Louis Allen, a World War II soldier with a seventh-grade education who always spoke up for his rights, lived in Liberty, Mississippi. He was one of the few Black landowners in Liberty, and he owned a small wood company. Allen was noted for constantly wearing a hat, which he used to show that he was always confident in himself.
He didn’t go looking for trouble, but it found him. Allen saw the assassination of NAACP leader and SNCC supporter Herbert Lee by Eugene Hurst, a powerful state politician, on September 25, 1961. Allen was walking by an old cotton mill when he noticed local Black activist Lee, who was unarmed but had an unlit cigarette in his lips, exchanging words with White legislator Hurst.
Allen stood there watching Hurst fire and murder Lee, but he was persuaded by local law enforcement to lie about the shooting and claim self-defense. Allen testified that he saw Lee with a tire iron in his hand, aiming to attack Hurst. According to an SNCC investigation, the same authorities who forced Allen to lie reported they found a piece of iron under Lee’s body. The next day, the coroner’s jury exonerated Hurst.
Allen, on the other hand, was “uncomfortable” with the lie he told. He told SNCC organizer Bob Moses, “I didn’t want to convey no story about the dead because you can’t ask the dead for forgiveness.” Allen chose to tell the truth at the grand jury session, which would look into the conclusions of the coroner jury. He realized he was about to put his life in danger by implicating a powerful White man in the murder of a Black man, so he requested government protection, which he did not receive.
According to a memo published by CBS News from FBI files, “Allen changed his story” and “expressed fear that he might be killed”. Allen was even scheduled to meet with Justice Department officials by SNCC leader Moses, but since Allen was refused protection, he decided not to testify. Nonetheless, Liberty officials learned that Allen was willing to testify. After that, officials and White residents harassed Allen for years.
Local White homeowners reportedly ceased doing business with his logging enterprise, according to reports. Deputy sheriff Daniel Jones, whose father was a Ku Klux Klan leader, hounded and detained Allen on fabricated charges, and attacked him outside his home on one occasion. Hank Allen recently told CBS News about the night Jones assaulted his father.
He had handcuffed him and informed him that he was being detained. As a result, Daddy requested his hat. ‘No, you can’t go fetch your hat,’ he told Daddy. ‘Well, my kid is on the porch, can he bring me my hat?’ replied Daddy. He drew back, grabbed a torch, and attacked my father, breaking his jawbone. Hank Allen said, “Handcuffed.”
His father Allen filed complaints and testified in front of a federal grand jury about Jones’s terrible treatment of him, but his complaints were disregarded. The harassment persisted.
“They [the cops] had someone out to my house all the time ‘watching’ me,” Allen stated in a 1962 affidavit describing some of the occurrences. He begged for assistance, requesting that “this situation… be probed immediately because if not, this type of intimidation will continue.”
However, nothing was done to help him. Allen intended to leave Liberty and work in another state at one time, but he couldn’t due of outstanding bills and his mother’s illness. Sadly, his mother died. He started making plans to depart Liberty after she died.
He was slain on January 31, 1964, the night before he was to leave. After getting out of his pickup to unlock the livestock gate that led to his land, Allen was ambushed. Hank Allen, his son, discovered his father’s body.
“I couldn’t understand why he’d park his truck in the center of the driveway and leave it there.” I then climbed into the truck. The headlights were a little dull. And then I stepped on something as I was getting out of the truck. And it was then when I trod on my father’s hand. Hank Allen told CBS News, “He was lying up under the truck.”
Following Allen’s death, Jones, who had previously harassed and threatened Allen’s life, was appointed as the case’s primary investigator. “He [Jones] informed my mother that if Louis had just shut up, he wouldn’t have been lying on the ground.” Hank Allen stated, “He wouldn’t be dead.”
Allen’s murder is still unsolved. Jones was the prime suspect, but he denied any involvement in the crime. He told CBS News in 2011 that he “wasn’t involved in it.”
According to research undertaken by Peonage Detective Dr. Antoinette Harrell, Allen’s family revealed last year that he was sold for $20 as a youngster in 1926. Harrell, a well-known historian and researcher, discovered a newspaper item revealing that Allen and his family were enslaved during the twentieth century. Allen, his parents, and two brothers were kidnapped and sold for $20 to a farm in Fluker, Louisiana, in Amite County, Mississippi.