May 22, 2016 | Posted by Ricky Riley
On Friday’s episode of PBS NewsHour, in the latest installment of their “Broken Justice” series, attorney and activist Bryan Stevenson talks about mass incarceration and his Equal Justice Initiative that advocates for prison reform in the U.S.
Stevenson tells NewsHour that many states have fallen short in their effort to make amends for damage to Black communities caused by mass incarceration. The increase in probation and parole supervision are not the proper fixes needed, he said.
In Stevenson’s interview, he goes on to say:
“Well, I think it’s a continuation of using crime narrative to control social and political dynamics that can’t be controlled in more legitimate ways.
And we created this so-called war on drugs, and we targeted people of color, and we got everybody to buy into the fact that if we don’t put these dangerous people into jails and prisons, we are non-safe. And that’s how we went nationwide from a prison population of about 300,000 in the 1970s to 2.3 million today. And now we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world …
I think people realize that we’re spending way too much money on jails and prisons. And I think that’s true in Alabama. It’s true nationwide. We went from $6 billion spent on jails and prisons in the United States in 1980 to $80 billion last year.”
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By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!!
THE HOUSTON RIOTS/CAMP LOGAN MUTINY OF 1917 AND 19 BLACK SOLDIERS OF THE 24TH U.S. INFANTRY REGIMENT
The Houston Riot of 1917, also known as the Camp Logan Mutiny, involved 156 soldiers of the all-black 3rd Battalion, 24th
Infantry – a unit of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. The incident occurred on August 23, 1917, lasting roughly two hours on a hot, rainy night, and resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and 15 white civilians. The episode has the distinction of being the only
race riot in U.S. history where more whites then blacks were killed, and it also resulted in both the largest murder trial and the largest court martial in U.S. history.
Just months after America’s entry into World War I, the soldiers of this historic all-black unit had been dispatched to build military facilities in Harris County, where they met animosity from whites beyond the everyday insults of Jim Crow law. Here, the service of “arrogant, strutting representatives of black soldiery” was hated and feared. An Army report confirmed the Houstonians view of black soldiers, concluding that both police and white citizens felt that “a nigger is a nigger and that his status is not effected by the uniform he wears.”
On July 24, 1917, construction began for Camp Logan. Houston had gotten its military installation, and on July 28, it got 654 men of the all-black 24th Infantry – with its all-white commanding officer group. The unit had been dispatched from Columbus, N.M. for seven weeks duty guarding Camp Logan’s construction. Their arrival in Houston came three weeks after the most violent race war, a massacre really, had occurred in East St. Louis, when gangs of whites roamed through black neighborhoods
indiscriminately beating and murdering black men, women, and children on July 1-3. (Some of the 24th soldiers had donated money to a fund to help the black victims in East St. Louis.)
In striking their deal with the federal government, Houston officials had promised “in the spirit of patriotism” there would be no racial trouble, that black soldiers would be welcomed, but the city’s whites had no such intention of opening their arms to the 24th, regardless the length of their stay.
Chief of Police Clarence Brock, whose 159-man force already had a miserable reputation of brutality and other forms of ill-treatment towards the city’s black populace, had even instructed his men to avoid using the term “nigger” when
addressing the soliders, but that edict was widely ignored as patrolmen harassed and arrested soldiers for minor infractions and
perceived slights that further increased racial tensions in a city where blacks were openly and routinely referred to as “niggers” by
police and white citizens alike. Gradually, the soldiers began to routinely disobey the Jim Crow laws, especially when it came to public transport and the requirement that they sit in the back of trolleys – which many of the soldiers refused to do. Their disobience and “insolence” led to predictably harsh enforcement from police and white Houstonians hurled insults at the soldiers at every turn, as did white soldiers and workers constructing Camp Logan. But none were more brazen in their verbal and physical attacks than Houston policemen. Yet, for the evening of August 23, the Houston Chamber of Commerce had planned a festive “watermelon party” to officially welcome the black soldiers. Instead, Houston got a chaotic evening of frenzied terror it would never forget, and rarely mention.
