It was uncommon for a Black individual to hold a substantial piece of land in the early to mid-1900s. Regardless, in Amite County, Mississippi, Reverend Isaac Simmons held more than 270 acres of debt-free land. Since 1887, Simmons’ family is reported to have owned the land, growing crops and selling timber. It wasn’t long, though, before word got out that there was oil in southwest Mississippi.
Then a group of six white men arrived on Simmons’ property and cautioned him not to remove any more trees. Simmons then consulted an attorney to resolve the disagreement and ensure that his property would transfer to his children after he died.
Later, the same individuals went to Eldridge Simmons, Simmons’ oldest son, and demanded that he show them the property line. The men began to beat Eldridge on the way to the property line, shouting that Simmons’ family thought they were “smart niggers” for consulting a lawyer. The men proceeded to Reverend Simmons’ house, took him out, and drove him away from the property in the car.
The men went ahead to shoot Simmons three times, cut out his tongue, and give his son ten days to vacate the land. Reverend Simmons was buried three days later, and his family fled the land. As a result, the land was taken over by the men who assassinated the reverend. Later, the only one out of the six men charged with murder was acquitted by an all-white jury.
This type of racial terror was common from the early 1900s until the mid-1900s, as white mobs frightened Black people in order to maintain economic domination and racial hierarchy. The majority of these crimes went unpunished by the law, and they were frequently praised by community leaders and citizens.
We have been able to locate a few sources that hold accounts of this sad history. But we believe there is more to be learned from this story, as the details available are scanty, meaning much has been hidden from the public.
We are calling on anyone who has a more robust account of this story to come forward. Please add them to our comment section, so we can update our current account, and hopefully get to call out the names of the white men who killed him and took his land. The white families should still be benefitting from those lands.
“Figure 2f from: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic Revision of Rochefortia Sw. (Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e7720. Https://Doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e7720
Mississippi: White Men Kill Black Minister and Steal Over 270 Acres of Land. [online] Black Then. Available at: https://blackthen.com/mississippi-white-men-kill-black-landowner-minister-and-steal-over-270-acres-of-land/