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  • Tiago Costa

"Lynching in US" confronts history and the evil

I bet this happened to you before. When I was really young and watching The Bodyguard movie, I remember the scene where Frank Farmer, interpreted by Kevin Costner, runs to protect his client and famous singer Rachel Marron, interpreted by Whitney Houston, from a bullet shoot by a covered murderer. That infinite slow-motion and a silence took care of my own emotional stability. On that moment, I felt myself part of the movie. I felt I was a character concerned about that amazing man unjustly shoot by a villain; or like the media call nowadays, a terrorist.

Moments like this always made me think about life, and it's because of this negative moments that I overcame my difficulties. Life is made of ups and downs and history... history is full of tears and sadness. It is also full of laughing and happiness, however it's important to recognize the evil side of this world in order to confront the history and fight for a fair society full of happiness to everyone. Negative moments always made me think and change. Like Lynching in America and the Equal Justice Initiative are making too.

Just recently, I had the same sensation as I had while watching The Bodyguard. It happened while I was studying the story of John Hartfield and several other black people lynched in America between 1877 and 1950. On that moment--again--I couldn't hold my breath. I saw myself getting into a slow-motion of imagination and around me a silence made me pause. This man, accused of assaulting a white woman, was tortured and killed in public by a white mob. While acting against the law, this mob served as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. As far as what it is known, Hartfield never assaulted any white woman, but this is mostly a story about white supremacy and how this desire to extinguish black citizens made more than 4,000 African-Americans victims back on that time. Although this stories are mostly about Afro-Americans, it's known that Native American, Chinese, or Italian were also persecuted and lynched in America during that time.

During this time at the end of the 19th century and the first-half of the 20th century, slavery was already abolished, but the lynching emerged especially in south of the United States in order for the white supremacists to fulfill a gap left by the government. The main states were Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, among others that can be seen here. These lynches were public acts of terror, as it's told in the movie telling the story of John Hartfield. Some of these acts were also announced on the newspaper with the intention of grabbing the attention of more people to go out and see the victims being tortured and hanged to death. In the case of John Hartfield, there were around 10-thousand people in the streets to watch the event.

All of these acts were executed to generate fear. Because fear control the emotions and the decisions of every human-being. During that time, thousands of black people left the south and run away to the west and the north, to cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit or New York.

Besides everything, there's hope. People like Bryan Stevenson represent the struggle for social change. In 1989, he founded Equal Justice Initiative with the intention of challenging racial and economic injustice. Since 2015, this organization received more than $2.5 million from and today, it's more important than ever, for me and you, to support his cause. For more justice. For more happiness.


The "Weekly Journal" blog is updated every Sunday.

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