That morning, patrolman Lee Sparks, whose penchant for brutality
against blacks was well known, and his partner, Rufus Daniels, had pursued a man accused of participating in a dice game. Their
chase led them to a house where they arrested a thinly clad woman and accused her of hiding the man. Outside, near the police call box, a 24th soldier approached and asked Starks what was going on and if he could get clothes for the woman.
Sparks immediately began pistol-whipping the soldier and supposedly said, “That’s the way we do things in the South. We’re
running things not the damned niggers.”
Later, that afternoon, a military policeman from the 24th, Corporal Charles Baltimore, became involved when he inquired of
the soldier’s arrest. Baltimore was also beaten by Sparks, and then shot at as he fled. He was caught, beaten again and taken to the police station. Once he was set free and sent back to camp all beaten up, the infantry became angry, and decided to strike on the evening of August 23. 156 angry soldiers, stole weapons from the camp depot and marched on the city of Houston. They were met outside the city by the police and a crowd of armed citizens, frightened by the reports of a mutiny. A virtual race riot began, which left 20 people dead – four soldiers, four policemen, and 12 civilians.
Order was restored the next day, and the War Department disarmed the soldiers. The Third Battalion was sent by rail back to New Mexico. Martial law was declared in Houston, and the Third Battalion was returned to Columbus, New Mexico. Seven of its soldiers agreed to testify in exchange for clemency. Once there, 118 of them were arrested and charged with murder and mutiny and were sent to the stockade at nearby Fort Bliss in El Paso to begin their wait for court martial.
Between November 1, 1917 and March 26, 1918, the army held three separate courts-martial with the first, United States v.
William C. Nesbit, convening in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston’s Gift Memorial Chapel, which had the only space on post large
enough to hold a trial for the first 63 men – all represented by a single attorney working on a mere two weeks preparation. (Maj.
Harry S. Grier was inspector general of the 36th Divison and had taught law at West Point, but had no trial experience and was not
a lawyer.) Their charges were: disobeying orders, mutiny, murder, and aggravated assault. All of the men entered not guilty pleas and throughout the ordeal, even to the gallows, maintained their innocence.
Some witnesses may have been coerced into testifying against their fellow soldiers, others promised leniency or immunity,
others merely unreliable, but none of the testimony was conclusive that any of the men on trail had participated in the event. In all, testimony was heard from 169 prosecution witnesses, but only 29 for the defense. On November 28, 13 of the men were sentenced to be hung, however, they were not notified of their sentence until Dec. 9, two days before their execution.
Sgt. William C. Nesbitt
Corp. Larsen J. Brown
Corp. James Wheatley
Corp. Jesse Moore
Corp. Charles W. Baltimore*
Pvt. William Brackenridge
Pvt. Thomas C. Hawkins
Pvt. Carlos Snodgrass
Pvt. Ira B. Davis
Pvt. James Divine
Pvt. Frank Johnson
Pvt. Rosley W. Young
Pvt. Pat MacWharter
In a final letter to his family, Pvt. 1st Class Thomas C. Hawkins wrote:”Dear Mother and Father, When this letter reaches you
I will be beyond the veil of sorrow. I will be in heaven with the angels…I am sentenced to be hanged for the trouble that
happened in Houston, Texas. Altho (sic) I am not guilty of the crime that I am accused of, but mother, it is God’s will that I go
now and in this way….”
Pre-dawn, on December 11, near Salado Creek, the 13 soldiers were taken to hastily constructed gallows and summarily
hung. There had been no notice given to the media or public and their sentences and hangings would not be formally announced until later that morning. As they were escorted to the gallows, the soldiers were reportedly calm and sang hymns.
