By Monica Moorehead
Published Dec 22, 2010 11:25 PM
The myth of a post-racial U.S. society in light of the election of President Barack Obama was shattered once again when the body of Frederick Jermaine Carter, a 26-year-old Black man, was discovered Dec. 3 hanging from a tree in a predominantly white area in the town of Greenwood, Miss.
This hanging conjured up painful memories and images of racist lynchings of Black men, especially in the Deep South. Greenwood is a mere 10 miles away from Money, Miss., where in 1955 Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black youth, was tortured and murdered by racist whites. Two of the whites indicted for Till’s murder were acquitted. Years later these same whites publicly admitted, in a Life magazine article, to committing this atrocity. Till’s alleged offense was whistling at a white woman. His murder came three months before the historic Montgomery bus boycott.
While Till’s death garnered national and international attention, Carter’s killing has yet to be covered by any major big-business media.
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks, along with the county coroner, has ruled Carter’s death a suicide. Banks claimed that since Carter had a mental disability, he used a table frame to attach a rope from his neck to the tree. He then allegedly kicked the table from beneath himself.
Sunflower, Miss., Mayor Michael Pembleton, a cousin of Carter’s, commented: “He didn’t have a mental problem. His problem was he tended to not defend himself against others in conflict but he wouldn’t kill himself. The family is requesting a second autopsy and want to also have an autopsy done by someone out of the state of Mississippi.”
Attorney Valerie Hicks Powe, representing Carter’s family, stated on Dec. 13, “A crime scene was never established. They never roped the scene off and this has not been treated as a crime. There is no reason to believe that he would commit suicide. We appreciate attention being brought to this because we need an outcry from the people.”
Wendol Lee, president of the Memphis-based Operation Help Civil Rights, said, “The area where he was found hanging is an area that Black people do not go into according to what residents have told us. Blacks get harassed and stopped by the police in that area so why would this young man go way over there to kill himself? We believe someone took him over there and killed him.” Hundreds of Black residents have petitioned Lee’s group to do a thorough investigation of Carter’s death.
This killing of Carter is just the latest incident in the all-too-long, sordid racist legacy of injustice in Mississippi. Along with Emmett Till, there were also the murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman in Neshoba County, Miss., by the Ku Klux Klan and police in 1964. Once again, there were no convictions for these murders.
African-American sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott have each been serving life sentences for the past 16 years in a Mississippi prison, even though witnesses testified under oath that the Scott sisters did not take $11 from a convenience store. There is a growing national movement to force Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to release them.
Quotes come from the Dec. 14 FinalCall.com article “Blacks doubt death in small Southern town is a suicide — they want answers now” written by Jesse Muhammad.
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