The Death of Louis Allen

Louis Allen was a proud man. He was also WWII veteran, a logger, and a landowner, something not many African Americans could say in Liberty, Mississippi in the early 1960s.

Death of Louis Allen

Louis Allen. Image via Wikipedia.

He was getting ready to leave Liberty soon, though. He had a lead on a job as a bulldozer operator in Milwaukee and he and his oldest son were planning to leave for Wisconsin on February 2, 1964. His wife, Elizabeth, and their other two children would stay with Elizabeth’s sister in Baton Rogue until things were settled in their new home. The move would be a welcome change for the family, not just because of the new career. Louis had experienced a lot of harassment over the past few years and they were eager for a fresh start.

Around 7:00 on the night of January 31, 1964, Louis went out to the home of a former employer to get a letter of recommendation while Elizabeth stayed home with their three-year-old daughter. Middle son, Henry, was out with his cousin.

Louis arrived at his former employer’s home and waited while the letter was written. After getting the letter and thanking him, Louis got back in his truck and headed home.

At 8:30, Elizabeth settled in to watch one of her favorite television programs. She would later recall this is when she heard something that sounded like gunshots. She didn’t go out to see what the commotion was about, though. Louis wasn’t home yet but he told her he wouldn’t be back until around 8:30 so she wasn’t concerned yet.

Henry and his cousin, John Horton, came home around 12:30 that morning, four hours after the shots were heard, and found Louis’ logging truck blocking the driveway. Henry called for his dad but got no response so he got out of the vehicle and walked to the drivers-side of the truck to move it. He stepped on his father’s hand.

Louis was lying in the driveway, underneath his truck, his head behind the front, drivers-side wheel. The truck’s lights were still on but the battery was almost dead.

Henry ran inside to tell his mother and called the police.

One source says that the boys drove straight to the home of Sheriff Daniel Jones to report the death, but soon you’ll see why that seems unlikely.

Regardless, Sheriff Jones and Dr. William Bridges arrived on the scene. They pronounced Louis dead almost immediately. It was obvious to the men that Louis had been killed by two loads of buckshot. The tire near his head was flat, presumably punctured by the same shots that killed him. Sheriff Jones stayed on the scene all night, securing the crime scene and questioning Elizabeth. When the sun came up, he performed a search of the crime scene and dusted the truck for fingerprints. No unmatched prints, shotgun shells, or other physical evidence was found.

Investigators wanted to know if Louis mentioned feeling threatened recently. His wife and sons said no, there had been no indication that he felt he was in physical danger.

They hit a dead end but they said they’d keep investigating.

54 years later, Louis Allen’s death is still a cold case.

The night of his murder wasn’t the first time Louis had been in the middle of a police investigation and it wasn’t the first time Sheriff Jones came into contact with Louis.

On September 30, 1961, two and a half years before his death, Louis witnessed the murder of Herbert Lee. Lee, a voting rights activist, was trying to register voters in Liberty, MS when he was killed by state representative E.H. Hurst, a staunch segregationist. Even before Lee’s murder, it was known among Civil Rights activists that Liberty, MS was not a safe place to do this kind of work.

Hurst and Sheriff Jones began harassing Louis and other witnesses, pressuring them to testify that Hurst had acted in self-defense. The FBI file states that Louis told the truth in his official statement (that Lee was shot without provocation) but Julian Bond, a Civil Rights activist and friend of Louis’, stated that he lied and told the FBI that Hurst acted in self-defense. It seems as though Louis initially planned on stating that Hurst acted in self-defense for fear that his life would be in danger if he told the truth, but decided to state the truth in the end.

Eventually, the case went to trial and the all-white jury found Hurst innocent, stating that he acted in self-defense.

When Sheriff Jones learned about Louis’ statement to the FBI, he began a campaign of harassment. On June 30, 1962, Jones arrested Louis for “interfering with the law.” Louis’ jaw was broken in two places during the arrest. The following month, Louis would give an affidavit to the Justice Department, describing the attack and arrest. An African-American man lodging a complaint against a white deputy was unheard of in 1960s Mississippi and took an unbelievable amount of courage.

In the end, the case was thrown out.

In August of the same year, Louis and two other black men attempted to register to vote in Amite County. Jones turned them away.

After his death, it would be reported that Louis had been involved in voter registration activities that may have resulted in his death. His wife, sons, and acquaintances denied that he had ever been involved in such activities. The FBI files on the case state that there had been no voter registration activities in the entire county since 1961.

