Featured Case: Rev. Isaac Simmons

Background

Rev. Isaac Simmons, a minister, was lynched on March 26, 1944, in Amite County, Mississippi.

In the 1940s, Simmons controlled 278 acres of debt-free land, some of which had been owned by the family since 1887. He and other relatives farmed the property and lived on it in relative peace. In 1941, rumors about oil spread across Southwest Mississippi, and a few white men, thinking there might be oil on it, began to make claims on the Simmons land.

Concerned that his family might lose its property, Simmons contacted an attorney. A few weeks after he hired the lawyer, two men approached Simmons and ordered him to stop cutting timber on his property. The men also wanted the medicinal formula that Simmons, who served as the local medicine man, had created to treat a livestock disease. Simmons refused to comply with the men. A few weeks later a group of six men dragged Simmons from his home, beat him and then shot him to death. According to Simmons’ son, who was abducted and beaten at the same time but survived, the men called Simmons a “smart N—r” because he had the temerity to consult with a lawyer.

Legal Status

The FBI investigated the Simmons lynching and turned the results over to local authorities. A state grand jury returned indictments against six men. The case proceeded to trial against one of the defendants. He was acquitted. The prosecutor then obtained dismissals of the remaining cases.

Simmons’ family scattered in the wake of the murder, leaving the land behind.