A HOWL FROM LYNCH.
[From the Colored Citizens’ Monthly.]
A most desperate attempt was made to assassinate me at Lexington, Holmes county, Miss., Saturday, March 13th. I visited that place in company with Rev. Scarborough, Messrs. Frederic Stewart, Jordan, Weatherby and Archey Hartley, arriving at 2 o’clock P.M., for the purpose of holding quarterly meeting. By permission of Col. Weston, sheriff of the county, the use of the courthouse was obtained. I appointed Rev. E. Scarborough, to preach Saturday night. Services commenced at eight o’clock. The courthouse was filled with colored persons mainly; about thirteen whites occupied seats near the door, some of whom indulged in very loud whispering and laughing. One man asked the question “which is Lynch?” another answered with an oath, “They are all Lynches.” This was done in a tone of voice audible all over the room. About the time Rev. Scarborough commenced to preach, five or six white men passed from the main courtroom into the jury room, where they remained fourteen minutes; they came out hurriedly and went downstairs. One minute afterward, the report of a gun or pistol was heard – evidently proceeding from the rear of the courthouse, and a ball entered the window against which we were sitting, about two inches above our head, and in a perpendicular line with our position. Two pistol shots were fired after this, by some person or persons in the main hall, in front of the courtroom. Intense excitement prevailed, and I hastily left the courthouse between my friends, Messrs. Weatherby and Stewart. There were strong indications that the firing was deliberately planned, and a part of a pre-determined measure to destroy me. I then called on the colored people for protection, and seventeen strong, valiant men, were immediately armed, ready to die in my defence. I sent for the sheriff, and so critical did he adjudge the situation, that at my earnest solicitation, he remained with me until day-break. The scenes of the entire night proved the wisdom of the precaution taken; for about twelve or fifteen men were continually in motion around about my lodgings, and from thence to a drinking saloon, which was kept open until daylight; they, also, kept a light burning in the courthouse during the entire night. Their imprecations upon me, were heard by the sheriff and by the men guarding me. Several stood and counted the number of men picketing outside, and the chances of making a successful attack duly canvassed.
Three of the citizens called on me immediately after the firing, and sought to make me believe that it was simply some torpedoes thrown into the room by rude boys; but what man does not know the sound of a gun or pistol? They stated that there were no bullet-marks; but day-light showed the bullet-hole in the pane of glass. Certainly if torpedoes had been fired, some fragments of them would have been seen, but there was not the slightest sign of anything of the kind. The constable of the town declared that two shots were fired in the Courthouse yard, and then stated that they were fired into the lower steps.
Sunday morning I left this delectable locality, though hundreds of colored persons had gathered for meeting. As I was about to leave, lawyer Gwin pledged protection. It is a significant fact, that when this protection was needed – when the firing at the courthouse was distinctly heard all over the town – heard by the sheriff who was at the time in his bed – when a gang paraded the streets until day-break with apparent hostile intent – it was not offered.
I went to Lexington to perform ministerial duty, and neither by word or look, directly or indirectly, did I manifest anything but the most kindly and considerate feeling for the citizens. My only offense was that I was a Radical, and a representative of “The Northern Church.”
Free speech and religious toleration does not exist in Mississippi. A man is not secure in his person, on a highway, and back from the railroads, if he is known to be an active preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States, or a Radical of public influence. Of this the above facts are the proof.
Everybody knows that the civil authorities are powerless or indisposed, in all cases, to afford the necessary protection.
I propose to test the matter; whether free speech is to be allowed or not. Whether the colored man shall enjoy the right of attaching himself to any Church organization he may choose. I am prepared to prove that a prominent individual, of large influence, (whose name I have) in Carroll county, has said I should not officiate in that county. And I expect to be attack when I go there to preach.
This opposition is insane and wicked. I am seeking the elevation of my race. Preaching, instructing, and organizing schools for them. I go to localities where there is no school or church; where men take special pains to teach the black man to degrade himself by encouraging him to drink and spend the nights in dancing, that should be spent in the school-room. Every man who is not a fool knows that the moral, intellectual, and religious elevation of the race is my aim, and they who oppose me do so because they are opposed to the work.