Brian Stevenson, West Johnson, Murder discussed on 60 Minutes

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

And, creed These cotton fields in southern Alabama or quiet now but. In one thousand nine hundred thirty seven a brutal, murder took place here the lynching of west Johnson Last. January some of Johnson's descendants came. Here in what has become a ritual taking place at lynching sites across the. Country organized by civil rights attorney Brian Stevenson something happened here that was. Wrong something happened here that was unjust. And too few people have talked about it and so. We want to acknowledge the wrong that happened to west Johnson this is eighteen year, old west Johnson it is the only known image of him that remained he was attended farmer accused of. Assaulting a white woman before he could stand trial. A mob of one hundred men dragged him from jail shot him and left. Him hanging from a tree the blood of west Johnson is in this soil I'd like you to begin to dig this soil in. Remembrance of west Johnson the soil collection is part. Of Brian Stevens project to document and remember African-Americans links during the period of what he calls racial terror We want to call this community to repentance to acknowledgement to shame we want to tell the truth because we believe in, truth and. Reconciliation but we know that truth. Reconciliation are sequential we can't get to where we're trying to go if we. Don't tell the truth I so far Stevenson team has chronicle more than. Forty three hundred lynchings they continue to. Find more many victims like Ben Simmons and John Richards. Were accused of murder, one in four lynching victims like Joseph Richardson and Frank Embry, were accused of unlawful conduct with white women in nearly every case no evidence just an accusation was enough. There's so many crimes committed against African American why. Focus on lynching at the end of the civil war black people are supposed. To get the right to vote and the only way people who were white could maintain their political control was to intimidate black people And lynching was especially effective because it would allow the whole community to know that we did this to this person it. Was intended to send, a message. That if you try to. Vote if you try to advocate for your. Right if you insist on fair wages if you do anything, that complicates white supremacy and white dominant political power we. Will kill you anything that upsets the power structure as I want it to be that's exactly right In nineteen Ninety-three Bryan Stevenson founded, an organization he called the equal Justice initiative it's illegal advocacy group based in Montgomery Alabama focused on defending the? Poor and powerless Stevenson is best known for his legal. Victories in the United States Supreme court and for successfully overturning, the wrongful convictions of over. One hundred people on death row for ten years ago he turned the attention of his organization to also investigating crimes of the past. The lynchings of African Americans are defense attorney SIA sunny has spent hundreds, of hours searching through newspaper archives and visiting, county courthouses is there usually newspaper, evidence or documentation often there were public reports because people acted with impunity, and so there will be newspaper reports sometimes in advance saying a man will be lynched. Later this afternoon This is an, article about the lynching of a man named Jesse Washington who was accused of. A crime in Waco Texas the. Newspaper headline read burn young negro in, public square as fifteen thousand look on a mob drag Jesse Washington teenager who was convicted of murder after a one hour trial from the courtroom to the public square there's a remarkable photograph of the crowd and it's people dressed, in their Sunday with their hats on and there's clothing oil soaked his strong. To treat fire is set under him and he is, dropped into flames as fifteen thousand people look on I think it's incredibly revealing that death was not enough that? It wasn't enough to kill people people would be killed. And then shot and then set on fire and then even, after that there are cases where the body Was dragged to be heart of the black community fear of that kind of mob. Led was Johnson's relatives to bury him in this unmarked grave right. Here is where west often, is Barrett and you're right here Who is a filmmaker and west Johnson's distant cousins spent decade interviewing relatives who were alive at the time and remembered the lynching they had. A barium and heroin why because. They Lech mob they will come in they wanted. West body to take around town to drag around town to show the body off, that wasn't just west Johnson. Who was killed victimized was the entire black community everybody was feeling fear. And panic and medicine trauma the night of this lynching for the weeks and months and years after that lynching it was. A commodity crime this wasn't done by, the clan or people who had to wear masks this was done by teachers and, clergy and law enforcement officers and people you had to deal with. Every day every day Stevenson's team started their investigation in Alabama but soon uncovered accounts of mobs murdering African Americans throughout the southern states and, beyond as the case Is mounted Stevenson wanted to. Do something to commemorate the victims so, in Montgomery Alabama the heart of the, deep south which still has dozens of monuments celebrating the confederacy Stevenson's equal Justice initiative took on a. Bold project they, bought, six acres of land and started, construction on a memorial to.

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