Mississippi.

Official Website

History

Land in the area was developed in the 19th century by white planters for cotton cultivation. Blacks have comprised the majority of the county population since before the American Civil War.

After the American Civil War and Reconstruction, racial violence increased as whites struggled to regain power over the majority population of freedmen and to suppress their voting. In the period from 1877 to 1950, Kemper County had 24 documented lynchings of blacks, the third-highest of Mississippi counties.

In 1877 the Chisolm Massacre occurred, the murder by a mob of a judge, his children, and two of their friends while they were in protective custody in jail.

In 1890, blacks made up the majority of the county' population. They generally worked as sharecroppers or tenant farmers. Often illiterate, many of the sharecroppers were at a disadvantage in the annual accounting that was done by the landowners. Sometimes the planters had groceries on their property, and required the sharecroppers to buy goods there, which could add to their debt.

Beginning in late December 1906, there were several days of racial terror in the county. After violent incidents on the railroad between conductors and black passengers, whites attacked blacks at the rural towns of Wahalak and Scooba; by December 27, whites had killed a total of 13 blacks in rioting. The events started with a physical confrontation between a conductor and an black man on a Mobile & Ohio Railroad train. The conductor was cut, and he fatally shot two black men. George Simpson, another black man thought to be involved, escaped from the train. When captured in Wahalak by a posse, he killed a white constable and was quickly lynched by the other whites.

As reported by The New York Times:

Not satisfied with the punishment of this man, the whites immediately set out to strike terror into the negroes, who had been getting defiant of late. They found two sons of Simpson and lynched them, filling their bodies with bullets. Two other negroes who had behaved defiantly were treated in similar fashion.

Whites worried about blacks gathering to take revenge at Wahalak, where they had already been abused by lynchings. Local authorities called for state militia. Their commanding officer took his troops away from Wahalak, although there was still unrest, because he felt they were not being treated properly.

By the end of the day on December 26, white men in Scooba had killed another five black men. The county sheriff arrested several whites for these murders, and called for the state militia to go to Scooba. "All the men killed at Scooba today are said to be innocent of any crime, having been shot down merely as a matter of revenge by the rough whites." There had been a conflict on another train, in which a black man mortally shot a conductor, George Harrison. The yardmaster shot and killed the African American. The rioting by whites in Scooba started after Harrison died. Governor James K. Vardaman went to Scooba with militia to establish control. He left a force of 20 there commanded by Adjutant General Fridge and returned to the state capital on the evening of December 27. That day the body of another murdered African-American man was found in the woods, bringing the total killed in Scooba to six.

In 1934, three black suspects in Kemper County were repeatedly whipped in order to force them to confess to murder. In Brown v. Mississippi (1936), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled such forced confessions violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and were inadmissible at trial.

Adjacent Counties

Towns & Communities

  • Binnsville
  • Bogue Chitto (part)
  • Cullum
  • De Kalb (County Seat)
  • Electric Mills
  • Kellis Store
  • Minden
  • Moscow
  • Porterville
  • Preston
  • Scooba
  • Sucarnoochee
  • Tamola
  • Union Hill
  • Wahalak

Links

Wikipedia

RAOGK

Porterville General Store

MS GenWeb

Genealogy Trails

MSGHN

USS Kemper County LST-854