A white soldier from Company C., 19th Infantry, which had been charged with guarding the prisoners – “the hanging detail,” it
was called – recounted the scene: “The doomed men were taken off the trucks, not one making the slightest attempt to resist. They
were shivering a little, but I think this was due more to the cold rather than fear. The unlucky thirteen were line up. The conductors took their places and the men for the last time heard the command, “March!” Thirteen ropes dangled from the crossbeam of the scaffold, a chair in front of every rope, six on one side, seven on the other. As the ropes were being fastened about the men’s necks, big (Pvt. Frank) Johnson’s voice suddenly broke into a hymn – “Lord, I’m comin’ home” – and the others joined him. The eyes of even the hardest of us were wet.”
Because the U.S. was at war, the swiftness of the executions was backed by the Articles of War. However, that did not temper
the outrage from the black community, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but also some
military officials. Acting Judge Advocate Gen., Brig. Gen. Samuel T. Ansell, was particularly angered and said: “The men were
executed immediately upon the termination of the trial and before their records could be forwarded to Washington or examined by
anybody, and without, so far as I can see, any one of them having time or opportunity to seek clemency from the source of
clemency, if he had been so advised.” The sentence was carried out without appeal. Two more mass courts-martial would follow, resulting in six more hangings the following year. While the NAACP began a campaign to obtain the release of the imprisoned soldiers, General Order No. 7 (which Ansell proposed) was issued on January 17, 1918 providing that no enlisted personnel could be executed without first examination of the trial records by the judge advocate general and confirmation of the sentence by the president of the United States. That commuted 10 death sentences in the two other trials, but had no benefit for the 13 black soldiers of questionable guilt buried in the far reaches of Fort Sam Houston in makeshift graves.
The military tribunals indicted 118 enlisted men total for participating in the mutiny and finding 110 guilty. A total of 19 soldiers were hanged and 63 received life sentences in federal prison. One soldier was judged incompetent to stand trial. Two white officers faced courts-martial, but were released. No white civilians were brought to trial. Some soldiers served as many as 20 years before their release.
For years afterward, the incident clouded and complicated race relations, especially in the War Department.
Some blacks openly applauded the mutiny as a justified resistance against racist provocation. This inflammatory opinion piece, quoted in Mark Ellis’ Race, War and Surveillance, landed the editor who agreed to run it in federal prison:
“We would rather see you shot by the highest tribunal of the United States Army because you dared to protect a Negro woman from the insult of a southern brute in the form of a policeman, than to have you forced to go to Europe to fight for a liberty you cannot enjoy. Negro women regret that you mutinied, and we are sorry that you spilt innocent blood, but we are not sorry that five southern policemen’s bones now bleech in the graves of Houston, Tex.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army noted “the tendency of the Negro soldier, with fire arms in his possession … to become arrogant, overbearing, abusive and a menace to the community in which he happens to be stationed.” It held down its black enlistment throughout the interwar period.
This policy would continue — until the raw manpower of Black men was required in World War II trumped the discussion .Post Views: 251
Corporations Boycotted North Carolina over the Bathroom Bill, When Will They Stand Against Racial Injustice?By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
As the events unfold in Charlotte in the aftermath of the murder of Keith Scott — another Black man by police — questions arise as to what it will take to bring about real change in the realm of racial justice in North Carolina, and the role that corporate America will take.
As part of the so-called “new” South, with a large corporate presence and urban professional transplants from the North, the state wants to have it both ways. President Obama won North Carolina in the 2008 election, and a city such as Charlotte represents growth, progress and diversity, as The Washington Post reported, with “buttoned-up business (a banking center, an airline and retail hub), a multicultural melting pot and a farm-to-table haven.”
And yet, the state has elected a Republican-led, white supremacist state government, with a governor and a legislature that has sought the wholesale deprivation of Black voting rights, leading to the NAACP-led Moral Mondays movement.
