Benton – Events

1955 Lynchings

After the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, several gentlemen of the Benton County area were lynched in association with Till’s death. Oliver Maxey, the Panam Brothers, John Henry Remmer, and Jones and Hugh Smith were lynched.

Church Burnings of Benton County

(1960s) In the summer of 1964, civil rights workers conducted their first meeting at Mt. Zion CME. Meetings took place at several churches in the area, and many churches were later burned or vandalized. Everett Chapel was one of the many churches burned. Vandalism did not stop civil rights activity in the county.

Economic Coercion in Benton County

(1960s) Following the church burnings, many were frightened because they feared for their lives as well as their jobs. It was said that if anyone was found attending meetings or associating with civil rights workers or organizations such as COFO, SNCC, or CORE, they would lose their jobs.

Voter Registration in Benton County

(1960s) Walter Reaves, a citizen of Benton, along with others, urged people to become registered voters during the Civil Rights Movement. Cleanna Tipler, Loyal W. Thompson, Sr., and Henry Reaves were some of the first to register to vote in Benton County. Many followed, though they were often unsuccessful and sometimes intentionally turned away. On numerous occasions blacks were given difficult tests consisting of questions from the constitution and other federal documents. Knowing that people did not often read the Constitution and that the blacks often had little education, officials were able to prevent blacks from registering.

J.B. Mathis, the voter registrar, blatantly set up roadblocks to keep people from becoming registered voters. On December 1, 1964, Mathis was ordered by the federal court in Oxford, Mississippi, to stop his discriminatory acts towards the blacks. Although ordered by the federal court, Mathis still turned away a significant number of potential black voters.

Sources:

My Mind Stayed on Freedom, a film by Aviva Futorian