Hubert Orsby

Background

On or about September 10, 1964, the body of Hubert Orsby (aka Herbert Oarsby), 14-years-old, was found floating in the Big Black River near Highway 51 in Canton, Mississippi. Orsby was likely from New Orleans, Louisiana, and was in Canton visiting his grandparents.  Reports state that he was wearing a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) t-shirt at the time of his death.  Violent attacks on civil rights workers were prevalent in the Canton area at the time.  On or about September 7, the day Orsby disappeared, a black youth was seen being forced at gunpoint into a pickup truck driven by a white man.  That same day, dynamite charges were set at two grocery stores patronized by the black community, in response to a boycott of white merchants in the area.  During the evening, eight black Canton residents involved in the civil rights movement were arrested at a downtown hotel.

In 1963, CORE focused its efforts on Canton, the largest town in Madison County.  Led by George Raymond and Matt “Flukey” Suarez, CORE workers organized a successful voter registration campaign during the summer of 1963.  In response, they faced harassment and intimidation from police and local whites.  Molotov cocktails were frequently thrown at the Freedom House, CORE’s headquarters in Canton, churches were burned, and CORE leaders were arrested and put in jail.  Demonstrations began in February 1964, when organizers launched a major campaign, including a set of three “Freedom Days,” which combined a rally, a march, and mass voter registration.  The Monday after the first Freedom Day, 2,625 students boycotted at the junior and senior high schools, protesting a range of deplorable conditions.  The Canton police raided the Freedom House and arrested twelve leaders suspected of having connections to the boycott.  “Freedom Summer,” a campaign to register as many blacks as possible to vote in Mississippi was organized in June 1964.  During Freedom Summer, there were thirty-two incidents of assault against civil rights workers in Madison County, nine churches were burned, and ordinances were passed to prevent further organizing, like prohibitions on picketing and leafleting.

Legal Status

A coroner’s jury ruled Orsby’s death an accidental drowning.  As of April 12, 2010, the case was listed as closed on the FBI Cold Case List.