Then there is the so-called “bathroom bill” known as HB2, which challenges a Charlotte city ordinance regarding gender-neutral bathrooms. And while the legislation has been known as an anti-LGBT law, it also eviscerated local ordinances, making it illegal for localities to expand the protections of state laws governing minimum wage standards, job discrimination and public accommodations, as the Charlotte Observer noted.
So while North Carolina had positioned itself as more cosmopolitan, progressive and tolerant than its neighbor bordering to its South — South Carolina, which had been embroiled in a Confederate flag debate of late — the state has paid a price with HB2.
According to Facing South, while state officials wish to downplay its impact, a corporate boycott of North Carolina has led to losses in the tens of millions of dollars. Over 200 companies and organizations have expressed their opposition to HB2, and they are taking their business out of the Tar Heel state. For example, PayPal canceled its planned $3.5 million complex, Deutsche Bank placed a corporate expansion on hold, and the NBA will take its All-Star Game elsewhere. The purpose of this and other boycotts, Facing South noted, is “to raise the economic and political costs of doing business as usual, to the point that decision-makers — whether lawmakers or corporate CEOs — are forced to change course.”
But what will it take for corporate America to respond to the calls for racial justice, in the midst of police violence against Black people? If they can take a stand against HB2, certainly these companies can demand that local and state governments do more and enact reforms if they want the dollars to continue flowing.
With a high-profile police killing and a continued effort at Black voter suppression — despite a Supreme Court decision rejecting North Carolina’s voter ID law and other voter restrictions — the time seems perfect for corporations to use their political muscle to benefit Black folks. White reactionary lawmakers believe they can get away with disrespecting African-Americans. For example, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who represents parts of Charlotte and its suburbs, said Blacks are protesting in Charlotte because “they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,” as NBC News reported.
And in some cases, with blood on their hands through their role in profiting from slavery, these North Carolina-based companies have a debt to pay Black people. For example, Bank of America admitted its ties to slavery, as two of its predecessor banks had dealings with the slave trade, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Further, a third predecessor accepted slaves as collateral on loans, as Your Black World Today reported. Two companies that were incorporated into Wachovia — now owned by Wells Fargo — owned slaves and accepted them as collateral on loans or mortgages. And the founder of R.J. Reynolds, Richard Joshua Reynolds, came from a large slave-owning family of tobacco farmers. These companies can, at a minimum, support a boycott in North Carolina and a movement around racial justice, and provide support to the descendants of enslaved people in the form of employment, scholarships and community programs.
Writing an editorial in NBC News, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II — president of the North Carolina NAACP and founder of the Moral Mondays movement — summed it up best when he called the riots in Charlotte “the predictable response of human beings who are drowning in systemic injustice.” It is not about Black people hating the police, he noted, but rather people of all races “rising up against systems of injustice that shield officers who kill but leave millions defenseless.”
Declaring that “it’s the ballot or the riot,” Rev. Barber wrote that as hopeless as things may seem, we know what needs to be done to change the conditions that led to Keith Scott’s death.
“Right here in North Carolina, we have seen how people impacted by unjust policies can come together in coalitions across color and lift up a moral agenda that embraces the good of the whole,” he said. “This kind of coalition movement building is not easy, and we cannot win the change we need in a single election. But every step forward in this nation’s history has come from movements like this one.”Post Views: 286
By Elliot Booker — 2 years agoThe Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative is building a memorial to lynching victims. The group estimates more than 4,000 African-Americans were lynched in the South between 1877-1950. Among those targeted were black veterans. These men returned from war abroad having experienced something unfamiliar to them: being treated with dignity and respect –– something they didn’t receive at home in the U.S. Many black veterans challenged the racial hierarchy of the South and were seen as threats to white supremacy. WBHM’s Esther Ciammachilli spoke with Bryan Stevenson, EJI’s founder and executive director, to learn more about the legacy of lynching and the history of racial inequality in America.
Ciammachilli: Why were white people concerned about the African-American veterans who were returning from war?
