Sunday, June 30, 2013

Whitecapping
Losing the Land

Photograph Courtesy of Library of Congress

My folks participated in the American dream of owning land. They purchased as much land as they could afford. I think the earliest I found family members purchasing land was in 1869 when Joe Goodwin paid $500 for 80 acres in Copiah County, MS. Elizabeth Bryant and her family purchased 80 acres in 1871 for $12 and one bale of cotton in Jefferson County, MS. Many of them purchased their first acreage during the 1880s and 1890s.

Those who did not hold on to the land, lost the land for not paying taxes due to various reasons. A few members of my extended family lost their land through terror, whitecapping.

Whitecapping is the crime of threatening a person with violence. Ordinarily, members of the minority groups are the victims of whitecapping. Persons are threatened in order to stop or move them away from engaging in certain businesses or occupations.

In the South, White Cap societies were generally made up of poor white farmers, frequently sharecroppers and small landowners, who intended to control black laborers and prevent merchants from acquiring more land. These societies in the South made it their task to attempt to force a person to abandon his home or property. This racial character of whitecapping in the South is thought to have been ignited by the agricultural depression in the 1890s that occurred around the same time. With all of the attention centered on producing cotton, the South’s economy became very unbalanced. Many farmers went into debt and lost their lands to merchants through mortgage foreclosures. The merchants and their black laborers and sometimes new white tenants became quick targets for the dispossessed, who seemed to be losing everything. Racism contributed to the problem as well, prosperous black men in the South frequently faced resentment that could be expressed violently. From Wikipedia

On Amanuensis Monday, I'll share a newspaper article on Eli Hilson, a farmer in Lincoln County, Mississippi, who was murdered because he did not limit his aspirations to laboring for whites. His independence was unacceptable to "whitecaps". He was warned to leave town, but remained on his place. He was assassinated while on the way home from town alone in his buggy.

Amanuensis Monday - Eli Hilson Assassinated by Whitecaps

5 comments:

  1. Looking forward to reading your post on Monday.

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  2. So depressing. I never heard of 'whitecapping" before but surely did hear of black land loss.

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    1. I had seen whitecaps in an article concerning the Lincoln County courthouse fire but didn't research the word until I saw it again in an article a cousin sent. I had never heard the word prior to the first article.

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  3. Depressing, but I am researching this practice in Arkansas now so I can share it with my students, thank you for the information. I love this blog, your work has opened dialogue between me and my daughters about my hometown.

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    1. It is depressing. So many stories of horror never made a headline. All the best with your students.

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