The story of George stinney jr. (black history 365)

This story for this entry of Black History 365 is disheartening and astounding in terms of the duration of the outcome.  Leave a like and follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts.

The year is 1944 in South Carolina and George Stinney Jr. finds himself interrogated by Alcolu South Carolina police for the murder of two white girls. Within a span of two days, his life was in the balance and the outcome was something all too familiar in the Jim Crow South. 

Introduction 

George Stinney Jr. was only 14yrs old when he was executed in South Carolina in 1944. It took 10 minutes to convict him and 70 years to exonerate him. Equally important, he was the youngest person in the U.S. to be executed via the electric chair. 

George Stinney Jr. grew up in Alcolu South Carolina where white people and black people were separated by railroad tracks. Stinney’s family lived in a humble company house until they were forced to leave when the boy was accused of killing two white girls. In March 1944, Betty June Binnicker (11), and Mary Emma Thames (7), were riding their bicycles in Alcolu looking for flowers. They came across Stinney and his sister Aime on their journey and stopped to ask for help finding maypops, the yellow edible fruit of passion fruits. That was the last reported time the girls were seen alive. Consequently, hundreds of Alcolu residents, including Stinney’s father, came together to search for the missing girls. It wasn’t until the next day their dead bodies were discovered in a soggy ditch. 

Their bodies were examined by Dr. Asbury Cecil Bozard and the conclusions found were that there was no clear sign of a struggle, but both girls had met their demise due to multiple head injuries. Thames had a hole boring straight through her forehead and into her skull along with a two-inch long cut above her right eyebrow. On the other hand, Binnicker had suffered at least seven blows to the head. It was later noted that the back of her skull was “nothing but a mass of crushed bones”. Moreover, the girls were killed by what was described to be a “round instrument”. This is where the story takes a strange turn. The girls were rumored to be not anywhere near Stinney Jr. and his sister, but at a prominent white family’s home on the day of the murder. It must be remembered, that Stinney Jr. like many other black men during the Jim Crow era, were never innocent and always seen as guilty, so tracking down a white killer was an afterthought to the police. 

The Interrogation

    Interrogated without an attorney or his parents, Stinney Jr. was defenseless and vulnerable when in the presence of the intimidating Alcolu police. They claimed that Stinney Jr. confessed to murdering Binnicker and Thames after his plan to have sex with one of the girls failed. The confession was coerced and Stinney Jr. was under duress, but this wouldn’t be addressed until his exoneration in 2014. Furthermore, an officer named H.S. Newman wrote in a handwritten statement that stated, “I arrested a boy by the name of George Stinney. He then made a confession and told me where to find a piece of iron about 15 inches long. He said he put it in a ditch about six feet from the bicycle.” In regard to this, Newman refused to reveal where Stinney was detained. His parents didn’t even know where he was as the trial approached. Even though 14, he was considered at an age where he would face legal ramifications. A month after the girl’s death, the trial began for Stinney Jr. at Clarendon County Courthouse. Stinney’s court-appointed attorney Charles Plowden did “little to nothing” to defend his client. The trial lasted TWO HOURS (you read that right), and during those two hours, Plowden failed to call witnesses to the stand or produce any evidence that would refute and cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. In addition, deliberation was swift, ten minutes to be exact, and it culminated with Stinney Jr. being sentenced to death. One thing that should be noted which is somber is that Stinney hadn’t seen his parent in weeks. They couldn’t reach the courthouse because they were in fear of being attacked by a white mob, and the 14-year-old had to endure being surrounded by an irate group of strangers that totaled up to 1500. On April 24th, 1944, Stinney Jr. was sentenced to die by electrocution. 

    The Execution of George Stinney Jr. Bullet Points. 

Stinney Jr.’s execution was not met without resistance by the ways of protests. In South Carolina, organizers that consisted of both white and black ministerial unions petitioned Gov. Olin Johnston to grant Stinney clemency based on his age. 