Stevenson: When World War I comes along and the country needs black people to help win this war and tens of thousands of African-Americans sign up to fight for the government, there’s a new threat to racial hierarchy. There’s a new threat to the sort of white supremacy that dominates political, social, and economic life because when these soldiers return after World War I and then certainly after World War II, they’ve now been exposed to a world outside of the emancipated South. They’ve been treated in many ways with dignity and respect. They’ve been armed, they’ve been trained, they’ve been disciplined, they’ve had success on the battlefield. And when you come back like that, you do pose a threat to people who are trying to create and sustain this world where black people only submit to whites, that they live in the margins, they get off the sidewalk when white people walk by. They don’t talk back. They don’t ask questions. They are subordinate. And so, targeting veterans and challenging any sense that freedom or autonomy or equality is something that they could expect meant that black veterans were experiencing racial violence at a much higher rate than other people, and the lynching of African-American veterans after World War I, after the Spanish-American War, after World War I, and then after World War II really points that out.
Ciammachilli: And of the thousands of blacks that were lynched in the South between 1877 and 1950, how many of them were veterans? Do we know that number?
Stevenson: It’s a hard thing to determine definitively because the reports about lynchings would almost always provide almost no information about who the person was and what their background was. Our research is increasingly suggestive that as many as 10% were people who had some prior military experience.
Ciammachilli: And did this violence against black veterans only take place in the South or was it more widespread?
Stevenson: It was more widespread. I mean the states that had the highest number of lynchings were all in the American South, but you would find you know these threats all over the country. I mean in the north and the west where millions of black people were fleeing to from the South in response to lynching. There were these growing numbers of African-Americans which of course created challenges and tensions in those communities. So, you would certainly see this and in the Midwest and Ohio and Michigan and Illinois in Indiana. You would see it in the far west –– California Arizona, the northwest, you’d see it in the northeast. It was more concentrated in the American South because the American South, of course, had a rigid legalized system of Jim Crow and of segregation. And black soldiers would be tempted to step across those lines. They no longer thought that it was appropriate that they have to drink out of a colored fountain, or go to an inferior bathroom, or to get out of the way just because a white person was walking down the street.
Ciammachilli: They challenged the white supremacy.
Stevenson: Exactly. That’s right. This narrative of racial differences, ideology of white supremacy, was something that I think black soldiers felt obligated to challenge having fought for American freedom and equality.
Success abroad was also enhancing that. You know black battalions fought valiantly in France during World War I and were highly decorated and recognized. The same was true of World War II. And to be embraced by these these embattled European communities and treated as heroes to then be treated as less than human as inferior and not worthy of any dignity or respect when they got back to the American South was very difficult to accept. And so there were tensions and conflicts emerging from that.
Ciammachilli: And you know I want to talk about actually what it was like for these men who enlisted to fight for the American freedom that they did not enjoy as civilians. What was life like for these men while they were in the military? Were they seen as equals by their white counterparts?
Stevenson: Well even in the military there was segregation, and that’s why this was a national problem, not just a southern problem. The United States military did not permit black people to serve alongside of white people. You know during World War I or World War II, but they fought so valiantly and effectively that it became harder and harder for the American government to justify this kind of segregation. But there’s no question that even during their military service they had to deal with racial segregation and racial separate separation. But I think there was still an affirming experience because they were armed they were trained they were empowered to do things that they could not do on domestic soil and then they had success. And I think that success really created a consciousness that, you know, we cannot continue to accept this white supremacy, this ideology that we’re somehow less capable. And you know there were many leaders in the African-American community that were urging black people to fight during World War I and certainly during World War II on the hope that valiant service, successful service, would then create payment from the American government of freedom of equality. It would ensure that the American government would do more to eliminate Jim Crow and segregation and to end the terrorism and violence that black people had endured since emancipation.
Ciammachilli: And you know speaking of emancipation and following the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868, which states that all those born in the United States regardless of race are subject to the same “privileges and immunities” of citizens, following the passage of the 14th Amendment, several states actually made moves passed laws that essentially stripped certain rights from black veterans. Can you talk about some of those laws?
