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articles for to kill a mockingbird

April 3, 1994
Only the Accused Were Innocent
By David M. Oshinsky;
STORIES OF SCOTTSBORO By James Goodman. Illustrated. 465 pp. New York: Pantheon Books. $27.50.
IT began with a fight between white and black hobos aboard a freight train bound for Memphis in the winter of 1931. Word of the
brawl reached the sheriff in Jackson County, Ala., who deputized a posse to round up "every Negro" on the train. Dozens of heavily
armed white men stopped the slow-moving freight at an isolated depot; a search of the boxcars and gondolas turned up nine black
youths, ranging in age from 13 to 19. They were arrested for assault, chained together with a plow line and driven on the back of a
rickety flatbed truck to the county jail at Scottsboro, a farming town of 3,500 in the lower Tennessee Valley.
Later that afternoon, a far more serious charge emerged. Two white women found running alongside the railroad tracks had accused
all nine suspects of raping them on the train. As news of their story spread across the county, a huge crowd, chanting "Give 'em to
us" and "Let those niggers out," threatened to storm the Scottsboro jail. A desperate phone call alerted the Governor of Alabama,
who wisely sent in the National Guard.
The trials were held in a Scottsboro courthouse ringed by troops in full battle gear. The star witnesses -- Victoria Price and Ruby
Bates -- recalled the heroic struggle they had waged aboard the train to ward off their attackers. "It took three of those Negroes to
hold me," said Price, an unemployed cotton mill worker from Huntsville, Ala. "Six of them had intercourse with me." Their testimony
was so shocking that women of all ages and men under 21 were barred from the courtroom.
The juries barely deliberated before convicting eight of the youths and sentencing them to death. (The case of 13-year-old Roy
Wright ended in a mistrial when his jury could not decide between life imprisonment and the electric chair.) "The courtroom," said
Haywood Patterson, the most outspoken of the defendants, "was one big smiling white face."
The press called them the Scottsboro Boys, and for many in America their plight became a symbol of the oppression faced by black
Americans in a region where white supremacy was an uncontested fact of life. "Countless people were outraged by the trials and
death sentences," writes James Goodman in "Stories of Scottsboro," a superb retelling of this vital but largely forgotten episode.
"Countless others were outraged by the outrage. Appeals led to seven retrials and two landmark Supreme Court decisions. The
defendants spent no less than 6, and as many as 19, years in jail."
Mr. Goodman, who teaches history at Harvard, owes a great debt to Dan T. Carter's absorbing account of the case, "Scottsboro: A
Tragedy of the American South," published in 1969. Yet Mr. Goodman breaks fresh ground himself by ignoring the boundaries of
narrative history and moving back and forth across time to provide multiple versions of each crucial event. The result is a
complicated, often perplexing story in which the perceptions of Scottsboro's major characters -- blacks and whites, Northerners and
Southerners, patricians and dirt farmers, defendants and accusers -- clash repeatedly in search of the truth.
One truth was apparent from the start. No group worked harder or longer to free the "boys" than the American Communist Party.
Within days of the arrests, the Communists were providing both legal assistance and editorial support. To party leaders, the
Scottsboro trial was a political bonanza, a perfect example of "ruling-class justice" in action. The young men, after all, were the
barely literate sons of sharecroppers and servants. As blacks, they faced crippling race prejudice in a nation that preached equality
for all; as jobless drifters, they mirrored the pain that capitalism's ultimate failure -- the Great Depression -- had inflicted on the
Many distrusted the party's motives, fearing it wanted dead martyrs above all else. Actually, the opposite was true. As Mr. Goodman
demonstrates, the Communists almost certainly saved the young men by insisting on their innocence at a time when other groups,
including the N.A.A.C.P., were wary of defending any black accused of raping a white woman. Indeed, the youths and their families
chose to be represented by the party's International Labor Defense because, as one of the mothers noted, "they are the only ones
who put up a fight to save these boys and I am with them to the end."