Regardless, February of 1963 brought tragedy on an even bigger scale. Leo McKnight, his wife, pregnant daughter, and son-in-law died in a house fire. McKnight had previously worked for Louis Allen and some said that Jones had warned McKnight to stay away from Louis. While Jones was never irrefutably linked to the fire, many suspect it was part of his vendetta against Louis (although I will say that I don’t think burning down the house of a former employee and murdering four people is the way that most people would exact revenge on someone.)

At this point, I feel it’s relevant to tell you that in a 1964 letter from Amite County resident J.D. Smith to friends, he states that Sheriff Jones’ father is the head of the county’s chapter of the KKK. (The CBS article linked above corroborates this.) Predictably this information was not present in the FBI file on the case. He also states that klan activity in Amite County is “more lunatic than usual” and the chapter is part of a “radical split from the United Klans.” This branch of the klan was more violent, “an offspring of the old White Caps of the Reconstruction period, and operate as an old fashioned kill, kill, kill terrorist organization.”

In his letter, Smith also states that there have been seven unsolved killings of “Negroes” in Amite and surrounding counties since Louis Allen’s death earlier the same year.

Klansman in Pike County, MS

United Klans of America Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton speaking before a crowd in Pike County, MS, next to Amite County, in May 1964. Image via Jackson Free Press.

Back to Louis’ timeline: in September 1963, over a year after his arrest for “interfering with the law”, Louis testified before a federal grand jury about the arrest that resulted in his broken jaw. The jury declined to indict Sheriff Jones.

Two months later, in November of 1963, Sheriff Jones arrested Louis on charges of a bouncing a check and carrying a concealed weapon. He was told he’d serve 3-5 years for the charges but after three weeks, he was released on an $800 bond, paid for by the NAACP.

And just two months after that, Louis was gunned down in his driveway.

In the 2011 CBS interview, Hank Allen remembered the night his father died, stating, “He [Sheriff Jones] told my mom that if Louis had just shut his mouth, that he wouldn’t be layin’ there on the ground. He wouldn’t be dead.”

Louis Allen’s death is one of 100 Civil Rights-era cold cases that have been reopened by the Department of Justice.

No arrests have ever been made and as far as I can tell, no persons of interest have officially been identified. People in Amite County have their suspicions, though. As I do and I’m sure anyone reading this does. The Allen family is still offering a $20,000 reward for information regarding Louis’ death and in 2010, the case was put on the FBI’s Cold Case list. His grandson, Louis Allen Jr., has stated that the family believes the killer is still alive and that more than one person may have been involved.

Although it may seem like a 54-year-old case has no hope of being solved, it does happen. As a result of the DOJ opening these cases back up, other cold cases have been solved, including the 1964 kidnapping and murder of teenagers Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. Their killer, James Ford Seale, was given two life sentences.

As of 2011, Sheriff Daniel Jones was still alive and living in Liberty, unwilling to talk about the case.

If you have any information regarding the death of Louis Allen, you can submit an anonymous tip online.


Sources

Northeastern University School of Law
FBI File on the Death of Louis Allen
Mississippi Cold Case: Louis Allen
J.D. Smith letter
Cold Case: The Murder of Louis Allen
60 Minutes clip on Louis Allen’s story
Civil Rights Era Murders Joint Initiative Yields Results
Violent Summer: When Klansmen and Tyranny Stalked Mississippi: ‘I’ll Shoot You In Two” from Jackson Free Press

Gift Guide: Women in History

This gift guide is all about women in history. The original nasty women who continue to inspire us today.

A Cool Tee from Design By Humans

I love these shirts from Design by Humans! I chose to feature a Frida Kahlo shirt, a shirt with iconic women throughout history, and a shirt featuring great women of science. They’re all available in multiple colors and styles, including shirts for men and kids, so head on over and grab one!

A Cool Tee from an Etsy Seller

I’m a long-time fan of Etsy and these tees are the coolest! There’s the Founding Mothers tee, the Harriet Tubman “Courage” shirt, and last but not least, Rosa Parks’ mugshot shirt.

A ‘Women in History’ Print

These prints slay me. I love them so much. Each features a group of iconic women from history. From Cleopatra to Sally Ride, so many amazing women are represented! You can snag Women in History I, II, or III at Satrun Twins’ Art Shop. (They even offer all three for $45!)