Stevenson: I mean, I do think that one of the challenges that we have in American society is that we haven’t really come to grips with how burdened we are by our history of racial inequality. I really don’t believe we’re free in this country. I think we’ve all been compromised. We’ve all been infected by this narrative of racial difference. I think our history of racial inequality has created a kind of smog that we all breathe in and it creates problems for us even today. It doesn’t take much to create distrust or offense or conflict. And I think that’s a product of our failure to deal honestly with this history.
I think we are a post-genocide society in America. I think what happened to native people when white settlers came to this continent was a genocide. And we haven’t done the things you’re supposed to do to recover from genocide, we had millions of native people slaughtered through famine and war and disease and we haven’t really addressed that. What we did instead was create this narrative of racial difference. We said, “Oh no, those native people, they’re savages. We don’t have to worry about their victimization.” And that narrative shaped the legacy of slavery. And as I’ve said, I don’t believe the great evil of American slavery was involuntary servitude or forced labor. I think the great evil of American slavery was the ideology of white supremacy. It’s the narrative we created to make ourselves feel comfortable owning other people we said black people aren’t the same as white people that got these deficits. They’re not fully human. And that problem wasn’t addressed with the constitutional amendments. They don’t talk about ending the narrative of racial difference or the ideology of white supremacy and because of that, you see states –– as you suggest –– creating local statutes and ordinances that are designed to prevent enforcement of rights under the 13th and 14th Amendment. And because of that, I don’t think slavery end in the 1860s, I think it just evolves. And the era of lynching and terrorism and violence that we witnessed in this country between the end of Reconstruction and World War II is dramatic evidence of that. There’s never been a time when you could see thousands of people gathering to witness a black man or woman or child being burned alive, being mutilated, being brutalized and murdered in the public square with no risk of prosecution.
Ciammachilli: As if it’s entertainment.
Stevenson: It was like a carnival. And the people didn’t wear a mask. People tend to think that this was violence committed by hate groups and the Klan. No these were unmasked leading citizens. It was often the elites, the teachers, the doctors, the writers, the people who were the business leaders of a community that participated in this violence and these mass atrocities were devastating to our commitment to the rule of law. And I don’t think we’re going to be a healthy nation until we acknowledge and recognize this legacy. When you go to South Africa, you can’t spend time there without being confronted with the history of apartheid. If you go to Rwanda they will make you listen to the stories of the genocide. Germany has created a new identity for itself by memorializing and marking the legacy created by the Holocaust. You can’t go a hundred meters in Berlin, Germany without seeing a marker or a stone that’s been placed next to the home of a Jewish family. The Germans want you to go to the Holocaust Memorial and reflect soberly on that history. But in this country we don’t talk about slavery. We don’t talk about lynching. We don’t really talk about the legacy of segregation. Here in Alabama, we’ve got hundreds of memorials and monuments honoring and recognizing the Confederacy. We romanticize that era. We celebrate Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday. We celebrate Jefferson Davis’ birthday as a state holiday here in Alabama. We don’t have Martin Luther King Day we had Martin Luther King/Robert Lee day. And yet with this preoccupation with mid-nineteenth century history we do not talk about slavery. There’s no place in the state you can go and have an honest experience with the legacy of slavery. We don’t talk about lynching.
And so, our work is really aimed at changing that. We put out these reports about lynching and slavery. We’re going to build a museum here in Montgomery. We’re going to create a national memorial to victims of lynching. But we’re doing it because we want to create a different relationship to this history, not just for African-Americans, but for everybody. I think we will all benefit from dealing more directly, more honestly, more soberly with this legacy and we can change our identity too just as Germany has, just as Rwanda has, just as in South Africa. But we can’t do it by continuing to deny and resist efforts at confronting and acknowledging this troubling past.
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