The Communists picked an outsider, a mainstream defense attorney with no radical connections, to represent the youths at the new
trials and appeals. His name was Samuel Leibowitz, and few could doubt his record or his skill. A tall, heavyset New Yorker, Leibowitz
"had excelled at drama and debating" at Cornell, and "his vibrant voice and extraordinary sense of timing were as useful to him as
his prodigious preparation, attention to detail and mastery of the law." In 15 years of practice, Leibowitz had defended 78 people
accused of first-degree murder; 77 had been acquitted, and in the one other trial, the result was a hung jury. He decided to
represent the Scottsboro Boys without fee after a black Communist lawyer convinced him of their innocence. What Leibowitz
demanded in return was the freedom to defend these young men without political interference. The Communists agreed.
Leibowitz came on board several weeks after the Supreme Court of the United States had overturned the Scottsboro convictions by
ruling, in Powell v. Alabama, that the defendants were effectively denied counsel in violation of the 14th Amendment's "due
process" clause. At their second trial -- held in 1933 in Decatur, Ala., a Ku Klux Klan stronghold 50 miles west of Scottsboro -Leibowitz quickly took charge. He moved for a dismissal on the ground that blacks had been systematically excluded from Alabama's
jury rolls. To prove his point, Leibowitz questioned a series of black and white witnesses, none of whom could recall a single black
ever having been called for jury duty. The difference, however, was that the whites could not understand why anyone would choose
to have it otherwise. To their thinking, blacks simply lacked the character to judge other people's fates. Did that mean they were
dishonest, Leibowitz asked a local newspaper editor. "Yes, sir," he replied. "They will nearly all steal."
Judge James Horton denied Leibowitz's motion and ordered the trial to begin. But Horton, a wealthy landowner with deep
antebellum roots in Alabama, was clearly troubled by the case, Mr. Goodman explains. For one thing, he did not believe that all nine
of the defendants could possibly have taken part in the crime. They had been captured in groups of two and three aboard a very
long train. One of the youths was nearly blind; another had been suffering from a case of venereal disease so painful that he had to
walk with a cane. How could they have jumped from car to car to take part in a brawl -- or a rape?
Horton was even more troubled by the claims of the two women, Price and Bates. They said that a terrible struggle had ensued, yet
their bodies were barely bruised. One of their examining physicians told Horton, in confidence, that the women had lied about the
rape and "laughed at me" as they were being tested. "Judge, God knows I want to, but I can't," the doctor said when Horton urged
him to testify. "If I testified for those boys I'd never be able to go back into Jackson County."
It probably wouldn't have mattered. Leibowitz produced one bombshell after another, to no avail. His first major witness, a white
hobo who had boarded the freight train with Victoria Price, described her -- accurately, it turned out -- as a prostitute and an
adulterer. And his next witness was none other than Ruby Bates, who had decided to tell the truth, she said, after months of soulsearching and prayer. There had been no rape on the train, Bates stammered. Victoria Price had made up the story because she
feared that the posse would arrest her for transporting a minor -- Bates was then 17 -- across state lines for the purpose of
The prosecutors were stunned. They lashed out at the witnesses as ugly liars, pawns of Jews and Communists, and traitors to the
South. At the end of his summation, one prosecutor asked the jury to consider a single question: "Is justice in the case going to be
bought and sold in Alabama with Jew money from New York?"
The jurors obliged. Their verdict, once again, was guilty, and the sentence was death. Believing that Ruby Bates had been corrupted
by Northern infidels, Mr. Goodman says, they saw no alternative but to accept the word of her traveling companion, Victoria Price.
The fact that Price had led a hardscrabble life -- that she had grown up poor, quit school early, worked as a mill girl, lived in hobo
jungles and made some poor moral choices -- seemed only to soften the hearts of these 12 plain, stern, white Alabama men.
