Lynching in the United States (1877-1968)

Southern trees bear a strange fruit, 
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, 
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, 
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol.

Should I run? Should I stay here and pray? Let my laboured breathing give me away?

I know that they’re still looking for me. I can hear them shouting. Their false promises that they’re not going to hurt me. That they just want to talk.

They think I’m stupid. They think that we’re all stupid.

If I show myself they’ll pounce on me. A rope will be around my neck within seconds and before I know it, the air will slowly leave my lungs as my neck struggles to support my weight. If I’m lucky it’ll be quick.

I won’t be one of those black men who disappears without a trace. The one who no-one looks for, because everyone knows what happened and knows who did it.

My name will never be spoken in public for fear that one of the perpetrators will hear. Then more and more of us disappear until we learn to keep our mouths shut. Until we learn to stay in our place. Until we understand that this is America: the land of the free white man.

So, I’m not leaving this swamp. I don’t care how long I have to hide, or how bad it smells. At this point I don’t care if an alligator snaps my ass in two. There has to be more dignity in that than the torture I’d face at the hands of the animals chasing me.

Their fathers made me watch my daddy swing from the highest tree in the county. After they cut him down and stripped the parts they wanted for souvenirs, I could still see the fear in his dead eyes. Worse still, the shame he felt when they told him his family would be sitting “front row” was etched into his face like a scar. Our tears probably killed him before the rope did.

They had a rule against killing “nigger children” unless we did something that justified their brutalities. But, they told me that one day I’d slip up and then they’d have a rope ready and waiting for me.

10 years and one slick word to the grocer later, here I am and there they are.

Escaping a lynch mob

By Shaurna Cameron

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