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.”

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.”

Leave a like and comment if you’d like learning something new from this. Also, give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts. As always, peace and keep it real.

Till Death to Confess: The Murder of Emmett Till (Black History 365)

This horrific story is one of the most recognized crimes in America’s racist history. I remember watching a Dave Chappelle special that he had a few years back when he made his comeback, and near the end, he brought up the true crime story that was a fuel that ignited the civil rights movements and that was the murder of Emmett Till. 

The date is August 28th, 1955, and 14-year old Emmett Till an African American kid from Chicago is brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailant, the white woman’s husband and his brother forced Till to carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank of Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. Following that, the two men then proceeded to beat Till nearly to death, gouged out his eyes, shot him in the head, and then threw his body tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire into the river. 

Who was Emmett Till? 

Till grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Southside Chicago, and though he attended a segregated elementary school, he was ill – equipped for the level of segregation he would encounter in Mississippi. Till would receive warnings from his mother to be careful when embarking the deep south due to his race. Emmett was an upbeat kid and liked pulling pranks but a place like Mississippi back then had no tolerance for expressive nature. On August 24th, 1955, while standing with his cousins and some friends outside a county store in Money Mississippi. Till was acting braggadocious saying that his girlfriend back home was white. His friends, all young black boys, disbelieved him and dared Emmett to ask the white woman sitting behind the store for a date. 

He went in, bought some candy, and on his way out was heard saying “Bye, baby” to the women. Interestingly enough there were no witnesses in the store, but Carol Bryant the woman behind the counter claimed that he grabbed her and made lewd advances towards her and topped it off with a wolf whistle at her as he walked out the store. It was his word against hers if her accusations were to ever go to court against Till, but things escalated quickly before any truth was ever to be discovered. 

Till’s Murder

Roy Bryant, the owner of the store and the woman’s husband, returned from a business trip a few days later and was informed how Emmett had allegedly spoken to his wife. Irate, he went to the home of Till’s great uncle, Moses Wright, with half-brother J.W. Milam in the early morning hours of August 28th. 

The pair demanded to see the boy. Despite pleas from Wright, they forced Emmett into their car. They drove around in the night and took their time torturing Till in a toolhouse behind Milam’s residence. Thereafter, they drove him down to the Tallahatchie River. It was three days later that Till’s corpse was recovered but he was so disfigured beyond recognition that only his great uncle Moses Wright could identify him by an initialed ring Till wore. Authorities wanted to bury the body quickly, but Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, requested it to be sent back to Chicago. 

Emmett Till Is Anne Frank To Black America'

Open – Casket Funeral 

After his mother saw the mutilated remains decided to have an open-casket funeral so that the world could see what the racist murderers did to her son. “Jet” an African American weekly magazine published a photo of Till’s corpse, and soon the mainstream media picked up the story. Furthermore, less than two weeks after Till’s body was buried Milam and Bryant went on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. Other than Moses Wright, there were a few witnesses who could positively identify the defendants as Till’s killers. 

On September 23rd, 1955, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty” explaining that the reason they came to that decision was that they believed the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Subsequently, many people around the country were outraged by the decision and also by the state’s decision not to indict Milam and Bryant on the separate charge of kidnapping. 

Carol Bryant’s Confession

The Emmett Till murder trial brought to light the brutality of Jim Crow segregation in the south and was the early catalyst of the civil rights movement. In 2017, Tim Tyson the author of the book “The Blood of Emmett Till revealed that Carol Bryant recanted her testimony admitting that Till never touched, threatened, or harassed her. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she said. 

The living legacy of Emmett Till's casket | Facing South

Leave a like and comment if you’d like to chime in. Also give my page so you can stay up to date with my future posts. Lastly, check out my podcast “Black History 365 : The Throw Down” on Spotify or any other podcast platforms you use. As always peace and keep it real.

They see you now

The truth that is buried by lies will eventually find the strength to rise to the surface. It may take time, but time is all the truth needs to break free with its revelation. – TheRhymeRula

Man, I can think of endless adjectives to describe the powerful and poignant Netflix miniseries “When they see us” by Oscar nominated director Ava Duvernay. The miniseries takes the viewer on the journey of five young boys ( four black , one Latino) who were dubbed the Central Park 5 in April 1989. If you’re unfamiliar with this highly publicized case, I’ll jump right into the story. On that date of April 19, 1989 all the boys were hanging out at the Central Park in Manhattan NYC, having a good time, causing a little ruckus (as youngsters sometimes do) but they were unfortunately at the wrong place at the wrong time. Police began canvassing and were looking to arrest suspects in the rape and attempted murder of a white female jogger by the name Trisha Melli. Four of the five boys; Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, and Antron McCray were on a police list of suspects. However, the fifth boy Korey Wise was not and when Yusef Salaam was approached by the police to go to the police precinct, Korey agreed to accompany his friend. Loyalty is something we all look for in relationships and do our best to maintain. However, it can be a gift and a curse, and in this case it went towards the later and Korey found himself in a frightening situation.

After that they’re lives would be changed forever. These kids endured physical and verbal abuse by detectives, coercion, and fabricated stories that detectives tried to piece together. Mind you Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise were the only two who knew each other, so the other three were adding names the police were feeding them and creating stories to build a case against each other. With that said, there was no legal representation or parental interference except for Yusef Salaam whose mother came in time to get her son the hell up out of there. They was no physical evidence, nothing that could of linked them to the crime, the only way these boys were sent to the prison was was their forced confessions and how they didn’t have the right complexion for protection. Fast forward, all of them except Korey Wise did around seven years in juvenile prison, while Korey since he was sixteen was tried as an adult and was sent to state prison doing a total of thirteen years. Taking it even further, in 2002 all were exonerated when serial rapist Matias Reyes admitted to not only the crime but others that were unsolved. He had the same motives in all his killings and rapes, the DNA evidence was a match to the jogger, and the the vivid description on how it occurred sealed the case shut. In 2014 the city of New York awarded a 41 million dollar settlement after the five accused sued the city and they divided their reparations. Some of them had to divide up with attorneys and so forth.

Before watching this miniseries I’ve heard about the Central Park 5 vaguely maybe through pop culture references but not in any detailed descriptions. It’s a saddening, disturbing, redemptive, like I said before there are too many adjectives to describe this haunting story. I cannot imagine as a freshman or sophomore in high school pretty much being kidnapped by the police for days and forced to confess to something I have no idea about, and then spend years on end in a place like prison where I had no business to ever be in. The story had holes all in it from the beginning. With the documentary, miniseries, and the prosperous lives the now men live, I’d say they’ve done their best job to now cover the holes.

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