Leibowitz, who had confidently predicted an acquittal, now exploded in rage. Asked by a reporter to explain the verdict, he
portrayed white Southerners en masse as "lantern-jawed morons," adding, "If you ever saw those creatures, those bigots whose
mouths are slits in their faces, whose eyes popped out at you like frogs, whose chins dripped tobacco juice, bewhiskered and filthy,
you would not ask how they could do it."
THE verdict may not have surprised Judge Horton, but it surely embarrassed him. Horton, Mr. Goodman writes, well understood the
deep sexual fears that Southern whites harbored toward blacks. He had seen his share of lynchings over allegations far less
spectacular than those reported in the Scottsboro case. He knew that many white men considered blacks primitive beings who
ravaged white women out of lust, revenge or sometimes both. He knew that many white women lived in constant fear of being
sexually assaulted by blacks, though such offenses were extremely rare. And his years on the bench had taught him that whites
routinely accused blacks of crimes in order to conceal evidence of their own misconduct.
As Mr. Goodman makes clear, however, the behavior of Leibowitz and other supporters of the Scottsboro Boys was not without
serious moral flaws. In his summation, Leibowitz played shamelessly on the racial prejudices of the jury by describing his own client
as a "poor, moronic colored boy." And his cross-examination of Victoria Price raised the dangerous notion that prostitutes did not
deserve the full protection of the law -- a notion widely accepted by Northern civil rights advocates at this time. Indeed, the black
writer Langston Hughes ended his bitter essay on Scottsboro by asking, "And who ever heard of raping a prostitute?"
In an astonishing reversal, Judge Horton set aside the convictions, citing the "unreliability" of the state's only major witness, Victoria
Price. His words bristled with a contempt born of gentlemanly breeding as he charged that women of her "character" were prone to
make "false accusations" of rape "for ulterior purposes." In a sense, Horton had done the unthinkable by chastising a white woman
who had accused black men of sexually assaulting her. But Victoria Price was not a true representative of Southern womanhood,
Horton believed, and that put her beyond the reach of his chivalrous protection.
As expected, the state of Alabama ordered an immediate retrial. Judge Horton was replaced by Judge William Callahan, an ignorant
70-year-old jurist who assumed, among other things, that black men could not keep themselves from raping white women and that
white women would never willingly have sex with black men. The prosecutor summed up his case by warning that an acquittal
would force the female population of Alabama to "buckle six-shooters around their middles" so as to protect "the sacred parts of
their bodies" from oversexed blacks. And the jurors brought in the predictable verdict and sentence: guilty and death.
Once again, the Supreme Court intervened. In a ground-breaking 1935 decision, Norris v. Alabama, it reversed the convictions on the
ground that blacks had been excluded from the juries that indicted the youths. By this time, the story of the Scottsboro Boys had
become a national obsession. Tales of Southern racism ran side by side with articles about Hitler's racism in Germany, writes Mr.
Goodman, "and for many Northerners one story became an aid to understanding the other."
As Northern protests mounted, Alabama's once-steady resolve began to waver. The clear majority of whites, Mr. Goodman says, still
wanted the Scottsboro Boys to hang. Anything less, warned J. Thomas (Cotton Tom) Heflin, a former United States senator, would
place "wicked thoughts in the minds of the lawless Negro men." Yet a number of influential whites now urged clemency for the
youths as a way of protecting Alabama from further ridicule and abuse. "I don't care what they do," the editor of The Montgomery
Advertiser fumed, "so long as they do it in another state, preferably Ohio or New York. I don't care if they eat one another without
benefit of pepper sauce. I do not know whether they are guilty or innocent of the rape of two cut-rate prostitutes. I do not care."
In 1937, the state released four of the Scottsboro Boys -- the two youngest and the two most sickly -- as a gesture of good will. The
other five were retried, found guilty and sentenced to long terms in prison. But as time passed and memories dimmed in Alabama,
four of them were quietly paroled -- one in 1943, two in 1944, another in 1946. Haywood Patterson, described by state parole
officials as "vicious" and "incorrigible," escaped from prison in 1948 and fled to Detroit. Arrested two years later by the F.B.I.,
Patterson was set free after Michigan rebuffed Alabama's halfhearted attempt to have him returned.
