The Charlotte News

Monday, September 23, 1940


(Two Letters)


Site Ed. Note: On September 28, the letter below from the NAACP appeared in The News letters-to-the editor column, in response to the editorial of this date, "Confusion". This editorial may not be by Cash. It would appear not to be, given his editorial of September 11, "True to Form"--the use of "anyhow" for "anyway" being the dead give-away in the latter. But we include "Confusion" and the letter anyway, to highlight the issue.

It happens something like this:

"Boys, you better get the hell out of Dodge fast, now. Turn north out of town and get gone. I'm telling you the right thing to do, now. Don't come back here neither. No one wants you here. Don't look back. No matter what you do, don't you look back. North's the only safe direction out of here. Do like I say, now, boys, if you know what's good for you. They'll be lookin' for you south. Listen to me, now. Don't want you boys to get any trouble tonight."

Outside the calabouse, as the dogs bark restlessly, sounding the alarum in the still June night, the hint of foreboding smoke in the air, mixing ever so subtly with the still fresh deathly sweet scent stuck to the nostrils of the simmering in agua caliente, Velva over-cologne, masking yet beneath it the mashed mix of Kentucky rye ferment, of the jailer...

"Which way should we go?

"Got to go back to Meridian. My wife's there."

"That's south, man. No way. You heard what he said."

"Can't do. Go north to Winston County. My cigarettes are telling me that's the way out of here. We'll be in Salem otherwise. Do it. We can circle back down through Noxubee and Kemper to Meridian and stay out of this county."

"That'll take two hours to do all that, James. I'm tired. We've been locked up all day. I want to go somewhere fast and get some real shut-eye. Besides, we pulled the To Morrow thing on 'em that Andy suggested yesterday and look where it got us. In jail, six hours. The guy's just trying to intimidate us some more. Forget it."

"I told you not to stop in front of the Dallas Garage, didn't I. Didn't I? These people are sensitive to that stuff. I told you, no stands this soon after what happened at the church, Tuesday night."

"It was a blowout. Coincidence. What do you want?"

"Hey, stop arguing. We're going the most direct way back to Meridian. It's 40 miles. We'll be there in 45 minutes. What can happen in forty-five minutes?"

"No, man. I'm telling you, not that road. Not 19, man. That road's no good. That's one of their numbers."

"James, you're plain superstitious. We're okay, man. Just let's go. Keep an eye peeled for cars behind us and we'll go the speed limit the whole way. They can't stop us if we obey the laws. James. Relax, man. You're with us. They're not going to risk it. Do you know what would happen if they tried it with us?"

"I'm telling you, Mickey. You don't know these people around here. They'll stop you for going too slow late at night. That's why they waited until 10:00 to let us go. This is how it happens, man. I've heard about it lots of times. Anything this late they can say was suspicious. They'll stop us and then they've got us out here with nobody. Nobody."

"Okay, so they stop us. What of it? If we've done nothing, what can they do? Look, we're already out of town and there's nobody following. We're okay. Forty more minutes. They could have done something in the jail if they wanted to do something."

"Not around here, man. That's not it. They do it at night. That's part of the ritual. That's always been the way. They can't be seen then. That's part of it. Ghosts that disappear in the night."

"Hey, shush, now. Listen. The college station 's playing 'Masters of War'. Relax. Soon. Okay?"

"Barely hear it with all the static. Turn it up some, Mickey.

"Great song, man. I heard he's got a new one coming out in about a month. Really liked the last one."

"Hey, can't this thing go a little faster?"

"It's a Fairlane, guy. Six cylinders. What do you want, give 'em an excuse for the speedtrap game again? We'll be locked up all night."

"Oh no. What's that, man? Lights."

"Relax. It's just the chubby guy again."

"We're lost."

Three young men. Two were 21 years of age, one was 24. They never got to see middle age, as did their killers--as do still some of their killers, even unto old age.