A Mug From The Unemployed Philosophers Guild

Have a Brontë or Austen fan on your gift list? They’ll love these mugs! The Brontë mug features quotes from the works of the Brontë sisters while the Jane Austen mug features quotes from, you guessed it, Jane Austen’s work.

An Enamel Pin from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild

I featured a few pins from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild in my art history gift guide and I had to include a few here! Choose from Frida Kahlo and a monkey, Margaret Sanger and a birth control pack, and Jane Austen and books. At around $15, they’re perfect for a secret Santa or stocking stuffer!

A Candle from Werther and Gray

I’ve professed my love for Werther and Gray before but I’m going to do it again! Their “History & Nostalgia” line of candles includes Cleopatra, The Virgin Queen, and Suffragette. They have some Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials going on so be sure to check them out before ordering!

A Good Book

If the person you’re shopping for loves to read, they’ll love one of these! I recommend Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins, and Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky.

A Shirt from Historical Dream

IMG_1748

I’ve talked about this company and this shirt before but I love it so much, I’m gonna keep talking about it! Historical Dream is a woman-owned company that creates super cool clothing and jewelry featuring images of people of color. In this pic, I’m wearing the Elizabeth Keckley dolman t-shirt (legit the most comfortable shirt I own.) Be sure to check out the entire shop!


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Gift Guide: Art Lovers

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Have someone on your gift list that loves art? Check out these gifts that are sure to please! Most are under $30 so they’ll please your wallet, too!

First, check out a membership to their local art museum. Memberships to my state art museum start at $50 for the year (more than $30 but hear me out) and give members one free ticket to all ticketed exhibits, one free ticket to their summer movies, discounted admission to concerts, and much more. In addition to giving a gift that truly keeps on giving, you’re also helping to support the museum! If you’re not keen on purchasing a membership, check out the museum’s gift shop. Many museums are stepping up their gift shop game and carry some truly cool stuff!

Looking to give something and/or spend a little less? I got you.

Artist Enamel Pins from Unemployed Philosophers Guild

 

Enamel pins had a bit of a moment recently and honestly, I think these are the coolest! You get Dalí and a melting clock, Van Gogh and an ear, or Warhol and a soup can. Each set is $15.99, making them perfect for your secret Santa or stuffing in someone’s stocking.

Art Mugs from Unemployed Philosophers Guild

 

The “Brief History of Art” mug features a millennium of artwork and the Frida Khalo mug is the most colorful, cheerful thing you could ever want to put your coffee or tea into! They also have this disappearing ear Van Gogh mug, which I have an earlier version of. This one is much cooler because when you pour hot liquid in, the bandage appears!

Something From Niaski

I am obsessed with this Etsy shop that asks, “What if your favorite artists were cats?” Well, if they were, you’d get figures like Henri Catisse, Frida Catlo, and Kitty Stardust. The artist, Nia Gould, has created enamel pins, prints, totes, and even little sculptures depicting famous artists as cats. It’s all wonderful and if you have an art lover who is also a cat lover on your shopping list, head over there and consider them taken care of. (Pictured above: Frida Catlo print, Henri Catisse tote, and Wassily Catdinsky print.)

Werther and Gray Candles

 

I am so excited to have found this company! Werther and Gray is a small company out of Wilmington, Delaware and they create candles inspired by history, art, and literature. I purchased Starry Night and Gardens of Versailles for myself and I can attest that they are wonderful!

Small Artist Portraits from The Toddbot Shop

I love these little drawings! They’re from adriantoddzilla (AKA The Toddbot Shop) on Etsy. If his style looks familiar to you, it’s because he is the creator of, and artist for, some popular comics and he was also a contributor to Nickelodeon Magazine (which is why it looked familiar to me!) These little prints are 4×6 (inches) and are just $10. In addition to Mark Rothko and Keith Haring, there is also a Van Gogh portrait and plenty of pop culture prints!

Art History Coloring Books from MaddieStratton

Do you have a coloring book-lover in your life? We all do. But does your coloring book-lover also happen to be an art history nerd? If so, this is for you them. Choose from a coloring book featuring self-portraits by women artists (top) or a good, old-fashioned art history smorgasbord (bottom). Either way, you’re supporting an independent artist and giving your loved one something they’ll be able to enjoy all year long!

A Cool Art History Tee

There are a lot of art history-themed shirts on the internet. A lot. I’m only sharing these four, though, because I think they’re really cool. The Andy shirt is from Total Major. The Marriage of Arnolfini shirt is from Indiscriminate Design. The Picasso tee is from Echolyla and the Creation of Adam crop top (which I can only dream of being cool enough to pull off) is from Vagabondary.


