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“I’m Just Sayin'” Black History Post

Mary Em Montoro

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Willie Francis Photo courtesy by http://photosinhouse.com

We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. 

John Legend said after receiving his Grammy for Best Original Song for “Glory.”

Many people booed at R&B singer John Legend for making his comment during the telecast. When the Grammys’ ended, I thought about what he said and I agreed. Just look at the recent events with Michael Brown from Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin from Florida. Eric Garner, 44, from Staten Island New York, was pushed down to the ground by a police officer who believed Garner was selling single cigarettes from an untaxed pack, which is illegal. Four more officers moved in to restrain Garner who kept saying, “I can't breathe.”

African-American men have been hunted like animals since time began.  You would think that living in the 21st century things would be extremely different and fair. Unfortunately, history tells us that is not the case. At least not yet. I hope. The following is a very short list of black men done wrong by the distorted legal system called the government. For me to list all of them, ya’ll be reading this column for a very long time. I’m just sayin’.  

Clarence Norris (19), Charlie Weems (16), Haywood Patterson (18), Eugene Williams (13), Ozie Powell (16), brothers Andy Wright (19) and Roy Wright (12 or 13), Olen Montgomery (17) and Willie Roberson (16) were known as the Scottsboro Boys. The Alabama natives travelled unlawfully on a train in 1931 heading toward Memphis, Tennessee with some white boys and two white females, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. The women accused these nine young black men of rape. An all-white jury tried them. All the young men, except for Roy Wright who joined the Merchant Marines and committed suicide after killing his wife for allegedly being unfaithful, remained either incarcerated or kept off the radar.

Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago who came to visit relatives in Mississippi in 1955. Till allegedly whistled or spoke to Carolyn Bryant, 21 years old at the time, a white woman who owned the neighborhood store with her husband Roy.  Roy and a relative went to where Emmett was staying and dragged him away. The young man was severely beaten, had one eye gouged and shot in the head. He had the heavy weight of a cotton gin fan and barbed wire tied around his neck and tossed in a nearby river. The boy’s face was unrecognizable due to the huge disfigurement. When his mutilated body surfaced three days later, his face was hugely disfigured. Bryant and his accomplice were acquitted. In a 1956 interview with Look magazine, the men admitted in killing Till. Because of double jeopardy, they couldn’t be tried for the same crime.

George Junius Stinney, Jr. was another 14-year-old boy who got in trouble in the South. Born and raised in South Carolina, Stinney stood trial for the murder of two young white girls.  Even though Stinney “confessed,” the three officers who arrested him coerced the confession. His attorney didn’t call on witnesses who saw the crime, plus he wasn’t even an attorney but a tax commissioner running for public office. An all-white jury convicted Stinney within 10 minutes. He was sentenced to die by the electric chair. Seventy-years later, on December 17, 2014, Stinney’s conviction was vacated for lack of evidence and poor representation.

At the age of 16 in 1945, Willie Francis was sentenced to the electric chair for murder in Louisiana. The chair failed. After lengthy appeals, he was found guilty and sentenced again to the electric chair. He died at age 17 in 1947. 

Does anyone think we have come a long way only to turn back to the “good old days?” Let me hear it, [email protected]

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“I’m Just Sayin'” Black History Post