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Aunt Betsy owned much for a "n-----r" woman. When hard times came

in Carrollton, mutterings were heard. "If n----rs didn't own everything,

white folks' children could have sump'n ter eat."

Walter White, former NAACP head                                                                                                     Juanita E. Jackson



Youth and the Lynching Evil

By Juanita E. Jackson


It is a bright sunshiny morning in the hills of Mississippi -- the little town of Carrollton. in one of the crude cabins that dot the Negro section a nine year old boy awakens to find that his clothes have been hidden from him.

He calls to his mother, busy in the kitchen. "Go back to sleep an hour longer, son, and then you can get dressed," she soothingly but firmly responds.

Finding no help from that quarter, the lad tries his own ingenuity, finds the clothes, and slips out the window.

Such a beautiful morning it is. The boy's eyes shine as he gazes at the color all around. But there is a noise in the air like the hum of a huge swarm of bees, only louder. He turns in the direction of the sound and finds his way down the dirt road toward the center of town. The  noise gets louder and louder, presently he is at the town square.

What a great crowd of people! Men are slapping each other on the back with glee, swapping crude jokes with raucous laughter. Women hold children on their shoulders to see something which holds the gaze of the milling crowd. Young men, with sweethearts clinging to their arms, thread their way in and out of the throng, pointing to what the nine-year-old can't see.

The youngster pushes his way between the legs of tall men, around the skirts of women until he comes out on the front fringe of the crowd, and looks up to see that which is the object of the crowd's gleeful amusement and pride.

Why--that--that's Aunt Betsy, hanging to the limb of that tree on the courthouse lawn! Aunt Betsy is dead! Aunt Betsy who had the big beautiful carriages and the shiny black horses, who owned more land than anyone in Carrollton County. Aunt Betsy who was the joy of the colored folks and the envy of all the whites. This couldn't happen to her!

But Aunt Betsy wasn't alone. there was her son Dick beside her--Dick, who used to shoot marbles with this boy of nine. And next to Dick--why, that's Mary! Mary, who used to give such large brown cookies to all the children, for she had no little one of her own.

He can't understand--the three of them, his friends, all quiet and still, while white folks laugh. The terror-stricken child, bursting into tears, slips through the crowd and rushes down the road to his mother. 

I always watch the light go out of my father's eyes when he tells how his busy mother stopped her work, took the sobbing boy in her arms and gently rocked him in the old kitchen rocker. She told him what had happened.

Aunt Betsy owned much for a "n-----r" woman. When hard times came in Carrollton, mutterings were heard. "If n----rs didn't own everything, white folks' children could have sump'n ter eat." Jealous farmers, avidly eyeing Aunt Betsy's farms, stimulated these murmurings. And white folks hated Aunt Betsy.

An old white man and a woman had been murdered. The bloody axe was found in Aunt Betsy kitchen. And, without the semblance of a trial, Aunt Betsy and her family, who steadfastly denied all knowledge of the crime, had been taken from their home, and had been strung up at sundown, on the courthouse lawn.

"That's what Mama tried to save you from, honey. But you had to see it for yourself. You got to begin learning your lesson now, son. you're different. You're colored. Black-skinned folks can't want to earn a decent living, to educate themselves, to be intelligent and at the same time live peacefully in Carrollton. Son, learn your lesson well!"

And my father often remarks, "I've learned it too well."

I count the years since my father was a nine-year-old boy, 43-44-45 years. During the succeeding years there have occurred nearly 5,000 such lynchings.

Facts about Lynchings

In fact, since 1882, 5,105 lynchings have taken place there. Contrary to common impressions, less than one sixth of the persons lynched have even been accused of any sort of sex crimes. The great majority of the lynched victims were accused only of minor offenses. No punishment was inflicted on the lynchers in 99.2% of the lynchings; and in eighth-tenths of one per cent of the lynchings where punishment of the lynchers followed, the punishment was slight.

From 1919 to 1935, 25 persons were roasted alive, and 20 more bodies were burned after the victims were lynched.

Ninety-nine women have been lynched.

from 1890 to 1900 nearly one-third of the lynched victims were white. But since 1900 scarcely one-tenth of the victims have been white. So that lynching is a racial phenomenon.

It happens in America -- nowhere else.

The Immediate Need

While we work toward the ultimate goal, lynchings continue, preventing effective progress toward its realization. if we believe that the way toward the permanent eradication of lynching lies in the building of a better economic society, and if we believe that this can be done through

          (1) Making the facts about race relations available to white and colored citizens, developing interracial understanding between them;

          (2) Organization of Negro and white workers together, leading to an understanding of their common interests and the need of cooperation;

          (3) Electing to office public officials who will help build a new economic order;

than we must face the fact that mob rule today is paralyzing most of these efforts. Mob rule closes all avenues to understanding and widens the gap of hate between the races, breading lawlessness and ruthlessness. Lynching is systematically used to keep the Negro and white workers from meeting or organizing together, as is seen in the lynching of the organizers of the Southern tenant Farmers union. Lynching, or the threat of mob violence, is one of the methods of keeping the Negro away from the polls and therefore from voting into office the type of public officials who will be interested in the welfare of all the people.

Thus lynching is not only the effect of a cause, but becomes the instrument of perpetuating that cause! Then there is the immediate task of curbing the lynching habit now.

The National Association for the Advancement of colored people, an interracial organization, realizing this need, started out in 1909 to lead the first militant, persistent, organized fight against lynching. So effective has been its work that today over forty million American citizens are backing the fight for an adequate federal anti-lynching bill. this organization uses three main weapons: (1) the education of public opinion through the newspapers through the newspapers, pulpit, platform, radio, holding of mass meetings and conferences, investigation of lynchings and the publication of the proven facts about lynching; (2) the organized use of the ballot to defeat those candidates for public office who are not interested in the welfare of Negro citizens, and who are opposed to anti-lynching legislation; (3) the endorsement of legislation, as is seen in the present efforts for the enactment of an anti-lynching bill.

Youth Joins The Fight

It is time for the youth of America to participate in the fight against lynching. For, interestingly enough, it is largely the young Negro Americans who are the lynchers.

On February 12th, the birthday of the great emancipator, Lincoln, white and Negro youth will unite with the youth councils and college chapters of the national Association for the Advancement of Colored people in the First National Youth Demonstration Against Lynching. They will demand that the youth of America be emancipated from lynching, urging the enactment of an adequate federal anti-lynching bill.

Source: Interracial Review, February 1937

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The Shadows of Youth

The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation

By Andrew B. Lewis

With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi's principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement. The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders.

Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned. Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.—Publishers Weekly

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel.

Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong.Jamie Byng, GuardianGil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Home    Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power  Lynching Index   Baltimore Page

Related files: Juanita E. Jackson Bio  Indictment of Lynching  Much is Expected   Youth and the Lynching Evil