Deputy Price, who stopped the three that Sunday afternoon and again that night, turning them over to his fellow travelers at 10:30, is dead. He died in Philadelphia, Mississippi, three days after falling from an hydraulic lift on May 3, 2001, a hundred and one years to the day after the first electric lights were turned on in Gaffney, South Carolina. He served four years in prison, from 1970 to 1974, for his murderous activity that night. Before his death, in 1996, he was made head of the local Masons in Philadelphia. Sheriff Rainey is dead. He died from throat cancer, November 8, 2002. He was never convicted for his crimes, but he was consigned to security guard jobs and such the rest of his days. He had murdered before, also, as a deputy, in 1959. Sam "Sambo" Bowers, head of the Mississippi Kukus in 1964, is serving a life term for the murders, finally convicted in 1998, after five trials, for a 1966 murder of another civil rights activist in Hattiesburg. "Preacher" Edgar Ray Killen, a drunk piece of white trash, an ordained Baptist minister, whose drunk white trash "church" no doubt worshipped only White Khrist and a Red Amerikuhn flag, organized the expedition that night; he was never convicted--not yet anyway. Wayne Roberts, a fat-faced little punk coward, a perennial troublemaker who physically attacked a CBS cameraman outside the courthouse in 1965, and who is said to have fired some of the fatal bullets, served his maximum ten year sentence in Leavenworth and went back to Meridian to work for a car dealer, Chevys. Whether he is alive or not still is of no moment; he is dead, too--as are all of the nineteen co-conspirators who stood trial for Federal civil rights violations, the only crimes which the Federal government could charge in those days, of which only seven were convicted. Yet, they all died on June 21, 1964. No peace unto their souls anytime soon. Lonely night rides to their own lynching is their judgment, no doubt, for awhile.

Peace always and life always will be to the three, however, whose bodies they killed that night by the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. They were American heroes, true heroes, true crusaders for liberty and justice for all. Soldiers all, though soldiers in the military they never had a chance to become. They were there seeking only to enable the registration of people to vote for the election of public officials. They were there also to comfort those whose church had been burned five days earlier by many of the same drunk, hopeless thugs who killed them Sunday night. The three sacrificed their lives bravely, staring into the whispering pines there by the side of the dirt road. The breeze which blew took them to another place for another time, to go around again--to bring justice and freedom more freely to all.

None of them had yet voted in a presidential election. They were looking forward to November.

One would have returned north to NYC in August to resume his studies in anthropology. Another was in graduate school in social work, after graduating in sociology. The third was learning, was finding his way still, had found a task which set himself free in truth and dignity, ensuring the registration of his fellow African-Americans in Mississippi, to vote.

Registration, free from the periodic harassment of the new Sheriff and his Deputy of the jail and their reign of Terrors in cheap, silly masks--hiding in their walls.

On his first day in Mississippi, Saturday, the day before, Andy had written to his parents: "I have arrived safely in Meridian, Mississippi. This is a wonderful town and the weather is fine. I wish you were here. The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very good. All my love..." They received the postcard, postmarked Sunday in the p.m., on June 23, two days after.

The three still live.

For lynching does not kill.

Will lynchers, whether of body or reputation, learn that simple truth and set themselves free?

They who lynch, those of rubber gloves, lynch only themselves.

The lynched--wear rubber souls, well-worn, always.

Had the three ever read The Mind of the South? Maybe. Maybe not. But we suspect so. Certainly, at least one had.

Go to the library and read it for the three, if for no one else.

And if they ever stop you like that, don't run. Don't say anything. If trouble starts afoot, offer no resistance. Yell out your name loudly and tell whoever might hear that you are being harassed by the police, and to please call the Police. The weaver may laugh at you, he may put a cocked gun to your head and threaten to pull the trigger. But he probably won't lynch you--because his buddies who were supposed to come and escort you on the long night ride will be heading for the hills, having seen the Ghost of those who died alone on the dirty serpentine road before you.

For they know not whither the tree falls in the Forrest, or who may have heard it.

All 19, all their members, too, did the deed on Highway 19.

In the law, that which is written, we call it conspiracy to commit murder--of the three.

NAACP Argues For Its Figures

Dear Sir:

Because the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People believe that you wish to give a forthright, factual and unbiased picture concerning the number of lynchings in this country, we are sending you the enclosed material taken from our own press releases, which we trust you will use as the basis for editorial comment.

In view of your recent editorial which we believe is giving your readers a picture that does not square wholly with the facts, we take the liberty of urging you to promote further discussion of this vital problem that certainly affects the fundamental basis of democracy in this country; using as a basis this new information which we believe has not yet come to your attention.

