Clinton, MS

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Clinton Riot of 1875

Dr. Otis W. Pickett of Mississippi College lends historical insight into the Clinton Riot of 1875

As I puttered around Jennings Hall waiting for Dr. Otis Pickett to return from class, I occupied myself by watching the renovation crew steadily apply fresh mortar to the brickwork that defines the century old former dormitory. It must have been quite a labor to remove the mortar that bound together those ancient clay bricks.

The irony was not lost on me. Just as the crumbling mortar had been chiseled and scraped out, and the noon sun was creeping into the cracks of brick which had seen no sunlight for a century; so too, local historians like Dr. Pickett work to shine the light of day into a dark crevice of Clinton’s past. I was visiting my friend Otis to learn about the Clinton Riot of 1875 – a tumultuous massacre leading to the assassination of Senator Charles Caldwell and the end of Reconstruction in Mississippi.

Scattered about Dr. Pickett’s office are memorabilia of the places he has lived and the lives of those that have touched him – lives which were undoubtedly blessed by his friendship as mine has been. Dr. Pickett has served on the planning committee for the upcoming Riot of 1875 Symposium, Commemoration, and Marker Placement – September 3rd and 4th (Thursday and Friday of this week). Others on the committee are Dr. Walter Howell, Vera Watson, Jackie Martin, Missy Jones, Jocylynn Coleman, Dr. Doug Richardson, Marsha Barham, Tara Lytal, James Anderson, and Mark Jones.

 

Assembled at the request of Mayor Fisher, the committee has spent the past 8 months planning and working towards the marker unveiling, which is to take place this Friday at 10 am downtown. Part of the ceremony will be a reading of Dr. Howell’s “Voices of the Clinton Riot” - a dramatic telling of the various historical accounts, much of which is gathered from the Boutwell Report – the outcome of a Senate investigative committee’s work following the 1875 riot.  

Under the direction of James Anderson, a company of Clintonians will read the compelling narrative aloud, reenacting the events of the day in vivid detail. Senator Caldwell’s great-grandchildren will be in attendance at the unveiling. The marker will be placed at the corner of Leake and Jefferson - The site of the old Chilton store where Sen. Caldwell was assassinated.

In addition to the unveiling ceremony, Dr. Pickett and Missy Jones decided to create an event that would help us process the history and have a discussion about the impact of that history in this community over time. The idea was to invite people who do history but also do racial reconciliation in the state, and also to open up dialogue with African American members of this community to learn how it affects them.

What we have to understand is history creates empathy and understand that people in reconstruction are coming out of a particular context.
— Dr. Otis W. Pickett

Speakers

  • Dr. Walter Howell, Ph.D – Official Town Historian
  • Neddie Winters – Clintonian and President of Mission Mississippi
  • William F. Winter - 57th Governor of Mississippi
  • Susan Glisson Ph.D - Director of the William Winter Institute | studies race and American history
  • Robert Clark – First African American elected to the Mississippi State Legislature since the Reconstruction era
  • Ottowa Carter J.D.– Clintonian with a long history of connection to people involved in the riot

The moderated event will provide a historical perspective and also model for the community how individuals can dialogue about race.

The symposium is Thursday evening 6pm in Swor Auditorium on the Mississippi College campus.


You can listen to the interview below


The marker will be placed at the intersection of Jefferson and Leake Streets. Can you explain the significance of that site?

Chilton refused to drag him into the street so he crawled the steps by himself into the street, and waiting on him were forty men with guns who all unloaded into his corpse. Forty shots

Why is this event important historically?

How do the events of the past affect Clinton today?

Why is it important to tell this history now?

How is memory -  of the Civil War and the Yankee occupation of Clinton in 1863 - significant to this discussion?

Was there a pursuit of justice for Caldwell?

Can you talk about the sources?

Why is this a good thing for Clinton?