Freedom did not prove kind to the Scottsboro Boys, Mr. Goodman reports. The products of violent homes and prison beatings, they
drifted north to places like New York and Cleveland without skills or clear direction. Most of them found trouble, and some went
back to jail. Roy Wright, the youngest of the Scottsboro Boys, committed suicide after killing his wife. Patterson died in a Michigan
prison after murdering a man in a barroom brawl. "Everywhere I go," said one of the nine, "it seems like Scottsboro is throwed up in
my face. . . . I don't believe I'll ever live it down."
Mr. Goodman tells us nothing about the later lives of Ruby Bates, Victoria Price and Samuel Leibowitz. The two women went their
separate ways and were quickly forgotten. Leibowitz returned to New York, became a criminal court judge and made headlines with
his stormy behavior and his harsh treatment of defendants. As a lawyer, he recalled, "my job . . . was to sell my client's cause to the
jury." As a judge, he added, "I was tough with hardened criminals; toughness was all they understand." He died in 1978.
The injustice of Scottsboro has long since faded from view. The names of Roy Wright and Haywood Patterson and the others do not
appear alongside the names of Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Medgar Evers on the list of those who made a difference in the struggle
for civil rights. Yet one cannot read Mr. Goodman's remarkable book without being moved by the courage and resilience of these
simple young men. Clarence Norris was 18 when Victoria Price accused him of rape. Facing the death sentence at his third trial, he
was asked if he had anything to say. "Yes, sir," Norris calmly told the judge. "They didn't find me guilty. They just thought they did. I
am accused of a crime I never even thought about committing."
Photo: Samuel Leibowitz with his clients, the defendants in the Scottsboro rape case, in March 1933. (UPI/BETTMANN/FROM
May 6, 2010
The Echoes of an Execution Reverberate Loud and Clear
In a small Southern town during the Jim Crow era, a black man is accused of raping a white woman. During his stormy trial there are
threats of lynching, as well as intimations that the white woman had been the sexual aggressor.
That tale summarizes the plot of Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a staple of high school English courses. But it also
describes part of the more complicated and less morally uplifting real-life story told in “Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric
Chair,” a half-hour documentary to be broadcast Friday on NPR stations as part of the “Radio Diaries” series (www.radiodiaries.org).
“This story was murky at the time, and it’s just as murky looking back,” said Joe Richman, the producer of the series. “There’s no way
we can find the truth. Was this a rape? Was it him? Was it consensual? Or an affair? To this day it still divides people along racial
lines. Everyone has a different agenda and their own version of the facts.”
The McGee case became one of those cause célèbres that galvanized opinion, and not just in the United States. Albert Einstein,
William Faulkner and Josephine Baker were among those who pleaded for clemency; a young New York lawyer named Bella Abzug
handled McGee’s final appeals; and Tennessee Williams would later work a mention of the case into his play “Orpheus Descending.”
This much is clear: Mr. McGee, a handyman in Laurel, Miss., was arrested in November 1945 and charged with the rape of a frail
young mother of three. After being convicted by all-white juries in three separate trials and having his final appeal rejected by the
United States Supreme Court, he was put to death two minutes after midnight on May 8, 1951.
For nearly 15 years, beginning in 1940, Mississippi used a “traveling electric chair” that moved from county to county to execute
prisoners convicted of capital crimes. What is perhaps most unusual about the McGee case, though, is not the portable electric chair
or even the public nature of the execution, but the live radio coverage that accompanied it, which was recorded and is excerpted in
Mr. Richman’s documentary.
The tape, made by a resident of southeastern Mississippi named Jim Leeson, is also a starting point for a new book on the McGee
case to be published next week, Alex Heard’s “The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex and Secrets in the Jim Crow South”
(Harper). Mr. Heard was a student of Mr. Leeson’s at Vanderbilt University in 1979 when he first heard the broadcast of the
execution, and said it haunted him for years.