We shall certainly appreciate your sending us a copy of the paper in which you present further editorial comment.


Publicity and Promotion, NAACP, New York, N.Y.

(Note: Our editorial simply defined two of the NAACP's established lynchings as murders, equally criminal with lynchings but chargeable to Southern individuals, not Southern public society. --Editors, The News.)

Another letter, also from September 28, which we include for its spirit:

New Deal Deserves Full Negro Support

Dear Sir:

November 1940 promises to be the greatest in a hundred years of American history. The November election will be a national Democratic primary. The voters will choose the best man. Little business men know to keep the best experienced hands on the job.

One of my good friends, a minister, was at my house today. He said, "I'm going to work for Mr. Willkie, I am a Republican and a Baptist." I saw evidence of that.

In 1932 this minister's home was going down under the hammer. One would need a parasol in it when it rained, but his wife got a New Deal job and this minister got the FHA loan to take over the mortgage and repair his house. Now, he thinks he is all set for twenty years to come. Now he is a Republican and a Baptist.

That does not represent the character and the spirit of the Negroes in general. The Negroes were the first to lose their jobs under the Hoover regime. We are not going back to 1932. Not even for a Democrat Hoover. The Democratic Administration in Washington has done more for my race in the South than any other administration in my time, and we'll be on that side in November.

Mr. Willkie promises to do the same things that the New Deal is doing with as little money as possible, while you know the other fellow he is sure will do it with as much money as possible. That sounds like Mr. Landon's economy. He said that he would do a great job cheap. The country wouldn't take a chance at him. The Republican Party had twelve years to rule, that party should not have used those years to ruin. Fifty cents a day for a day's work, five miles a day a day's walk and a small bag of flour at the end of the week. We are not going back to that.

This is the first national election since the days of Lincoln that the Republican crew couldn't find a man in that party to lead it. The Republican Party must undoubtedly be on its way out. The rich people of this country would welcome the chance to wear Willkie's buttons in December.

November 1940 the people of the United States will for the first time elect a man for a third term. That man will be Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


415 East Hill Street.


Today's Bible Thought

Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

--Psalm 90:15.

This too, a snippet from the September 28 editorial page:

Mr. Billopp:

The Fuse

"What? A fuse has blown out? Johnny, it's about time you were..."

Mama's in the ally, she ain't got no shoes...

We're on the pave-ment, thinkin' 'bout the govern-ment.

Family Fuss

Choice of President Splits A Newspaper and Its Editors

The Chattanooga Times, stout little brother to the New York ditto, has come out for Willkie. But in doing so it stirred up a mess of argument in the newspaper family. So strongly did the Executive Editor Julian Harris and his assistant Hunt Clement disagree with The Times' decision that they requested leave of absence until November 7.

The Chattanooga Times is all a newspaper should be--honest, earnest and courageous. It was the appraisal of those same qualities in Julian Harris (son of Joel Chandler, creator of the classic "Uncle Remus" stories) that brought the two together and led to a working arrangement that up until now, we may assume, has been most satisfactory.

But this concord was not proof against the heat of the controversy over Presidential politics. The Times insists that Willkie is the truer liberal, whereas Editor Harris and his associate are equally convinced that Roosevelt is humanity's peerless champion.

Doubtless this disagreement will not greatly affect the election either way. But when a newspaper of integrity and character falls out with two of its conscientious executives over the choice of the Presidential favorite, it clearly shows the perplexing nature of the decision that the country as a whole must make.


Jim Signs On

And Nurtures the Hope That He May Avenge a Cruel Deed

Jim Grimmond, who lives in southeast London, is signing on again. Jim was a machine-gunner in that other orthodox World War here, which would make him over age for active service in this war. But it is to the army he's going.

And for reasons that are quite clear, white clear to Jim Grimmond, and that will be as easily apparent to anybody who hears his story.

For the Grimmond home where Jim lived with the Missus and their ten children had been struck by a bomb a week or so ago, and completely demolished. That was bad, but as the Grimmonds understood it, simply the fortune of war as war is fought these days. And they all had been safely underground when it happened.

Jim arranged for five of the children, three boys and two girls, to be removed to Canada where they would be saved. That would take at least a part of the heavy, frightful load off his and the Missus's minds. And so, with careful farewells and brave assurances all around that the family would regather when the Jerrys were disposed of, the children sailed to the New World.

