After Slavery: Educator Resources

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1. A White Texas Farmer Shoots a Freedman

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Five: Conservatives Respond to Emancipation in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

It should never be forgotten that the first (and sometimes the last) response of many southern whites to emancipation was violence. It could hardly have been otherwise for these men and women who were raised in a society where violence against African Americans was condoned and even considered a salutary part of the slave system, coarsened and embittered by four years of war and destruction, and trying to deal with the shame of defeat in a culture governed by honor. This violence took all sorts of forms and was endemic in the first year after the war, particularly in the chaotic summer of 1866 following the collapse of the Confederacy. It is rare that we have the opportunity to hear the voices of those committing and suffering this violence, and the document below, from Texas rather than the Carolinas, is nearly unique in that sense, though the situation it describes was all too typical.

A White Texas Farmer Shoots a Freedman

Evidence taken at Liberty Tex- Apil 20 1866-

Charles W. Brown Freedman vs }
D. B. Whitesides- }

Statement of Brown- "That on the 13th of June 1865-Mr Whitesides a farmer, near West Liberty, Liberty Co. Tex. came into the field, where he was working, and accosted him as follows"- "Well Brown they say your free"-

"They tell me so Master" Said Brown- "Yes" Said Whiteside, "but d-d little good it will do you-as I intend to shoot you"-at the same time drawing a large revolving pistol- "Now" Said he W-"I want you to start for those woods, and when I count 10 I intend to Shoot you"- "Needless were my implorings for Mercy" Said B. "as he informed me he would not wait, but shoot me where I stood"- "I then Started to run, but before I made 6 steps, I fell shot through the breast"- He then rode up, "well Said he, I got you did I Brown"? "Yes" answerd Brown- "Have I got you good"? asked W. "Yes" answerd B-You've got me good"- "That's right" Said W-"It will learn you G-d niggers to put on airs because your free"- "He then left me lying in the broiling sun" Said Brown-"and as soon as able I crawled to a house of some Colord people-who assisted me and I got well." To the question if he sufferd any from the wound, he informed me that "he sufferd much"- The ball passed in near the Spine & out through the right breast- Brown is quite intelligent, and acted as Asst- teacher of the "Freedmens School" at Liberty by my appointment- As Mr Brown is poor and renderd unable to labor by the inhumanity of Mr Whiteside, I hope the latter may be made to support him Brown- Mr Browns residence is "Sour Lake" Jeff. Co Tex-

Source: "Statement of Charles W. Brown," April 20, 1866, enclosed in Capt. Frank Holsinger to Brvt. Maj. Genl. Kiddoo, Oct. 20, 1866, Letters Received, ser. 15, Washingto, D. C., Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.


Questions to Consider

  1. Can you ascertain any particular reason why Whitesides decided to shoot Brown?

  2. How does Brown attempt to defuse the situation?

  3. What might account for the delay between the shooting and when the evidence was taken?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Five