The Charlotte News

Sunday, December 8, 1940



Site Ed. Note: Speaking of Huddie Ledbetter and Jim Crow, try "Jim Crow Blues"... Not dissimilar to the way Rodney King eloquently stated the premise in 1992 in the midst of the L.A. riots, Leadbelly began his song with this introduction in the 1930's: "And I feel a little sorry for the people when they walk into a place and this is one world and we're in the same boat, brother. Why don't we be kind to each other? What difference would it make? Well, there 're some places you go you can't find it. I was stoppin' on the train, stoppin' in Las Vegas. Waitin' around there and I walked in, the white fellow was with me. Went to sit down. I thought everything was alright. A man touched me on the shoulder and said, 'I'm sorry, we don't serve colored.' I said, 'Say you don't?' He said, 'Naw.' White fellow got right up, too, and went on. Said, 'They Klannish'. We didn't get nothin' to eat in Las Vegas. We come on down further. So many places like that 'cause-- I just feel sorry for the people 'cause they ain't woke up yet. As long as you fight, you gonna keep on and there's gonna be war. But if you quit fightin', you got peace. You can't never get peace from fightin'. You got to get together and don't be no stormy weather and we'll all be in the same boat, brother. Okay, now you gonna want this Jim Crow Blues, huh? That brings news and makes a man wild in his shoes, when they give him that Jim Crow place..."

A Long Chance

Still, It Exists in Cases Of Disputed Confessions

The Negro, Zedekiel Smith, went to his death in the gas chamber Friday still insisting on his innocence. He had been found guilty in Sampson County of murdering and robbing an aged white recluse. He maintained that he hadn't committed the crime, that he didn't know who had, that the recluse was his best white friend, and that the confession which convicted him was scared out of him by police officers.

Chances are that he was guilty. Many men go to execution protesting their innocence though there is no doubt of their guilt. But for all that, anybody who is not gifted with the feeling of infallibility must inevitably have some qualms about an execution in a case like this one.

The case had been investigated by the Governor's office, of course. But in the nature of the circumstances, it was inevitably a matter of the Negro's word against that of the officers, with the primary assumptions heavily in favor of the officers.

As we say, chances are that he was guilty, that the confession was authentic. And still the suspicion persists that it might have been better to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. If the outside chance that he was innocent should someday prove to be the fact, rectification of the error could be made for a man in prison. But there is no rectification for the dead.


Deegan Case

Nazi Evasion Ought Not To Be Tolerated in It

If Mrs. Elizabeth Deegan, whom Asheville knows, has been using her job in the American Embassy in Paris to aid British officers to escape from occupied France into unoccupied France, she'll have to take the legal consequences, of course. It was for that sort of thing (using the Red Cross to the same purpose) that Edith Cavell was shot--a legal sentence for all its offensive brutality.

But it is hard to believe that she has been so reckless or that the Embassy would not have long ago failed to discover it and to restrain her. In view of the nature of the Nazi animal, it is more probable that she has been indiscreet in showing her sympathy for the British cause and that the Gestapo has set out to wreak vengeance on her and browbeat her into silence.

The Nazis are very anxious for the French people not to know the strength of American sympathy and aid for Britain. And their native spitefulness would probably lead them to act anyhow, particularly since they are said to be getting angrier and angrier at the United States.

In any event, Washington should tolerate no evasion and no delay in getting at the facts in the case. The Embassy of the United States in Paris is American soil, and the removal of a person from it by means of subterfuge is a very grave offense against the sovereignty and dignity of the nation. A graver offense still would be for the secret police of any power to attempt to hold her incommunicado and without specifying the charges against her.

Indeed, if her job, a minor one, entitled her to diplomatic immunity--about which we don't know--she cannot legally be held at all but only ejected from the country. But whatever the facts, any attempt at Nazi arrogance in the case should be dealt with vigorously.


Jim Crow Code

A Life for a Life, If... It Is a White Life

Householders didn't, in all probability, lock their doors any tighter or load their shotguns apprehensively last week after reading in The News the headline, "Eleven Killers Still At Large In Charlotte." Everybody knows that these killers are not public menaces in the sense that they are career desperadoes. Rather, they came to kill in a moment of wild black anger, or drunkenness, or--some of them, perhaps--to keep from being killed by black men who were crazy mad or crazy drunk.

And then, too, it should comfort the greater part of the householders to remember that these killers draw sharp color lines, although how long they will continue to be governed by such niceties is a question that deserves some consideration.

The record is gruesome and frightening all the same. So far this year in Charlotte, 44 homicides. Eleven of the killers still uncaught, some of them even unsought.

By the record, the most murderous city in the United States. And manifestly the most indifferent if we are to judge by the number of killers turned loose through the verdict of coroner's juries in impromptu trials, without any semblance of prosecution by the State; by the easy lenience of white courts and white juries and the readiness of white friends to intercede with the Governor on behalf of some woolly-headed Sam, whom they know and represent as an amiable, respectable colored man, but who among his own kind is a trouble-seeker and has blood stains on his hands.

It is a sort of Jim Crow code under which the white man's justice and, for that matter, white man's religion operate. A life for a life--but only for a white life. "...Murder may be punishable with death, if the General Assembly should so enact," and the General Assembly has so enacted. Vengeance has been duly codified and without racial discrimination. But in practice the death penalty is almost never handed out to Negroes for murder of other Negroes.

And so the murder of Negroes by Negroes is unpreventable and goes substantially unpunished. It is lamentable, to be sure, and it plays hob with a town's statistics, but after all they are a savage people, only generations out of the jungle, and for the most part they confine their killings to their own race.

Is that how we feel about it?

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