“He played that tape for us as a lesson, to remind us how dramatically things had changed in the South since he was our age, and
then later donated it to the University of Southern Mississippi,” Mr. Heard said. In 2004, he added, “I started poking around just as a
hobby, and found that nobody had ever gone deep with this story.”
At the time of the execution Mr. Leeson was a 20-year-old college student and part-time journalist, working for The Hattiesburg
American. He would later become a reporter for The Associated Press in Nashville and also covered the civil rights struggles of the
1960s and 1970s for the Race Relations Information Center before retiring to the Tennessee countryside, where he died this week.
“Even then I believe my interest in events in Mississippi and the South was that of a newsman,” Mr. Leeson wrote in an e-mail
message late last month. “During college, 1948-53, I had one of the first tape recorders with two seven-inch reels mounted on the
top of a heavy box. I was interested in music primarily” and “don’t recall having any special sense in making the McGee recording
other than it was a most interesting and most unusual event to be broadcast, to say the least.”
The announcers were broadcasting from outside the courthouse, on the lawn, not from the courtroom where Mr. McGee had been
convicted and was to be executed. Confronted with a somber moment of great drama, they adopt a tone of voice that is neutral and
But the mood of the crowd on the courthouse lawn, estimated at about 1,000, is clearly celebratory. After the switch is pulled and
two surges of electricity from the generator are noted, there are whoops, hollers and cheers, and an excited cry of “That’s it!” can be
heard in the background.
Mr. Richman’s documentary is also the story of Bridgette McGee-Robinson, one of Willie McGee’s granddaughters. Born and raised
in Las Vegas, she recalls being a child and glimpsing newspaper clips that her mother had saved but refused to discuss. As an adult
she stumbled across the case while doing research online for a family reunion, trying to determine if the baseball player Willie
McGee was a relative.
Eventually, she joined forces with both Mr. Richman and Mr. Heard and traveled to Mississippi to try to find out what happened.
Raymond Horne, a local reporter who witnessed the execution, dismissed the notion of Willie McGee’s involvement in an interracial
affair as “one of the craziest defense arguments that can be made,” while blacks told her it was common knowledge and assured her
that her grandfather was playing cards at the time of the alleged rape.
“There are still some answers I need to get,” Ms. McGee-Robinson, 48, said in a phone interview. “I’m still not satisfied yet.”
As for the tape, “I got a copy in 2000, but I had to put it aside,” she explained. “I didn’t want to listen because I didn’t know what I
would hear.” It was only this year, after visiting Mississippi with Mr. Richman, seeing the electric chair in a museum “and taking the
long trip down that hallway in my imagination” that she was able to bring herself to listen.
All of those involved in trying to unravel the truth of the McGee case noted the similarities to the situations of Tom Robinson and
Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” published nearly a decade after Willie McGee’s death. But they are reluctant to make too
much of the parallels.
“In the novel you’ve got distinctions between good folks and bad,” Mr. Heard said. “In the McGee case what you get is a judge who
was just as prejudiced and lawyers who were facing unrelenting hostility.” He added, “I’m not sure I know what happened.” But
given the racial climate and the pressures to obtain a conviction, “I do know it wasn’t fair to execute him.”
October 20, 2002
The Nation: The Central Park Jogger; An Old Case in a Different New York
THIRTEEN years ago, a 28-year-old Manhattan investment banker jogging in Central Park was raped, beaten and left for dead. The
brutality, randomness and site of the attack became emblematic not only of a city spun out of control but of intractable racial
As Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey observed at the time, many white Americans seemed to be saying of young black males: ''You
rob a store, rape a jogger, shoot a tourist, and when they catch you, if they catch you . . . you cry racism. And nobody, white or black,
says stop.''
Now, New York seems like a different city.
In the 1989 jogger case, the victim was white. Six black or Hispanic teenagers were charged. Five confessed, then recanted. Even
though DNA evidence pointed to someone else, four of the five were convicted of rape, the fifth of sexual assault. They served from
9 to 13 years.
