On May 2, 1948, Hosea “Shant” Carter was lynched in Marion County, Mississippi.
Nearly 75 years later, his son honored his legacy. With the support of CRRJ, he held a memorial service that brought together family and community members in remembrance.
“My prayer before I leave this world is that I can help to restore the honor and dignity that was taken from him in life,” said Jimmie Dale Carter.
Hosea “Shant” Carter was born in 1915 and raised in a family of 11 children, including younger brothers Eddie and William. As an adult, he served in the military and worked as a carpenter in Marion County, Mississippi.
He had four children with his wife Earnestine Carter: Florine, Donna Fay, Jimmie Dale, and Lavern. It was a household that was described as “close-knit,” warm, and kind.
But the family was destroyed when Carter was shot in the chest on May 2, 1948.
According to accounts, on the day of the murder Carter had been hired to do some carpentry at the home of Charles Ray and Gisela Renfro. When a passerby spotted Gisela and Carter speaking together, he informed Charles Ray, who was working at the time with his employer, William Ratliff Prisk.
Two carloads of men, including Prisk and Renfro, pursued and shot Carter, who escaped but succumbed to his injuries in a wooded area.
Media accounts of the murder varied, with Black newspapers claiming that Carter was killed by a mob after being accused of making advances toward the white woman. Meanwhile, Marion County Deputy Sheriff T.W. White told newspapers that Carter was shot after he tried to break into a home on May 1. Seemingly contradicting the burglary story, White also declared that killing Carter was “what any decent white man would have done.”
A few weeks later, Hosea’s brother William Carter, who had vowed to seek revenge on the men who murdered his brother, was found burned to death in his car. Following Hosea Carter’s murder, Prisk was arrested and charged but released. None of the assailants ever faced trial.
The events still haunt Jimmie Carter all these years later.
“It never leaves me,” he said. “I can see it in my mind’s eye as if it were yesterday.”
Determined to honor his father’s legacy, Jimmie Carter, who relocated to Chicago years ago, went on a weeklong journey. His first stop was New Orleans, where he was interviewed by Ada Goodly of the Southern University Law Center, along with Victoria Ardoin and Whitley Parker, Southern University Law Center students and participants in the Burnham Honors Cohort. Carter then traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, visiting local churches and the African American Military History Museum. He also cleaned up his father’s grave site.
Finally, Mr. Carter organized the memorial in his father’s honor at the Sunflower Missionary Baptist Church. There, Mr. Carter was interviewed by Tougaloo College students LaChassity Jackson and Blaise Adams, also participants in the Burnham Honors Cohort. Now, Carter is working to obtain a new headstone and hold a gravesite dedication for his father.
Through this work, Jimmie Carter hopes to bring some semblance of justice for his father, who he said would be “proud…so very proud” of his advocacy.
Cover Photo: Jimmie Carter addresses the Sunflower Missionary Baptist Church in Marion County, Mississippi