His supporters made valiant attempts in terms of sending hundreds of letters and telegrams to the governor’s office, begging him to show mercy to Stinney. Moreover, they appealed to everything from the idea of fairness to concepts of justice in Christianity, but in the end, their efforts were to no avail. On June 16th, 1944, George Stinney Jr. walked into the execution chamber at the South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia with a Bible tucked under his arm. There’s one issue that arose before the execution commenced. Stinney weighed only 95 pounds. After being dressed in a loose-fitting striped jumpsuit he was strapped into an adult-size electric chair, but his small stature made it a struggle for the state electrician to adjust the electrode onto his right leg. Eventually, it was done, and a mask that was too big for him was placed over his face. Under these circumstances, it’s customary for a death row inmate to be given the courtesy for any final words. “No sir” was Stinney’s reply to an assistant captain when asked if he had any last words. Once the officials turned on the switch, 2,400 volts surged through Stinney’s body causing his mask to slip off. His eyes were wide and teary, and saliva was emanating from his for the witnesses in the room to see. After two more jolts of electricity were administered, it was over. Stinney was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. Within a span of 83 days, Stinney had been charged with murder, tried, convicted, and executed by the state. 

A Murder Conviction Overtuned 70 Years Later

In 2014, George Stinney’s murder conviction was thrown out. His siblings specifically his sister Katherine Robinson testified and claimed that his confession was coerced and he had an alibi: At the time of the murders, Stinney was with his sister Aime watching the family’s cow.

It was noted during the testimonies that a man named Wilford “Johnny” Hunter who was Stinney’s cellmate claimed that Stinney denied ever murdering Binnicker and Thames. He said quote, “He said, ‘Johnny, I didn’t, didn’t do it,’” Hunter said. “He said, ‘Why would they kill me for something I didn’t do?’”. The meticulous proceedings took a few months of consideration on December 17th, 2014, Judge Carmen T. Mullen vacated Stinney’s murder conviction, stating that the death sentence was a “great and fundamental injustice”. Stinney’s siblings were elated to learn that their brother was exonerated after 70 years and also glad that they contributed to bringing justice to their brother’s memory. Lastly, Stinney’s sister Katherine Robinson said quote “It was like a cloud just moved away,” said Stinney’s sister, Katherine Robinson. “When we got the news, we were sitting with friends… I threw my hands up and said, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ Someone had to be listening. It’s what we wanted for all these years.”

“Moor Power” : Moors Kings (and Queens) Ruled parts of Europe for almost 700 years, Black History 365

History confirms that the Moors ruled in Europe, primarily Spain and Portugal for almost 700 years. Even though the Moors were African foreigners in a new continent, they influenced European culture, but not many know that the Moors were Eurpoeans of African descent. 

Side note, in the Netherlands they have a controversial celebration during Christmas where the Dutch put soot on their face, a large curly afro, and bright red lipstick to resemble a character named Zwarte Piet. Moreover, the earliest known illustration of Zwarte Piet was done by Amsterdam school teacher Jan Schnekman who depicted the character as a black Moor from Spain. The reason for the controversy derives from the history of blackface that the U.S. was notorious for after the reconstruction era, where it was used heavily in minstrel shows. So, by the Dutch doing this it would be seen as irreverent to the mockery black people endured during that era. 

Moors were usually depicted as being very dark and the word “Moors” was used interchangeable with “Negro” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  In regards to this, several written works can confirm this description. 16th century English playwrights William Shakespeare used the word Moor as a synonym for African and Christopher Marlowe used Moor and African interchangeably. 

Author and historian Chancellor Williams said “the original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were black Africans”. Furthermore, an Arab chronicler also described Moorish Emperor Yusuf ben – Tachfine as “a brown man with wooly hair”. 

