Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator:
It isn’t true.Shirley Sherrod’s story in her now famous speech about the lynching of a relative is not true. The veracity and credibility of the onetime Agriculture Department bureaucrat at the center of the explosive controversy between the NAACP and conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart is now directly under challenge. By nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court. All of them dead.
Plain as day, Ms. Sherrod says that Bobby Hall, a Sherrod relative, was lynched. As she puts it, describing the actions of the 1940s-era Sheriff Claude Screws: “Claude Screws lynched a black man.”
This is not true. It did not happen. How do we know this?
The case, Screws vs. the U.S. Government, as she accurately says in the next two paragraphs, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Which, with the agreement of all nine Justices of the day — which is to say May 7, 1945 — stated the facts of the killing of Bobby Hall this way:
The arrest was made late at night at Hall’s home on a warrant charging Hall with theft of a tire. Hall, a young negro about thirty years of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the car at the courthouse square, the three petitioners began beating him with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds. They claimed Hall had reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground, they continued to beat him from fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet first through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor, dying. An ambulance was called, and Hall was removed to a hospital, where he died within the hour and without regaining consciousness. There was evidence that Screws held a grudge against Hall, and had threatened to “get” him.
The very first paragraph of the Supreme Court decision states:
1. Upon review of a judgment affirming the conviction, for violation of § 20 of the Criminal Code and conspiracy thereunto, of local law enforcement officers who arrested a negro citizen for a state offense and wrongfully beat him to death, the judgment is reversed with directions for a new trial.
In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States, with the basic facts of the case agreed to by all nine Justices in Screws vs. the U.S. Government, says not one word about Bobby Hall being lynched. Why? Because it never happened.
So why in the world would Ms. Sherrod say something like this?
Philip Klein at The American Spectator:
A regular part of writing for a political magazine or website is that you sometimes disagree with what is written, or even with decisions to publish certain articles. Such is my sentiment today with Jeff Lord’s piece on Shirley Sherrod. I am rendered speechless by a 4,000-word article that is based around the suggestion that somebody is a liar for saying that a black man was lynched, when he was merely beaten to death by a white sheriff who evidence suggests had previously threatened to “get him.”
John Tabin at The American Spectator:
What on Earth is Jeffrey Lord talking about on the mainpage? He says that the sentence “Claude Screws lynched a black man” is untrue. Lynching is defined as an extrajudicial killing by a mob (which can be as few as two people). The fatal beating of Bobby Hall most certainly qualifies.
Radley Balko at Reason:
The term lynching refers to a mob execution unsanctioned by law. It’s often associated with hanging, but there are dozens of documented, racially-motivated lynchings in American history that had nothing to do with hanging. (The murder of Emmit Till is probably the most famous example.) Lord is also flat wrong about federal anti-lynching legislation. These bills sought to punish local governments for sanctioning or refusing to prevent all forms of lynching, not just hanging. Here’s the text of the Dwyer bill, the first piece of federal anti-lynching legislation, introduced in 1918:
…the phrase “mob or riotous assemblage,” when used in this act, shall mean an assemblage composed of three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offense.
The bill never uses any form of the word hang. The more famous Costigan-Wagner anti-lynching bill also made no distinction about a lynch mob’s chosen method of execution. Had either bill passed, they would have held local law enforcement responsible for failing to prevent extrajudicial mob murders of any kind, including murder by black jacks and fisticuffs.
But Lord isn’t finished. Sherrod mentions in her speech that Hall’s murder made it to the Supreme Court, which overturned the civil rights conviction of Sheriff Claude Screws by a 5-4 vote. Lord next criticizes Sherrod for not telling her audience that one of the justices who overturned the conviction (Hugo Black) was not only a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but also an FDR appointee, New Deal supporter, and a “committed liberal activist,” just like Sherrod. How conniving of her!
It gets even better. Lord also helpfully informs us that….
Hugo Black was, of course, a lawyer. His law partner? That would be a man named Crampton Harris. Mr. Harris was the Klan “Cyclops” of the Birmingham Klavern. Does this weird term ring a recent bell? It should. “Exalted Cyclops” was the Klan post held in a later time in West Virginia — by another prominent future Democratic Senator named Robert Byrd.
It goes on like that. There’s no question that there’s a long, ugly history of racism in the progressive movement, and that today’s left glosses over that history. But it’s more than a little absurd to suggest Sherrod was being dishonest for not drawing all sorts of connections between progressives and racism simply because a New Dealer sat on the Supreme Court that denied her relative justice.
But that is Jeffrey Lord’s charge. So black people, take note. If you’re ever giving a speech in which you recount a racially-motivated injustice, be sure you’re thoroughly familiar with and relay to your audience not only any subsequent legal action related to the case, but also the political affiliations of any and all judges who presided over those legal proceedings, both at trial and on appeal, and whether or not they or any of their business partners (and presumably family members, friends, or golfing buddies) were racist. Also, and most importantly, never, ever, ever talk about any historical racial injustice without also mentioning that the late Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat (be sure to mention this part, it’s important!), was once an Exalted Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan.
Anything less would be dishonest.
Taking a a more pedestrian approach, I simply Googled the word “lynching“. These are all on the first page; Wikipedia is number one:
Lynching is extrajudicial punishment carried out by a mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake and shooting, in order to punish an alleged …
Lynching is the illegal execution of an accused person by a mob. The term lynching probably derived from the name Charles Lynch (1736-96), a justice of the …
Of Georgia’s victims of lynch mob “justice,” the overwhelming majority (95 percent) were black, and they were murdered primarily, although not exclusively, …
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org › History and Archaeology
Most of the lynchings were by hanging or shooting, or both. However, many were of a more hideous nature—burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, …
Even a casual clue-seeker might have guessed that there were problems with equating “lynching” and “hanging”.
Sweet Jiminy – Jeffrey Lord is embarrassing himself and annoying the rest of us, even at the American Spectator.
Adam Serwer at The American Prospect:
Now does three guys beating someone to death sound like an extrajudicial mob killing to you? Well Lord thinks it’s merely “brutal fisticuffs” because under the definition of lynching he just made up, you need a rope to make it official — I mean they didn’t even set the guy on fire for crying out loud! It’s almost as if instead of being a Southerner tortured by the knowledge of past racial injustice, he’s someone who didn’t know very much about lynching or segregation before he decided to call Shirley Sherrod a liar without bothering to use Google first. What’s sad is that when the generation that actually remembers what living under segregation was like is gone, this kind of historical revisionism is just going to get 10 times worse.
Finally, how many times are conservatives going to try to smear this woman before some sense of shame or decency kicks in?
It’s hard to understand how this kind of thing gets published in a world that includes editors, higher cognitive function, and/or common decency.
My favorite bit from the comments, defending the author’s use of a definition of lynching that limits it to hangings:
“Regardless of the dictionary’s definition, English is considered the most nuanced of languages because each word has a specific, unique meaning giving context and emotion to any written or spoken idea or statement. I don’t need a dictionary to instruct me on the accepted meaning of the word ‘lynching.’”
UPDATE: More Lord
Charles Johnson at LGF