Friday, August 22, 2008

The Camilia Masacre - Black Freedmen Shot Down By Whites In Georgia

First the historical facts around the issue:

On September 19, 1868, violence broke out in the small town of Camilla, Georgia. Referred to as the Battle of Camilla, the Camilla Massacre, or the Camilla Riot, it was neither the first, nor the only incident of violence in the area, but it is the most notorious with long term implications for race relations in Mitchell County, the State of Georgia, and the New South.

Against a backdrop of Reconstruction politics, the Camilla Riot broke out on the day scheduled for a Republican political rally in Camilla at the Mitchell County courthouse. Republican speakers William P. Pierce, a congressional candidate from the district, John Murphy, the party elector, and F.F. Putney, a local party member, among others, set out from Albany with a bandwagon headed for Camilla. Included in the group was Philip Joiner, one of the thirty-two freedmen expelled from the state legislature in earlier that month. As they went, they gathered a crowd of between two to four hundred freedmen and women from the surrounding area. A number of freedmen, though probably fewer than half, carried with them either walking sticks or guns loaded with squirrel or birdshot. When the procession came within three to five miles of Camilla, they were met by Mitchell County Sheriff, Mumford S. Poore, who told them that he would not allow them to enter the town with firearms. Despite assurances of peaceful intentions from Pierce and Murphy, Sheriff Poore returned to Camilla and formed a posse of white townsmen to await the group's arrival. At the same time, Pierce and Murphy did not advise the freedmen to leave their walking sticks and shotguns, but continued on for Camilla as before, thereby setting the stage for conflict.

Coming into town, the group met James Johns. Johns, who was drunk at the time, ordered the band to stop playing, and when they did not, he fired his gun. Though accounts vary on the intent and direction of the shots, all agree that it was Johns who fired first, and most saw Johns fire purposefully, straight into the bandwagon. After the first shots, the other white townspeople joined in firing on the crowd. The Republicans and freedmen returned fire for less than two or three minutes before fleeing the scene into the surrounding woods. The Sheriff's men spent the rest of that day and several days following systematically pursuing the freedmen through the countryside as many as five miles from town and wounding or killing them as they tried to escape. According to documents collected by local agents of the government relief agency, the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands, at least nine freedmen were killed, and as many as twenty-five to thirty were wounded. No whites were killed or seriously wounded.

Following the incident, Freedmen's Bureau agents began the task of thoroughly documenting the event. Bureau members O.H. Howard, Christian Raushenberg, William Mills, and others chronicled the incident with letters to superiors, witness affidavits, and reports in an attempt to secure justice and greater protection for the freedmen in Mitchell County. The agency considered bringing in troops to calm the situation, but political difficulties prevented the Bureau from getting either justice or the support of government troops. No one was ever tried in the deaths of the freedmen in the riot. In the end, the presence of the Freedmen's Bureau itself was short-lived, as its role was greatly diminished in December of 1868, and by June of 1872 it was entirely abolished.

Now fast forward to the year 2008. History has come to life but the "gun grabbers" now think of themselves as the good guys.

AJC: Law banning guns at ‘public gatherings’ has racist past, group claims

Next month is the 140th anniversary of the Camilla Massacre, when a group largely made up of blacks heading to a Southwest Georgia Republican political rally were shot up by white locals after being warned not to bring guns to town.

Gun-rights advocates say the September 1868 massacre, in which at least nine freedmen were killed and up to 25-30 were wounded, led the General Assembly to ban citizens from carrying firearms at political rallies and other “public gatherings.” The aim, they say, was to keep guns away from blacks.

“It was entirely about race,” said Ed Stone, president of

But many African-American lawmakers don’t see the “public gatherings” law as a civil rights issue. In fact, at the Capitol, black lawmakers have been some of the leading backers of gun-control legislation over the years.

One, Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), called GeorgiaCarry’s use of the Camilla massacre “deeply offensive.”

“It’s very cynical, even more-so when you understand that in many African-American demographics, gun homicides are the number one cause of death,” Fort said. “To have these people use the history of discrimination against African-Americans going back 140 years to say this is why we need to have guns in churches, restaurants and schools …. where is this going to end?

As usual Senator Fort has it wrong. Where as in the past Blacks were slaughtered for the lack of a means to protect ourselves, today we have too many Black people using firearms to kill other Blacks. This is not a problem with firearms. This is a problem with the consciousness of those who are killing Black people.

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