European art depicts Moors with African features and I’m going to use quotes on this because Africa is such a diverse continent that has ethnic groups with an array of features and not a singular one. Having said that, Moors were often depicted having pitch black skin,frizzled hair flat and wide face, flat-nosed, and thick lips. The Drake Jewel, a rare documented piece of jewel from the 16th century, seemed to show a profile of a Black king dominating the profile of a white woman.

Moors have had a significant contribution to the world, because they contributed in areas of mathematics, astronomy, art, cuisine, medicine, and agriculture. This in turn helped develop Europe to move out of the dark ages into the Renaissance. 

Generations of spanish rulers went as far as to abolish the existence of the Moors era from historical records and dismiss the Moors making any impact on their (Spain) land. However, archaeology determined that Moors indeed ruled in Al-Andalus for more than 700 years — from 711 A.D. to 1492.  

The Story of Sarah Rector (Black History 365)

After the civil war, reconstruction, and what would subsequently become Jim Crow laws, slaves in the south were freed and lived as free Americans but still experienced disenfranchisement and some had difficulty prospering financially. However, I’ll be presenting in this episode the story of a young black girl named Sarah Rector from Taft Oklahoma who came upon a fortune that changed her life forever, but she had obstacles standing in her way.

Sarah Rector was born in 1902 in Taft Oklahoma and came from humble beginnings but she later became the wealthiest black girl in the country at the age of 11. Her family was African American members of the Muscogee Creek Nation in Indian Territory. Rector’s grandparents had been enslaved by Creek Tribe members, but once the Civil War ended, they were entitled to land allotments under the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887. Furthermore, when Indian territory integrated with Oklahoma territory to form the state of Oklahoma in 1907, hundreds of Black children who were referred to back then as “Creek Freedmen minors,” were granted 160 acres of land.

Rector’s allotment was located in the middle of the Glenn Pool oil field and was initially valued at $550. A few years later in 1911, her father decided to lease his daughter’s piece of land to a major oil company to help pay for the property taxes. And in 1913, everything would change.

According to Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden, an independent driller struct oil that started to bring in 2,500 barrels or 105,000 gallons per day. As a result, Rector, still being an owner of the land, began earning more than $300 a day (which is equivalent to about 7,500 a day in our time).

It was inevitable with all the fortune she received that she would attract attention. Rector began getting national attention from newspapers all over the country. For instance, The Kansas City Star published the headline, “Million to a Negro Girl – Sarah Rector, 11-year-Old, Has Income of $300 A Day from Oil”. Additionally, another newspaper, The Savannah Tribune, published the headline, “Oil Well Produces Net Income – Negro Girl’s $112,000. You have to understand a black person making that much, especially at that young, would cause eyebrows to raise and white America wasted no time in relinquishing her fortune. 

As mentioned, sadly Rector’s fortune would be interfered with by the law. There was a law at the time that required Native Americans and African Americans who were citizens of Indian Territory to be assigned a “well-respected” white guardian. As a result, Rector’s guardianship was turned over to a white man named T.J. Porter. 

However, reportedly W.E.B Du Bois and the NAACP got involved to protect her well-being and fortunately were able to be successful with it. Rector, later on, to own one of the first Black-owned auto dealerships in the country, and reportedly enjoyed her wealth until she died!

Fighting Back : Defying Moments in Black History (Black History 365)

This water can’t sense he’s a black man, nor does the fountain so what’s the big deal? A law? Man Fuck that. Drink On. 

Cecil J Williams is an American photographer, publisher, author and inventor best known for his photography documenting the civil rights movement in South Carolina beginning in the 1950s. In this photo he’s nonchalantly staring at the camera, defying Jim Crow laws and enjoying the hydration. 

TAKE THAT, ‘CAUSE BACKIN’ DOWN AIN’T AN OPTION.

A woman struggles with police on the second night of unrest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1967. 

Where the fuck you think you goin’? 

Willie ” Whoop Ass Johnson” the first black man to kick a Klansman ass on camera.

