Today marks the 50 anniversary of the bombing of the Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church which killed 4 black girls. One of the bombers, Robert Chambliss, was taken into custody the same year, although not convicted for his role in the bombing until 1977. His two accomplices were arrested decades later in 2000 and 2001. Thus, altogether, these murderers ran free for many, many years.
This brings up the question: How many perpetrators of racially aggravated murder are still at large? How many [now elderly] people who participated in lynchings of blacks still wake up each morning outside of a prison cell? The last ‘official’ lynching was Emmett Till in 1955. Two of his murderers were found not guilty by an all-white court in Mississippi and they lived on many years thereafter. Five of those involved were alive in 2009, CBS reported. Are the jurors still alive, too? And those in the courtroom who cheered the decision?
What about those people we saw on our 14″ black and white [irony] TV sets in the mid 60’s in the South who jeered at, punched and spit at the Civil Rights demonstrators at the lunch counters and on the streets? What about those white students who stood behind the various segregationist southern governors and cheered as he blocked entrance to the all-white schools? They ought to be alive, too.
Were they ever ashamed that their faces are now forever etched on historical news tapes of that time? Did they tell their grandchildren that they did those things? Did their grandkids ever ‘spot’ them when sitting in their classroom during U.S. history class in high school?
One further question. Were those grandchildren taught the same racial prejudice? Was prejudice in their genes? Was it passed on to each new generation? Is that one of the reasons why racial problems still exist in this land? Will it ever end?
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.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
scent of magnolia
sweet and fresh
then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit
for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange
and bitter crop
“Strange Fruit”, written as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1939 and sung by Billie Holliday