Then, earlier this year, Matias Reyes, a former delicatessen clerk now imprisoned for a separate rape and murder committed that
same year, said he alone had raped the jogger as well as another woman in Central Park two nights earlier. DNA tests support his
claim. The evidence now available suggests the five youths would have been found not guilty of rape. Robert M. Morgenthau, the
Manhattan district attorney, appears poised to join a defense motion to set aside the convictions.
Exactly what happened on April 19, 1989, may never be known. The teenagers weren't on a nature walk, that's for sure. The night's
rampage of robbery and beatings -- wilding, it was called -- entered the lexicon of urban crime and stunned New Yorkers because,
while the behavior of the suspects fit the stereotype of feral youth, their backgrounds did not.
Nonetheless, the brutalization of the victim demonized the suspects and seemed to make any presumption of innocence impossible.
Donald J. Trump bought full-page newspaper advertisements demanding the death penalty and rejecting assertions (from Cardinal
John J. O'Connor, among others) that society shared the blame for conditions that breed crime.
''I want to hate these muggers and murderers,'' Mr. Trump wrote. ''They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should
be executed for their crimes.'' (What if the jogger had died and the five young men had been executed, Mr. Trump was asked the
other day. ''If they were convicted and weren't guilty the government would've made a tragic mistake,'' he said.)
''The presumption of innocence was lost in the rush to judgment,'' the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III of the Abyssinian Baptist Church said at
the time. ''People are not saying they forgive the crime. They're not saying they don't have compassion for that woman. All they're
saying is, there is a considerable amount, an overwhelming amount, of reasonable doubt.''
''Yes, there was a lot of pressure outside because there was such a large public outcry,'' Linda A. Fairstein, the former Manhattan sex
crimes prosecutor, said. But, she added, ''I don't think there was any rush to judgment.''
Could a similar crime occur again? Of course. Could a wolf pack of wilding teenagers be rounded up near the scene of the crime and
be pressured into confessing? Probably, although advances in DNA testing make some mistakes less likely. For the time being,
something else has changed, too.
''There is no racial tension,'' said Edward I. Koch, who was defeated for reelection as mayor in 1989 after yet another sensational
crime, the murder of a black man by a white gang in Brooklyn, helped propel David N. Dinkins into the mayoralty. Mr. Dinkins, the
city's first black mayor, soon suffered the mirror-image of his predecessor's fate: a succession of outrageous, racially charged crimes
left many voters convinced that Mr. Dinkins couldn't control frightened and angry blacks, just as they had previously concluded that
Mr. Koch couldn't control frightened and angry whites.
TODAY, more of the city's population is black, Hispanic and Asian. There is less reported crime, thanks initially to Mr. Dinkins and
even more so to his successor, Rudolph W. Giuliani. There are fewer polarizing figures (Mr. Giuliani, for one, is gone; Mr.
Morgenthau and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, are widely respected). After cases of questionable shootings by the
police and the brutalization of Abner Louima, a black man, by white police officers, the criminal justice and political systems
responded vigorously to protests by blacks and whites together. Race is no longer reflexively injected into every issue, including
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's recent selection of a schools chancellor, who happens to be white.
''We felt so marginalized,'' the Rev. Al Sharpton said last week. ''We felt all we had was our outrage. Now the feelings are the same
but the expression is different. We have proven that we can take the system on and win.''
For how long? Mr. Dinkins suggested that might depend on whether the men in the jogger case are formally exonerated. ''If that
does not happen,'' he said, ''I suspect you will see some expressions that are less reserved.''
Public restraint may depend on something else, too. With budget gaps looming again, the competition for resources threatens to
revive racial divisions. Still, Mr. Dinkins did not hesitate when asked what's different from 1989.
''Everything,'' he said.