Armed and Ready : The Story of Rob F. Williams, Black History 365

Last spring and summer we’ve seen black lives being lost to the hands of police, and it’s been happening for decades, may I saw centuries. This past summer I became aware of “The Not Fucking Around Coalition (NFAC) a black nationalist paramilitary militia movement that arms itself against attacks from white supremacists and any other opposition. They once took the streets armed ready to defend against any white supremacists. The reason I’m bringing them up to start this post is that in this entry of Black History 365 I’ll be presenting the story behind Rob Williams and his version of Black Power which meant advocating for the arming of black people with guns to defend against the violence that came their way.

Robert Franklin Williams was the first African American civil rights leader to advocate armed resistance to racial oppression and violence. Robert F. Williams was born on February 26 1925 in Monroe, North Carolina. The fourth of five children born to Emma Carter Williams and John Williams, Williams quickly learned to navigate the dangers of being black in the Deep South. The Ku Klux Klan was rampant in the Deep South and in this case Monroe and their feared force and power where Williams lived in had the community regularly brutalized at the hands of these white supremacists. 

Williams’ grandmother, a well-read and proud woman was born a slave in Union County in 1858. She taught Williams to cherish his heritage and to not back down from adversity. Before she died, she presented her young grandson with his first gun, a rifle that had belonged to his grandfather, as a symbol of their family’s resistance against racial oppression. 

After high school, Williams joined the Marines with the hopes of being assigned to information services, where he could pursue journalism. He would instead receive a typical assignment given to African American Marines at that time: supply sergeant. Williams’ resistance to the Marine Corps’ racial discrimination earned him an “undesirable” discharge and which cause him to return to Monroe. 

Becoming a Leader

In 1956, Williams took over leadership of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which was close to disbanding due to a relentless backlash by the Ku Klux Klan. Williams canvassed for new members and eventually expanded the branch from only six to more than 200 members. 

Williams would subsequently file for a charter in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and formed the Black Guard, an armed group committed to the protection of Monroe’s black population. Members received weapons and physical training from Williams to be prepared to keep the peace and come to the aid of black citizens, whose reports for help from law enforcement often went ignored. 

With his fellow NAACP members, Williams went on to start local civil rights campaigns and brought conditions of the Jim Crow South to the attention of the national and international media. Furthermore, Williams led an ongoing fight to integrate the local public swimming pool and opposed the condemnation of two young African American boys for the “crime” of kissing a white girl during a harmless child’s game, a cause that was deemed too controversial for the national NAACP. 

Profile of Rob Williams, facing left, aiming a pistol straight up wearing a white shirt, short Afro, a beard and mustache.

Meeting Violence with Violence 

In 1959, after a jury in Monroe acquitted a white man for the attempted rape of a black woman, Williams took matters into his own hands by making a historic statement on the courthouse steps. He said of his courthouse proclamation at a later press conference. “I made a statement that if the law of the United States Constitution cannot be enforced in this social jungle called Dixie, it is time that Negroes must defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence. 

Negroes with guns - Robert F. Williams

“That there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” 

At Odds with the Mainstream Civil Rights Movement 

The NAACP suspended Williams for advocating violence. In 1961, the Freedom Riders came to Monroe to demonstrate the efficacy of passive resistance, the hallmark of the mainstream Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. This type of action was nonretaliatory and didn’t take on the racism they were beaten down with by any means necessary. Moreover, an angry mob of Klansmen and Klan supporters overwhelmed the Riders, who called upon Williams and his Black Guard for help. Amid the chaos, Williams sheltered a white couple from an African American mob, only to be accused later of kidnapping them. 