Fun Socks from Chatty Feet

Funky socks are always fun and Chatty Feet sells art history inspired socks like these Mondrian and Picasso pairs. They also have Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Van Gogh socks as well as a four-pack of art socks ready for gift-giving. They’re based in England so if you’re not in Europe, make sure you order in plenty of time!


Art & Meow by Elly Liyana (on Threadless)

This design, which is available on all of the products above and many more, combines two of my favorite things: cats and art history! I’ve ordered many shirts from Threadless as gifts for my husband and have always been happy with the quality. Because the design is available on everything from tees to prints to phone cases, you can pick something to fit your giftee and your budget!

A Pin or Socks from Pin Museum

When I came across Pin Museum, I was a little upset. It’s such a cool idea and I was mad someone else thought of it! They have art history and museum inspired enamel pins and they just released a line of art socks! These are some of my favorites: the Seurat pin, the Creation of Adam pins, and Scream socks.

 


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Gift Guide: All-American (History) Gifts

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

If you’re looking for some all-American (history) gifts, I got you. Below you’ll find the coolest gifts for the US history buff on your list! Prices vary from around $10 to $80 but the vast majority of the items are under $30. Check them out and let me know if you snagged any of them!

First off, let me suggest a membership or trip to your/their local history museum! Museum memberships often have more perks than free or discounted membership, such as a discount in the museum shop and/or restaurant, discounts on museum events, and invitations to members-only events, among other things! If a museum membership is out of your budget or you’re not sure if they’d use it year-round, gift them tickets or a gift card or visit the museum with them one day.

If you’d like to give something they can unwrap, here are some ideas…

Presidential Candles from JD and Kate Industries

Ever wanted to smell a Founding Father or just a regular ol’ president? JD and Kate Industries has your back. They have candles with scents like George Washington (whiskey and cherry, which sounds heavenly), Aaron Burr (“gunsmoke drifting low in the Weehawken dawn”), and Ronald Reagan (jelly bean scented, with little wax jelly beans on top!) You can also snag Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Rutherford B. Hayes.

 Constitution and Declaration of Independence Glasses from Uncommon Goods

Your giftee can sip their whiskey, or whatever their drink of choice is, from these super cool rocks glasses! They’re sold individually so you can buy one or both (or multiples of each!) Snag the Constitution glass here and the Declaration of Independence glass here. They pair well with these coasters.

A Mug from Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild

I love mugs and Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild has the coolest mugs around. Above you can see their Supreme Court mug, in which you pour the hot beverage of your choice and watch the losers disappear! I also chose their Presidential Slogan mug and the Ben Franklin electrici-tea mug. Get it? Because there’s a notch to hold the string of your tea bag? Ba dum tsss(PS: You can get 15% off with the code Marx)

A Cool Shirt

There are a ton of history tees out there but these are the ones I’d be thrilled to receive! The Harriet Tubman tee is from Captial Fam on Etsy. There’s the FDR New Deal shirt from Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild. And last but not least, the Elizabeth Keckley shirt from Historical Dream. They have Lizzie’s image on a variety of tops, including sweatshirts! They also have other great American leaders like Frederick Douglass, Chief Sitting Bull, and Harriet Tubman. (Also, I’ll take this Hamilton shirt in a small, please and thank you.)

Historic Home Decor

I love art prints and how easy the internet has made finding cool ones! If you have a Civil War buff on your gift list, they’ll probably love this “History of the Civil War” print (the design is available on a variety of products so you can actually pick something else for them if you don’t think they’d be into a print!) This print of Philadelphia’s city hall will appeal to the history lover, the Philadelphia lover, and the architecture nerd on your list! And last but not least, I love these quote prints! This one features a quote by First Lady and UN Ambassador, Eleanor Roosevelt. The shop has other historic quotes, too!

A Cool Historic Enamel Pin

These little pins are perfect as a stocking stuffer, an under-$20 gift for your Secret Santa, or as a small add-on to another gift! The Underground Railroad lantern pin is by Radical Dreams Pins on Etsy. They have other cool pins that aren’t necessarily history-related as well as a lot of cool history patches. The Sojourner Truth pin is from Reformed School. Again, they have lots of really cool pins (I’ll take a Stevie Wonder and a Marvin Gaye, thanks.) Last but not least, Rosie the Riveter from Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild! You get her and her speech bubble. Or here’s another version of a Rosie the Riveter pin!


