“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.”
Those are the faithful words of Ida B. Wells (Barnett), a fearless black suffragist, journalist and anti-lynching crusader, who was most remembered for her tireless efforts to unearth and expose the fraudulent “reasons” behind the lynching of black men, a common occurrence in the years after Reconstruction.
A militant in her own right, Wells routinely traveled the U.S. and Britain to lecture about the inhumane treatment of blacks and organizing anti-lynching societies, which tried to rally political action around lynching in America.
One hundred plus years later, the spirit of Wells lives on in the blogosphere and newspaper articles from the black press, who all have been leading a crusade to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of Frederick Jermaine Carter. On December 3rd 2010, Carter, a 26-year old native of Sunflower, Mississippi, was found hanging from an oak tree in predominate white Greenwood County.
According to publish reports, many local blacks residents know to steer clear from the part of town where Carter’s body was found because of the history of racial hostility toward African Americans. The black community in Greenwood has pretty much been on edge since the incident, and is mostly convinced that something more dubious transpired.
However, local authorities have maintained that there is no evidence that a crime was committed and chalked up Carter’s death to a history of “mental problems.” The local coroner eventually ruled his death a suicide, and the matter was put to bed in the national media—for the most part. The lack of details, as well as the rush nature of the investigation by the local sheriff and the coroner’s office, has drawn the ire of black bloggers and journalists, who are not quite ready to accept the “official” findings. Local black leadership—including state representative Willie Perkins, president of the Leflore County branch of the NAACP, and the mayor of Sunflower—also publicly issued their disbelief that Carter’s death was a suicide.
Family members of Carter, who refused to believe the findings, are demanding that another autopsy be performed. They are also requesting that the case be turned over to Dr. Adel Shaker, who is the state’s first medical examiner in 15 years. Earlier last week, Shaker announced on a blog talk radio show that the death of Carter was by hanging but further investigation was needed to determine the cause.
While the family has yet to confirm the results publicly, if this new information is accurate, than this new finding would suggest that the state cannot rule out the possibility of foul play in Carter’s death, which would mean reopening the investigation. Given the history of Mississippi with its past of ruthless racial murders—such as Emmett Till who was executed only 12 miles north of where Carter’s was found—and where racial crimes against blacks are routinely aided by cover-ups from local authorities, it is quite conceivable that the public is being misled about the nature of Carter’s death. Then again, it is also possible that local authorities were correct all along that Carter may have killed himself. However, with so much uncertainty in the air, it is only right that the Carter case be reopened and a thorough investigation be done – with the assistance of the US Justice Department. Until that day happens, it is my hope that the black press continue to channel the spirit of Wells and shine a light on this topic until justice is done.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.