Life in Exile

 With state and local authorities pursuing Williams for “kidnapping” and frenzied Klansmen calling for his death, Robert and Mabel Williams and their two small children fled Monroe. As a result, Fidel Castro granted Williams political asylum in Cuba and the family spent the next five years in Havana. Robert and Mabel Willias continued to fight for human rights from Havana through their news and music radio program, “Radio Free Dixie,” and the publication of Williams’ pamphlet, The Crusader, which reached an influential underground audience. In 1962, he wrote the book Negroes With Guns. 

Robert F. Williams - Wikipedia
The cover of Rob Williams’ book, Negroes With Guns. The title is written in boxy block lettering set on a darker background.

In 1966, Williams moved his family to China during the height of the Cultural Revolution. In China, he enjoyed celebrity status and fraternized with Mao Zedong and Chou En Lai. 

Homecoming 

In 1969, Williams returned to the U.S. aboard a TWA flight chartered by the federal government. All the charges against Williams were dropped and he went on to advise the State Department on normalizing relations with China. In regards to that, Williams did not, however, assume leadership of what had become a divided and beleaguered Black Power Movement. Instead, Williams accepted a position as a research associate at the Institute for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, and he and Mabel moved to Baldwin, near the University. In 1996 Williams died of cancer and buried in his hometown Monroe North Carolina. 

An elderly Rob Williams sits on a bench in a garden holding a walking cane. His hair and beard are mostly white, he is wearing a shirt and jeans and looks at the camera with a dignified expression.

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The Murder of Louis Allen (Black History 365)

Welcome to Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate, and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I will present a true crime story that’s a cold case to this day, and that is the murder of Louis Allen. 

Louis Allen ran a small timber business in Liberty Mississippi the county seat of Amite County, a county that was notorious for having a heavy presence of the Ku Klux Klan. Allen was a World War II veteran with a seven-grade education and was a landowner. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating which I spoke about in previous episodes were active in the county, but Allen did not attempt to register nor become involved in the movement. Allen’s life changed on the morning of September 25th, 1961, when he witnessed the murder of NAACP leader and SNCC supporter Herbert Lee by Eugene Hurst, a state legislator. 

Allen witnessed as Hurst aimed his pistol at Lee who stood defenseless with empty hands and an unlit cigarette in his mouth after a limited verbal exchange. Regardless of Allen being a witness or not, he felt compelled to speak out against the crime. As a result, Allen was pressured by local law enforcement officials to lie about what happened. Allen would go on to testify that he had seen Lee holding a tire iron with the intention of hitting Representative Hurst. A piece of iron was “found” under Lee’s body by the same authorities that coerced Allen to be on their side.

With that, the coroner’s jury exonerated Hurst the next day, After testifying, Allen was uncomfortable perjuring himself to survive from the wraith of Eugene Hurst. Allen would say “I did not want to tell no story about the dead because you can’t ask the dead for forgiveness,” he told SNCC organizer Bob Moses. As a result, Allen decided to tell the truth at the grand jury hearing that would examine the coroner’s jury. By doing this, he knew it meant putting his life on the line. 

Bob Moses arranged for Allen to meet with Justice Department officials, but when protection was offered, Allen reneged to testify. However, it was too late, officials in Liberty had already been informed that Allen was willing to testify. 

Whites stopped patronizing Allen’s business and cut off his credit. Additionally, Deputy Sheriff Daniel Jones, whose father was a Ku Klux Klan leader, began repeatedly harassing and arresting Allen on trumped-up charges such as trespassing or writing bad checks. 

A year later in 1962, Allen filed an affidavit detailing some of the indignant incidents he experienced at the hands of law enforcement. He described one particular encounter in which Deputy Jones struck his face with a flashlight and broke his jaw. Allen would write “They (the police) have someone out to my house, watching me all the time”. Allen pleaded for help, asking that “this matter be investigated at once because if not this kind of intimidation will continue. 

Allen’s efforts were futile because the harassment continued. He wanted to leave the county, but outstanding debts and a sick mother kept him there. After his mother passed away, Allen made plans to leave.