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The Best Books About Charles Manson

I’ve been interested in the Manson Family since I learned about the Tate/LaBianca murders as a teenager. It’s a story that, were it fiction, it’d probably be criticized as being too outlandish.

A wannabe rock star/convict/con-man arrives in San Francisco right after the Summer of Love and amasses a harem of young, impressionable women (whom he uses to amass male followers) by convincing them he is enlightened, the Son of Man (Manson). They move around California, staying with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson for a while and finally, settling in the remains of an old Western movie set. He preaches the idea of a race war, which, I’m sure, in the late 1960s didn’t seem so far-fetched. His version of this war, however, was out there. And unbelievably racist. The black man would be victorious but would be too dumb to know how to rule so they’d turn the reins over to Charlie and The Family, the only white people to survive the war. (They’d survive by hiding out in a hole in the ground in the California desert, naturally).

Did he actually believe this? Or was it a way to control his followers? Your guess is as good as mine.

Manson Family

Members of the Manson Family, including Sandra Good, Ruth Ann Moorehouse, Squeaky Fromme, and Catherine Share. Image via Crime Museum.

Obviously, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you’re talking about Charles Manson. But at this point, it already defies logic. At least nine people would go on to die at his hand, even if he did not directly murder them: Gary Hinman, Steven Parent, Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Leno LaBianca, Rosemary LaBianca, and Donald “Shorty” Shea.

I could write a month’s worth of posts about him, The Family, the victims, the murders, and their impact and still not cover it all. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of books, podcasts, and documentaries to explain it all better than I ever could. This post contains affiliate links.

Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family’s Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice by Brie Tate and Alisa Statman
Brie Tate is Sharon Tate’s niece and although she never met her aunt, she still lives with the reverberations of the murders. When the perpetrator(s) is larger than life, it’s important to remember the victims. Because Sharon was once engaged to Jay Sebring, and they remained close friends, Tate talks about how losing Sharon and Jay impacted her family.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
This is the quintessential book on the case, written by the deputy DA and chief prosecutor. It focuses heavily on the investigation and trial.

The Family by Ed Sanders
The Family is a look at the everyday life of The Family and the counterculture in California at that time. Even though there are a lot of unsubstantiated stories in the book (Sanders is upfront about them), it gives you a good insight into the late 60s, southern California counterculture scene.

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn
This is the Manson biography. It chronicles his life and puts The Family into context.

My Life with Charles Manson by Paul Watkins
This book has been out of print for 30+ years so it’s difficult to get a copy but you can read it online here. Paul Watkins was Manson’s #2 for a short time and after realizing Manson’s ideology didn’t mesh with his anymore, he left to join another guru. He testified against Manson in the Tate/LaBianca trials and wrote this book in 1979. It’s a really interesting look into Manson’s inner circle and what drew people to him.

Member of the Family by Dianne Lake
In compiling this list, I discovered that Dianne Lake wrote a book about her time with Charlie and the Family. I immediately bought it and finished it in just a few days. Dianne “Snake” Lake was one of Charlie’s first followers, a 14-year-old whose parents tuned in, turned on, dropped out, and no longer felt like Dianne needed guidance. This is such a good book. Dianne’s story shows how and why it was so easy for people to fall for Manson and how his followers felt they had to stay, even when they became scared for their lives. I especially enjoyed reading about her life after the Family and how she was able to create a family of her own with her late husband and children.

Will You Die For Me? by Tex Watson
Read the PDF here. Tex Watson was present and participated in the Tate/LaBianca murders, fled home to Texas where he fought extradition, and was tried (and convicted) separately. This is an interesting read if only because he was so involved in the murders and Manson trusted him so much.

You Must Remember Manson
I’ve written about this podcast before but I’ll write about it again, now and forever. If you haven’t listened to it, please do.

Manson
The History Channel did this docudrama several years ago and, despite being from the History Channel, it’s actually good! It features interviews with Manson girl Catherine “Gypsy” Share and an extremely rare interview with Linda Kasabian, among others. Linda was present the night of the Tate murders but didn’t participate and tried to stop the killers. She testified against The Family and has essentially gone into hiding since the trial. The docudrama format makes it feel like a movie while you’re hearing the words of the people who were there.

Manson (1972)
Made just two years after the trial, this features a lot of interviews with Family members on Spahn Ranch. Look for Squeaky Fromme, who would later go to prison for the attempted assassination of President Ford, waxing poetic about guns and Charlie’s innocence.