During Reconstruction, President Andrew Johnson sent a militia of approximately 100 blacks with a white captain to Canton. While the soldiers were there, the city marshal found it necessary to jail several of the men for drunkenness. When the other black soldiers heard of it, they demanded the release of their comrades. The jailer refused their demand, and the black soldiers beat him to death and released those who were jailed.
White vengeance for that violence was not long in coming. As they drilled in the courthouse square, they were attacked and overpowered by Klansmen. Black soldiers, both dead and alive, were loaded onto a freight car bound for the North. Because of such incidents, black soldiers were recalled from duty in the South.
In the confrontation between the Klansmen and the black soldiers, one Klan member –Hugh Lawson- was killed. The black man who shot Lawson was sentenced to life, but never made it to jail.
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Townsend Davis, Weary Feet, Rested Souls: A Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Mead, Carol Lynn. The Land Between Two Rivers: Madison County, Mississippi. Canton, MS: Friends of the Madison Countyâ€”Canton Public Library, 1987.
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Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.