On January 31st, 1964, the night before his planned departure, Allen’s teenage son found his father’s dead body lying in the driveway. The entire left side of his face was blown off. Deputy Jones, the same who threatened Allen’s life on numerous occasions was made the lead investigator on the case. Officially, the murder remains unsolved today, thus making it a cold case. 

When news of Allen’s murder reached a COFO staff meeting in Hattiesburg, Mississippi the following morning, the group was in the middle of a deep debate about the potential summer project in Mississippi which would become called Freedom Summer aka what would become Mississippi Burning. Moses had kept out much of the argument his mind still on the murder of Allen. Being visibly affected by the death caused him to be assertive, undoubtedly swinging favorable staff support for the project which would later be known as the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Moses would say, “It became clear that we had to do something.”

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Mary Turner and The May 1918 Lynchings

  • This entry of Black History 365 has situations of graphic violence. Reader discretion is advised.

This true crime story I’ll be presenting in this entry Black History 365  is an event in history that I for one didn’t know about and you might not have known. The horrors of slavery and Jim Crow segregation complied an array of racial terror attacks that were brutal and some of them did make it front-page news i.e. Till murder.  This true-crime story in Black History I’m going to present was one of the many deaths that served as in the inspiration for Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit”. With that said, onto the events that occurred on the date of May 19th 1918 in Southern Georgia, United States. 

May 19th 1918 in Southern Georgia, United States was a terrifying day that ended in the gruesome murders of a group of black individuals in the form of lynchings. The most notable death was a woman by the name of Mary Turner. Not much is know about Mary Turner’s background, but what is known is that she was a soon to be a mother before her murder. 

Mary Turner, a black woman who was eight months pregnant, was lynched by a white mob from Brooks County, Georgia at  Folsom’s Bridge 16 miles north of Valdosta for speaking publicly against the lynching of her husband the day before. What I’m about to say is going to be graphic, so you’ve been warned. When the white mob captured Turner, they bound her feet, hung her upside from a tree, threw gasoline on her, and burned her clothes. The mob took their heinous actions and brutality to the extreme that led to the still alive Turner’s abdomen being torn by a mob member’s butcher knife, resulting in them cutting the unborn baby from her. Brace yourself for what you’re about to hear. Once the baby fell from Mary Turner, a member of the mob crushed the crying baby’s head with his foot. Afterward, Mrs. Turner’s body became target practice for the mob. They went to riddle her body with hundreds of bullets, killing her. 

I’m going to backtrack to what caused and led to Mary Turner’s capture and death. Mary Turner’s husband Hayes Turner had been lynched the day before. Hayes Turner was accused of being an accomplice in the killing of a notorious white farmer, Hampton Smith, who was well known for his abuse of black farmworkers. Mr. Smith would bail black people accused of petty crimes out of jail and then require them to work off the fine at his farm. Avoiding jail time to work off his fight might seem like the better deal, but Sidney Johnson, a black man working to pay off a legal fee for “rolling dice” or simply gambling confessed to killing Mr. Smith during a quarrel about being overworked. Police officers killed Johnson in a shootout. When news reached the white community, Mr. Turner and other black farm workers who had been previously accused by Mr. Smith were targeted and accused of conspiracy. 

Many black people during this time were lynched based on mere accusations of murder against white people. The same was true here, at least seven confirmed black individuals were lynched by the white mob in response to Hampton Smith’s death, inflicting community – wide racial terror and violence.

Mrs. Turner was grieving and spoke out against her husband’s death, promising to take legal action. Enraged by this, the white mob made an example of Mrs. Turner, despite having not to fear actual legal repercussions from her promise, as black people at that time were afforded judicial processing. The lynching of Turner and her unborn child from the white mob’s perspective was to maintain white supremacy, silence her, and communicate to the black community that no dissent from the racial order would be tolerated. To no surprise, no member was ever held accountable for the lynching of Mary Turner and her unborn baby. 

