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Saturday, November 20, 2010

African American With Bowie Knife Not Intimidated, Apparently

In 1872, there was a congressional inquiry into "The Conditions in the Late Insurrectionary States," at which witnesses gave sworn testimony. The committee chairman asked one witness, William W. Humphries, Jr., a lawyer in Columbus, Mississippi, if the African Americans in his region were intimidated by the whites.
Answer. Not a particle; no more than you are. On the contrary, I consider them about as daring as anybody. And as further evidence of the fact, I witnessed on the streets of Columbus a negro, named Solomon Shaw, pull out his repeater and fire four or five times at a young gentleman named Fernandez Pope, here, in broad daylight. Another case of that sort occurred some four or five months ago. It was the case of a negro drawing his knife and chasing his employer and his brother out of the field; to use his own language, he made them “whoop for the landing." That was his expression in his statement of the facts. I might mention still another case, of George Triplet, who got mad with the manager of General Harris's plantation, took a club and beat him half to death. The manager's name was Winston. I saw him in town a few days ago, and on his head was a terrible gash. The negro had beat him senseless. The negro is in town now.
The chairman questioned the witness about the two other cases and then returned to the one involving the bowie knife, about which he seemed to have forgotten the details.
Question. What was done with the four or five men who made this attack upon the white men in the field and ran them off -- the case you mentioned after Shaw?

Answer. There was only one negro engaged in that; one negro ran two white men off. The case was tried and the jury acquitted the party on the ground that one of the white men had a pistol in his pocket, and if he was such an infamous coward as to allow that, he ought to have been killed. So one or two of the jury stated to me; that when a white man would permit a negro to run him out of his own field with a bowie-knife, and the fact was developed that the white man was at that time armed with a pistol, they had no sympathy with him, and the negro had been in jail for three or four months, and I think it was the sense of the jury that he was rather a plucky fellow, while the other was rather a coward, and the negro had done about right.

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