I graduated pretty quickly. When I was eleven or twelve a close friend of the family got lynched. I guess he was about forty years old, married, and we used to play with his kids. I remember the Saturday night a bunch of white men beat him to death at the Decatur fairgrounds because he sassed back a white woman. They just left him dead on the ground. Everyone in town knew it but never said a word in public. I went down and saw his bloody clothes. They left those clothes on a fence for about a year. Every Negro in town was supposed to get the message from those clothes and I can see those clothes now in my mind’s eye…. But nothing was said in public. No sermons in church. No news. No protest. It was as though this man just dissolved except for the bloody clothes…. Just before I went into the Army I began wondering how long I could stand it. I used to watch the Saturday night sport of white men trying to run down a Negro with their car, or white gangs coming through town to beat up a Negro.
When a black Jacksonian looks about his home community, he sees a city of over 150,000, of which 40% is Negro, in which there is not a single Negro policeman or policewoman, school crossing guard, or fireman.
Freedom has never been free … I love my children and I love my wife with all my heart. And I would die, die gladly, if that would make a better life for them.
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Martin Luther King, Jr. American Civil Rights Leader
- Malcolm X American Civil Rights Leader
- Langston Hughes American Poet, Writer
- Huey P. Newton American Political Activist
- Jesse Jackson American Baptist Civil Rights Activist
- Rosa Parks American Civil Rights Leader
- Dorothy Height American Activist
- Hyman G. Rickover American Admiral
- Thurgood Marshall American Jurist
- Duke Ellington American Musician