Hamilton and Purman report only two murders, but white perpetrated violence is on the rise and increasingly organized. The local judiciary is firmly established as an agent of white domination and black subjugation.
Immediately upon Charles Hamilton’s arrival in Marianna, he observed the harassment of the white school teacher at the Freedman’s Bureau school in Marianna.
George Brammer (white), “the teacher here [Marianna] is frequently annoyed” and was “harassed by 4 young men threatening to arrest him.”
John Bate (white) of Jackson Co. “struck a freedwoman laborer in the face with a stick and ordered the freedwoman’s mother, Lucinda Poges [?] to correct her daughter for her insolence.” Lucinda protested. When Lucinda attempted to prevent Bate’s wife from throwing her possessions out of the house, “Bate’s son struck her on the arm, Bate struck her on the head and the dog bit her, hurting her severely.” Bate turned the family, husband, wife and child out of his plantation (CMH to TWO 2/28/66). Bate and his son were tried for assault and battery before the county criminal court. The son was acquitted and, Bate was fined five cents and costs. A month later Lucinda had still not recovered from her injuries. (CMH to JL McHenry, March 31, 66)
Attacks on the Freedmen’s School in Marianna continued, but this time the freedmen began to show evidence that they were organizing themselves and standing up to the intimidation:
“The night school has been frequently disturbed. Report of mob calling out Brammer from the school house, menacing him with four revolvers and expressions of shooting him if he not promise to quite the place and close the school. The Freedman came promptly to his aid and the mob dispersed.”
“About the 18 or 19 of April: This same mob threatened to destroy the school that night, and the freedmen hearing this, assembled for self-defense. Not less than forty
colored men armed to protect themselves; but the preparations becoming known to the respectable rowdies, they only maneuvered about in small squads, and were wise enough to avoid a collision.” (CMH to JLMcHenry, 4/30/66)
Hamilton and Purman receive reports of “abuse, imposition, and assault and battery, on freedmen.” Certain whites are “too ready to inflict the most shameful treatment on the least whim or custom, or provocation whatever.” A particular source of tension is the continuing practice of white employers punishing freedman children, “which punishment, it is reasonable to believe is often cruel and unnecessary.”
Violent opposition in Greenwood and Campbellton to establishment of Freedman’s schools is so intense “that no teacher is willing to brave their fury in opening a school.” (WJP to CMH 5/31/66)
Whites object to reports of upcoming celebration by freedmen to commemorate July 4th.
“Curses were showered upon the Bureau and freed-men, - swearing that they would shoot the men who carried the pictures and the flag, and, vi et armis, oppose the celebration.”
(CMH to JLM 6/30/66) [Celebration passed off peacefully].
Harassment of Freedmen by local law enforcement and supported by the judiciary is by now in full effect:
“Civil authorities are too prone to arrest the freed people for trivial offenses and petty ‘crimes.’ They do not certainly enjoy the privileges or liberties extended to the white citizens. They have no conscience against arresting and fining the freed-people to the full extent of the law for petty offenses against the State or individuals, and looking over them if committed by “my people.” I do not say that in doing this the Authorities transgress the law, or overstept it, - but I do say that partiality is shown. The freedpeople are sometimes fined excessively, from which the county treasury is replenished – and yet they to not get the benefit of the funds – especially the poor funds.” (CMH to JLM 7/31/66)
Practice of requiring pre-payment of all court fees “is an effectual, impediment in the way of prosecutions for assault and battery on freedpeople, while cases of this character are becoming more numerous and aggravated.” “A disposition prevails among these petty magistrates and the people of their respective communities, to colleague and prevent as far as possible all prosecutions against white persons . . . and to watch every freedman with a lynx-eyed scrutiny, and on the slightest pretext arraign him before the authorities, and visit him with the extremest penalty of the law.”
An assault and battery was committed on Mary Jane Baker (freedwoman) by William. Parker (white). Justice Hughes refused to issue a warrant until the fee of six dollars should be prepaid. In about ten days, having raised the money, Baker applied again, when, on pre-payment, the warrant was issued. Parker was arrested, tried and fined $5.00.
The wife of Robert Cody (freedman) was beaten and assaulted and he was driven violently from the plantation of his employer, Cullin Curl without justifiable cause. When Cody sought redress, Judge Milton of the Criminal Court held the Freedmen’s Bureau approved contract invalid and Cody “became involved in twenty five dollars cost.” (WJP to CMH 9/29/66)
From the Columbus Daily Enquirer: "A difficulty occurred betwenn Wash. Melvin and ELIAS HAMMOND, about twelve miles west of Marianna, Fla., in which several shots were exchanged. Hammond was wounded in the thigh, of which he died a few days after. Melvin had two of his fingers shot off and his arm badly injured. Have no heard the cause of the quarrel." [9/18/66]
Many cases of mal-treatment & shameful abuses…Assault & Battery – almost always without provocation – is frequent.”
TWO FREEDMEN are reported to have been way-laid and killed in this county, within the month. One was shot walking in the public road – the other while hunting in the woods, near Campbellton. No arrests made. (CMH to EC Woodruff, 12/31/66)
Dr. Ethelred Philips of Marianna reported that one of the men murdered had been ambushed by planters who suspected him of stealing corn. (E. Philips to J. Philips, 12/19/66)