Florida's black voters protest
January 20, 2010
Black Americans remain convinced Gore won but was cheated
The US Civil Rights Commission has begun hearing complaints by black voters in Florida that thousands of them were wrongly
disenfranchised in November's presidential election.
The federal hearing is investigating allegations of widespread voting irregularities.
Several witnesses described being intimidated by police roadblocks near polling stations and being
asked to produce several identity documents before being allowed to vote. Others spoke of being
wrongly listed as convicted criminals.
I was sling-shotted into
Civil rights activists say Vice-President Al Gore could have won Florida - and therefore the election - if
black people had not been deterred from casting their ballots there.
Meanwhile, three big American computer companies say they are planning to develop new voting
technology to avoid the kind of confusion which surrounded the election in Florida.
Jeb Bush testifies
President-elect George W Bush's brother, Jeb, who is Florida's Governor, denied involvement in any
elections across the
country there will be
from time to time
instances of irregularities.
But these should be the
exceptions, not the rule
Commission head Mary
Frances Berry,
alleged irregularities when he gave evidence at the hearing.
denied involvement in any irregularities
Jeb Bush
As he left the hearing Mr Bush was virtually mobbed by reporters asking whether he had rigged the election to benefit his brother.
Mr Bush told the commission he first became aware of problems in the election the day after the election and that he was anxious
to update the state's voting equipment.
Civil rights groups say there were also problems with voting machines and that polling-stations closed early in some black areas.
Extraordinary problems
The BBC's Jane Hughes reports from the Florida state capital Tallahassee, that the federal commission does not have the power to
change the presidential election result.
However, it may recommend voting reforms to Congress or pass evidence to the Department of Justice which could result in
The commission's chairwoman, Mary Frances Berry, said the number of reported problems was extraordinary and troubling.
"We know that in elections across the country there will be from time to time instances of irregularities. But these should be the
exceptions, not the rule," Mrs Berry said.
'Back to slavery'
A church minister told the federal panel that he was wrongly accused of being a criminal and almost lost his vote.
"I was slingshotted into slavery," said Willie Whiting, a 52-year-old pastor at the House of Prayer Church in Tallahassee.
Pastor Whiting was eventually allowed to vote after his background was double-checked by county
election officials.
Police patrol officials have denied accusations that they set up roadblocks to intimidate black voters.
They said the roadblocks were a spur-of-the-moment safety measure, not authorized by higher
officers, which were not intended to scare anyone away from the polls.
Civil rights groups are suing Florida election officials on behalf of thousands of blacks, saying they were
denied the right to vote in the presidential election because of institutionalized racism.
New voting technology
Thousands of Black
Floridian voters are suing
the state's electoral
Three computer corporations, Unisys, Dell and Microsoft, are planning electronic systems that tell
voters clearly which candidate they are choosing, and then count votes quickly and accurately.
Unisys said on Thursday that its new system would provide "the necessary components to support election reform demands for
improved access to the voting process".
The firm said that more than half of America's registered voters currently used outdated voting systems, such as punch-card ballots which produced the infamous chad debate in Florida.
The technology will also handle voter registration and identification, with the aim of eliminating fraud and queuing.
It will be up to each state, county or municipality to decide whether to buy the system.
Website has history from 1857 to 1975 could break up topics by individuals and they read for content
The African American Odyssey-from slavery to civil rights
Great site for topics divided for research for TKM
Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
Note: A portion of Article IV, section 2, of the Constitution was superseded by the 13th amendment.
Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall
exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.
Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of
the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of
the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2.
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number
of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for
President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the
members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and
citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation
therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens
twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or
military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an
officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the
Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the
enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4.
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and
bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State
shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the
loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
*Changed by section 1 of the 26th amendment.
Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.
Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of
race, color, or previous condition of servitude-Section 2.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
U.S. National Archives & Records Administration. October 28, 2014.
13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery to this day.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declared that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are
American citizens including African Americans.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen
the right to vote based on that citizen's race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
History Tunes: Synopsis of the 13th, 14th & 15th Amendments. October 28, 2014.