The grotesque execution of a black woman eight months pregnant reveals a great deal about how  black women were dehumanized with impunity. There has been a documented number of 594 racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950 in the state of Georgia. Brooks County had the third – highest number of documented racial terror lynchings.

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The Freedom Riders (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I will present the story behind “The Freedom Riders”. This post is much needed to be presented after the recent passing of civil rights legend and former U.S. representative John Lewis who was the frontman so to speak in this group of activists. 

The Freedom Riders were a group of Black and White Americans civil rights activists who participated in Freedom rides, bus rides through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. During their travels, The Freedom Riders tried to use “whites – only” restrooms and lunch counters at the bus stations in Alabama, South Carolina, and other southern states. As expected they were met with hostility from police officers as well as horrific violence from white protesters. However, with all the adversity they endured, they had supporters as their actions and bravery were spotlighted on an international scale. 

John Lewis

The original members of Freedom Riders totaled at 13, seven African Americans and six whites left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961. Their objective was to reach New Orleans, Louisiana on May 17 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown V. Board of Education decision, which ruled that segregation of the nation’s public schools was unconstitutional.

They would travel to Virginia and North Carolina drawing little public notice. The first violent incident occurred on May 12 in Rock Hill, South Carolina John Lewis, an African American seminary student and member of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), white Freedom Rider and World War II veteran Albert Bigelow and another African American rider were viciously attacked as they attempted to enter a whites-only waiting area.

The next day, the group reached Atlanta, Georgia, where some of the riders split off onto a Trailways bus.

Soon after the mob followed the bus in automobiles, and when the tires on the bus blew out, someone threw a bomb into the bus. The Freedom Riders escaped the bus as it burst into flames, only to be brutally beaten by members of the surrounding mob.

The second bus, a Trailways vehicle, traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, and those riders were also beaten by an angry white mob, many of whom carried metal pipes. Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor stated that, although he knew the Freedom Riders were arriving and violence awaited them, he posted no police protection at the station because it was Mother’s Day. Talk about a setup. 

Photographs of the burning Greyhound bus and the bloodied riders appeared on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country and around the world the next day, drawing international attention to the Freedom Riders’ cause and the state of race relations in the United States.

Following the widespread violence, CORE officials could not find a bus driver who would agree to transport the integrated group, and they decided to abandon the Freedom Rides. However, Diane Nash, an activist from the SNCC, organized a group of 10 students from Nashville, Tennessee, to continue the rides.

U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, began negotiating with Governor John Patterson of Alabama and the bus companies to secure a driver and state protection for the new group of Freedom Riders. The rides finally resumed, on a Greyhound bus departing Birmingham under police escort, on May 20.

Federal Marshals Called In

The violence toward the Freedom Riders was not quelled, rather, the police abandoned the Greyhound bus just before it arrived at the Montgomery, Alabama, terminal, where another white mob attacked the riders with baseball bats and clubs as they disembarked. Attorney General Kennedy sent 600 federal marshals to the city to stop the violence.

The following night, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led a service at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, which was attended by more than one thousand supporters of the Freedom Riders. A riot ensued outside the church, and King called Robert Kennedy to ask for protection.

Kennedy summoned the federal marshals, who used teargas to disperse the white mob. Patterson declared martial law in the city and dispatched the National Guard to restore order.

Kennedy Urges ‘Cooling Off’ Period 

On May 24, 1961, a group of Freedom Riders departed Montgomery for Jackson, Mississippi. There, several hundred supporters greeted the riders. However, those who attempted to use the whites-only facilities were arrested for trespassing and taken to the maximum-security penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.

That same day, U.S. Attorney General Kennedy issued a statement urging a “cooling off” period in the face of the growing violence:

“A very difficult condition exists now in the states of Mississippi and Alabama. Besides the groups of ‘Freedom Riders’ traveling through these states, there are curiosity seekers, publicity seekers, and others who are seeking to serve their causes, as well as many persons who are traveling because they must use the interstate carriers to reach their destination.

