On May 15, 1916, after an all-white jury convicted Jesse Washington of the murder of a white woman, he was taken from the courtroom and burned alive in front of a mob of 15,000.
The crowd gathered to watch and/or participate in the brutal lynching grew to 15,000. Jesse Washington was chained to a car while members of the mob ripped off his clothes, cut off his ear, and castrated him. The angry mob dragged his body from the courthouse to City Hall and a fire was prepared while several assailants repeatedly stabbed him. When they tied Jesse Washington to the tree underneath the mayor’s window, the lynchers cut off his fingers to prevent him from trying to escape, then repeatedly lowered his lifeless body into the fire. At one point, a participant took a portion of Washington’s torso and dragged it through the streets of Waco. During the lynching, a professional photographer took photos which were later made into postcards.
Although this happened 102 years ago, it’s still worth pointing out that this didn’t happen to white people even back then. Being dragged from a court room and being tortured to death for fun and profit was something that happened to black people. While lynching appears rare today, the sense of “black people are less” lives on in the casual way we accept murders of unarmed black men by police and how easily police are called into situations involving African-Americans in white places.
The Freedom Riders, an interracial group of civil rights activists, began riding interstate buses in 1961 to test Supreme Court decisions that prohibited discrimination in interstate passenger travel. Their efforts were unpopular with whites who supported segregation.
On Mother’s Day, May 14, 1961, a Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders arrived at the Anniston, Alabama, bus station shortly after 1:00 p.m. The station was locked shut. A mob of fifty men led by Ku Klux Klan leader William Chapel and armed with pipes, chains, and bats, smashed windows, slashed tires, and dented the sides of the Riders’ bus. Though warned hours earlier that a mob had gathered at the station, local police did not arrive until after the assault had begun.
Four White Men Kidnap and Rape Black Girl in Tylertown, Mississippi
On May 13, 1956, sixteen-year-old Annette Butler of Tylertown, Mississippi, was kidnapped and gang raped by four white men. Ms. Butler and her family reported the assault and the men were arrested, jailed, and tried for the crime – a rarity in Mississippi for white men charged with assaulting black women. Despite a confession, all-white juries refused to convict three of the four defendants, and the fourth was allowed to plead to a reduced charge in exchange for a sentence of twenty years hard labor.
In addition to documenting systemic racism – that it is very difficult to hold whites accountable for harming blacks – this piece also demonstrates the problem with America’s “only the innocent deserve protection.”
What I mean by this is that nearly any act of violence can be excused if the victim “deserved” it. In this case, and in practically every case of police shooting unarmed black men, a search is instituted to find reasons why the victim wasn’t pure and innocent and therefore unworthy of the protection of the law.
During the trial of Ms. Butler’s rapists – and despite a written confession from one of the gang rapers – the defense attacked Ms. Butler’s reputation. They claimed that she was a prostitute and a woman of poor reputation. That was all the white jury needed to produce rape acquittals.
Even if the slurs against Ms. Butler were true, NO ONE deserves to be kidnapped and raped. Full Stop. No unarmed person deserves to be killed by police. Full Stop. We have to get away from “the deserving get life and justice” to “EVERYONE gets life and justice.” Because all of us, but especially, and too often, people of color get painted as undeserving. And that gets you raped or killed in our society.
I’m back to a photo of my calendar for today’s Equal Justice Initiative post because there’s not a corresponding entry online. I’m not sure why. The ban was passed in 2010 and seems to be in ongoing litigation.
Although Republicans present themselves as champions of local control, Republican legislators don’t hesitate to snatch it away when localities have different values.
After the Civil War, Georgia and other Southern states faced economic uncertainty. Dependent on enslaved black labor that was no longer available after emancipation and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, Southern economies struggled to find a new solution. For many, leasing state convicts to labor for private businesses seemed the perfect answer.
Source: Equal Justice Initiative
Although the 13th Amendment (scroll down) banned slavery in the US, it made an exception for prisoners. Today there is a whole “correctional industries” sector of the economy which is basically slavery and disproportionally affects people of color. All races are affected by depressed wages that can be attributed to jobs being done by enslaved prisoners.
On May 10, 1740, the South Carolina Assembly enacted the “Bill for the better ordering and governing of Negroes and other slaves in this province,” also known as the Negro Act of 1740. The law prohibited slaves from growing their own food, learning to read, moving freely, assembling in groups, or earning money. It authorized slave owners to whip and kill rebellious slaves.
People say that voting doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t why were white men willing to kill African-Americans wishing to vote? Why do so many state legislatures even now dream up new ways to prevent minority and poor citizens from voting?
Voting matters. Now anyone can register without being shot. Register. Vote. In primaries as well as general elections.