Overview of Civil Rights Legislation, Supreme Court Cases, and Activities
Civil Rights Activities of the 1950s and 1960s
By Martin Kelly
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 24: People arrive at the National Mall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington
and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I have a Dream' speech on the National Mall on August 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. A
commemorative march and a rally along the historic route followed in 1963 is led by civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Martin
Luther King III. Pete Marovich / Stringer/ Getty Images News/ Getty Images
During the 1950s and 1960s, a number of important civil rights' activities occurred that helped position the Civil Rights movement
for greater recognition. They also led either directly or indirectly the passage of key legislation. Following is an overview of the major
legislation, Supreme Court cases, and activities that occurred in the Civil Rights movement at the time.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most prominent civil rights leader of the 50s and 60s. He was the head of the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference. Through his leadership and example, he led peaceful demonstrations and marches to protest discrimination.
Many of his ideas on nonviolence were fashioned on the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi in India. In 1968, King was assassinated by James
Earl Ray.
Key Civil Rights Activities
 Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) - This began with Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus. The boycott's goal was
to protest segregation in public buses. It lasted more than a year. It also led to the rise of King as the foremost leader in the
civil rights movement.
 National Guard Called to Force Desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas (1957) - After the court case Brown v. Board of
Education ordered that schools be desegregated, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus would not enforce this ruling. He called
out the Arkansas National Guard to stop African-Americans from attending "all-white" schools. President Dwight
Eisenhower took control of the National Guard and forced the admission of the students.
 Sit-Ins - Throughout the South groups of individuals would request services that were denied to them because of their race.
This was a popular form of protest. One of the first and most famous occurred at Greensboro, North Carolina where a
group of college students, both white and black, asked to be served at a Woolworth's lunch counter that was supposed to
be segregated.
 Freedom Rides (1961) - Groups of college students would ride on interstate carriers in protest to segregation on interstate
buses. President John F. Kennedy actually provided federal marshals to help protect the freedom riders in the south.
 March on Washington (1963) - On August 28, 1963, 250,000 individuals both black and white gathered together at the
Lincoln Memorial to protest segregation. It was here that King delivered his famous and stirring "I have a dream..." speech.
 Freedom Summer (1964) - This was a combination of drives to help get blacks registered to vote. Many areas of the South
were denying African-Americans the basic right to vote by not allowing them to register. They used various means including
literacy tests and more overt means like intimidation through groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Three volunteers, James Chaney,
Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, were murdered and seven KKK members were convicted of their murder.
 Selma, Alabama (1965) - Selma was the beginning point of three marches intended to go to the capitol of Alabama,
Montgomery, in protest to discrimination in voter registration. Two times the marchers were turned back, the first with a
lot of violence and the second at the request of King. The third march had its intended effect and helped with the passage
of the Voting Rights of 1965 in Congress.
Important Civil Rights Legislation and Court Decisions
 Brown v. Board of Education (1954) - This landmark decision allowed for the desegregation of schools.
 Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) - Allowed for any accused individual to have the right to an attorney. Before this case, an
attorney would only be provided by the state if the result of the case could be the death penalty.
 Heart of Atlanta v. United States (1964) - Any business that was participating in interstate commerce would be required to
follow all rules of the federal civil rights legislation. In this case, a motel that wanted to continue segregation was denied
because they did business with people from other states.
 Civil Rights Act of 1964 - An important piece of legislation that stopped segregation and discrimination in public
accommodations. Further, the U.S. Attorney General would be able to help victims of discrimination. It also forbid
employers to discriminate against minorities.
 Twenty-Fourth Amendment (1964) - No poll taxes would be allowed in any states. In other words, a state could not charge
people to vote.
 Voting Rights Act (1965) - Probably the most successful congressional civil rights legislation. This truly guaranteed what had
been promised in the 15th amendment: that no one would be denied the right to vote based on race. It ended literacy tests
and gave the U.S. Attorney General the right to intervene on behalf of those who had been discriminated against.