JUNE 7, 1875

Portrait of Sheriff Peter Crosby by high school student Michael Neal, winner of a Black History Month Art contest, May 21, 2015. Credit: Courtesy Warren County Sheriff

Peter Crosby, a Black sheriff, was shot in the head in the wake of the Vicksburg Massacre in which armed White Leagues overthrew the Reconstruction government in Mississippi, killing as many as 300 Black Americans they regarded as a threat, including some of Crosby’s deputies. 

President Ulysses S. Grant had sent troops to quell the violence and enable the sheriff’s safe return. After Crosby returned, a white deputy shot him in the head. Although the sheriff survived, he never recovered, and the deputy who shot him was never prosecuted. 

The event became part of the Mississippi Plan —violence, terror and corruption to restore white supremacy. Grant decided against sending in any more troops and whatever hope Reconstruction offered Black Mississippians was soon dashed.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.