They never reached it. Six hundred miles out from England their refugee ship was torpedoed--at night--without warning--in a boiling sea. She went down fast, and of the 293 persons who perished, five of the younger children of Jim Grimmond.

So Jim, beyond fighting age or not, is signing on again and hoping that things will turn out so that he will have a chance to take vengeance on grown men for the cruel deed to his children.



Unemployment Commission Comes Up With a Honey

Here's a queer thing. When the long strike at the Nebel Knitting Co. was begun some months ago, it was effective for awhile. The mill was closed down and all employees, whether they wanted to strike or not, were out of work.

During that time none of them was entitled to unemployment benefits, the State Unemployment Compensation Commission ruled. And so the workers who lost time, voluntarily or involuntarily, simply lost that time.

The mill resumed operations with a partial force, the others remaining out on strike. And the claim of the strikers for unemployment benefits was approved. It is said that striking employees numbering around 100 have drawn $46,000 in all.

The ruling of the Unemployment Compensation Commission was upheld by Judge Hall Johnston in Mecklenburg Superior Court last week, so that the legality of it is established for the time being, at any rate. But it remains a queer thing, full of contradictions.

Workers on strike may not receive benefits so long as they succeed in closing down a plant, but continuing the strike after the plant manages to reopen, their benefits begin.

Unemployment insurance taxes (three per cent of pay rolls) are paid entirely by employers. Hence employers are compelled by law to build up a fund with which, indirectly, at least, to support employees and maintain a strike against them.

If any two or three employees should declare a strike which manifestly would be ineffectual, there is nothing in the ruling of the commission to indicate that they would be denied benefits--so long as they did not succeed in persuading the rest of the employees to come out with them.


Back Again

Appeasement in Spain Rises Up To Plague Bumble & Co.

There is an old folk platitude which presumably Neville Chamberlain, Halifax, Hoare & Co. are now recalling with painful emotions.

Back in July, 1936, rebellion against the Spanish republican government broke out in the Canary Islands. Immediately it spread to the Spanish mainland, and passed under the leadership of a general named Francisco Franco, long notorious as a Fascist sympathizer. There it soon became manifest that the "rebellion" was in fact an Italian attack on Spain, actively supported by Nazi Germany and having for its purpose the establishment of a government in Spain which would be a puppet of Rome and Berlin.

But Neville Chamberlain & Co. chose, in the face of the solemn and bitter warnings of men like Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, to continue the appeasement policy begun in Ethiopia and Germany, to pretend that the "rebellion" was an authentic one, and organize something called drolly the "Spanish Non-intervention Committee." Reason for their action was not wholly clear at the time. It now appears pretty certainly that they were primarily interested in preserving their own business interests in Spain.

The war dragged to a conclusion in 1938, with Franco completely victorious. A Fascist government was at once set up in the country and by Sept. 3, 1939, when England went to war with Germany and the "appeasement" policy finally disappeared, all the Spanish interests of Chamberlain and his friends were already in Nazi and Fascist hands.

And now--in September, 1940, the news indicates that Adolf Hitler and his Axis partner are about to line Spain up fully with the Axis and to use the land as a base for attacking Gibraltar. The fate of that fortress may well decide the war.

Ah, and the platitude? Well, of course:




Some Lynchings Turn Out To Be Cases of Murder

The 30th annual report of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in disagreement with Tuskegee Institute as to the number of lynchings in the South in 1939. Tuskegee listed three. But the NAACP lists four positively, and suggests strongly that there was at least one other.

However, light on its method of computation is afforded by observing the circumstances in the various cases.

One victim was found on a lonely country road where a black prowler had been molesting white couples for some time. He had been shot and then run over by a car. What happened is plain enough.

Another victim was shot to death, while being taken to jail, by the two brothers of a man fatally injured by the taxi of the victim a few hours earlier.

What we obviously have in both these instances is plain murder and not lynching at all. And in the first instance, there is reason to suspect that the victim only got what was coming to him.

There is a correlation between the prevalence of the lynch psychology and the case with which Negroes can be murdered in some parts of the South, of course. However, murder is not lynching and to set down murder for lynching just because a Negro happens to be the victim, merely breeds confusion without doing any good.


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