In this confusing situation, there is an increasing possibility that innocent persons may be injured. A mob asks no questions.

A cooling-off period is needed. It would be wise for those traveling through these two Sites to delay their trips until the present state of confusion and danger has passed and an atmosphere of reason and normalcy has been restored.”

During the Mississippi hearings, the judge turned and looked at the wall rather than listen to the Freedom Riders’ defense—as had been the case when sit-in participants were arrested for protesting segregated lunch counters in Tennessee. He sentenced the riders to 30 days in jail.

Attorneys from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization, appealed the convictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed them.

Desegregating Travel

The violence and arrests continued to garner national and international attention and drew hundreds of new Freedom Riders to the cause.

The rides continued over the next several months, and in the fall of 1961, under pressure from the Kennedy administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals.

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Climate Injustice Part 2 : Racism Fueled

  • Before reading this, I would advise for you to take a look at my previous post titled Climate Injustice so you can have a better understanding about what I will talking about in this post. Thank you.

There are blaring issues with how the racist fossil fuel energy system is. The fossil fuel economy is killing black americans. 

America is ubiquitous with racial inequalities that span centuries. Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police and five times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. However, it’s not just the U.S. criminal justice system that is fundamentally and consistently racist, the fossil fuel industry is, and in this post, I’m going to explain and discuss their hazardous actions towards the environment that Black people live in. 

If a society wants to run on fossil fuel energy, then there is going to be a need for sacrifice zones. In other words, places, where the air is thick with pollution and climate impacts, can be ignored. 

Last counted 68 percent of Black Americans lived within 30 miles of a coal-fired plant. Across the southern U.S., many of these facilities are more expensive to run than clean energy. Yet utilities such as Southern Company keep their constant super polluting uneconomic coal-fired plants open no matter the costs that will negatively affect Black communities, simply because it’s in their financial interests. This is a constant theme of rapacious entities capitalizing on the hard work of working-class Americans especially in blue-collar work and funneling their mess on many families.

Fossil fuel companies grow nervous as divestment movement grows ...

These kinds of actions will only lead to detrimental results. Case in point, fossil fuel corporations’ decisions have shortened Black lives and research has shown that white communities are exporting their pollution into Black people’s backyards. This results in Black children having high levels of asthma and the rates for that are twice as high as white children. We’ve seen the consequences of this pollution burden in dire terms during the COVID -19 pandemic, it’s a key contributor to Black Americans’ higher death rate.

Since this is Part 2 in my climate injustice posts I want to talk about the demographics I saw during the rally/protests I spoke about in Part 1. During the event, I couldn’t help but notice that the crowd was not diverse and only a small number of black and minority people were in the crowd. The majority were white and after this observation, it was reiterated to me from one of XR Boston members Matthew Kearney after I corresponded with him via email. He would have loved to have seen more of a diverse showing especially since these fossil fuel corporations are damaging the livelihood of Black Americans and have not been outed to the public on how minorities are preyed on in every facet in American life, and in this case, the fossil fuel corporations are the predators waiting for another opening. 

Coal plant emitting smoke

New research has shown that pregnant Black women are twice as likely to have stillborn babies than white mothers because of their unequal exposure to air pollution and heatwaves. With that said, climate change is real and is already hitting Black communities the hardest with relentless force. Make no mistake fossil fuel companies will continue to tell lies about the costs that their dirty infrastructure imposes on Black communities. If the truth was exposed to the public and if we valued Black lives, then there will be nowhere fossil fuel plants go. “I can’t breathe” has been chanted during Black Lives Matter protests due to lives being lost to the hands of police and the same mindset should apply with the fossil fuel corporations that continue to make it harder to breathe. 

If you enjoy reading this then give this post a like and comment if you’d like to chime in. Also give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts. As always peace and keep it real. 

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