- Much Too Little and Far Too Late Senate apologizes for lynching. But does it mean anything?
Click and Support Sponsors of, Thank You.
Click and Support Sponsors of, Thank You.
Loved and Feared
: Features and Interviews
  | About Us |    HOME   |  Departments | Features and Interviews | Featured Columnist | Poetry Corner | BlackState.NET | BlackState Gear | AfricanAmerican.Shop   | | |    


Much Too Little and Far Too Late Senate apologizes for lynching. But does it mean anything? by Peggy Butler

It was 123 years in the making. A crime so heinous many deny its authenticity. And refer to it as a tale told by pessimists fill with anger and disgust, symbolizing terror. But alas it happened.

It began oddly in 1882, when Whites decided that Negroes were less than human, and felt it was in their moral latitude to hang them from trees until they were dead. Thus began the era of lynching.

According to Tuskegee University statistics, this practice lasted for 123 years, ending in 1968. Experts maintain all states with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire experienced at least one lynching. But it was in the Deep South where the majority of lynchings took place. Leading the fray was Mississippi (539); Georgia (492); Louisiana (391); Texas (352); Alabama (299); Florida (257); Arkansas (226); Tennessee (204); South Carolina (156) and Kentucky (142).

During its duration, 3,446 African-Americans were lynched. So common was lynching, it prompted Abel Meeropol, an English teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, to write a song tiled "Strange Fruit" made famous by the legendary Billie Holiday. The song became the anthem of anti-lynching throughout the United States, as the murders continued.

Through out the years, 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress with three passing. However, southern Democrats refused to act, rendering the bill useless. Moreover, despite its knowledge of lynching, the federal government never issued a formal apology. But to their credit, seven presidents lobbied for an anti-lynching bill, all to no avail. Yet, regardless of the bleak outlook, many African-Americans thought an apology was imminent, if not in the 20th century, then perhaps in the 21st.

And they were right. Finally on June 13, 2005 the lone lynching survivor and survivors of victims received an apology from the Senate. Standing behind a lectern, her mood mirroring the mood of the occasion, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., co-sponsor of the bill along with Sen.George Allen, R-Va., noted the disturbing nature of lynchings and the role the Senate played in its continunance.

"This was a community spectacle and the Senate of the United States knew it," Landrieu said. "There may be no other injustice in American history for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility." To the average American it appeared that everyone in the Senate approved the bill that made the apology possible. Not surprisingly 19 Republicans and 1 Democrat refused to support the bill. Because of that, I was neither impressed nor moved to tears by the poignant ceremony.

And as I watched James Cameron, the only living survivor of a lynching attempt, it struck me that what happened to him and thousands of others cannot be corrected with an apology, no matter how sincere the gesture. Because an apology cannot erase the fact that for 119 years Blacks were hung from trees, as White onlookers laughed and pointed. Imagine how they felt as the rope dug deeper and deeper into their throats extinguishing the last gasps of life, as death reared its ugly head. To reiterate, an apology cannot erase decades of pain, torment and agony. Likewise, an apology cannot being back the people who died, reportedly 3, 446 but according to historians that figure could be higher.

That is why I'm in favor of taking the apology a step further. From where I sit it would have been more fitting if the people who participated in the lynchings and are still alive apologized. Let the bigots who observed or participated in the actual lynching say "I'm sorry." So what if they're old. Do you think age should be a deterrent for what they did? Absolutely not. Since cruelty is NOT limited to one's date of birth.

To counteract my point of view, many observers argue there is no honor in making the participants or onlookers apologize. And to them I say, is there any point in the Senate making an emotional statement that should have been delivered decades ago? And why now? What prompted the apology? Was it guilt or post-traumatic remorse? Is this America's way of correcting a wrong?

Thirty seven years after the last lynching was reported (although there have been more since then) America is forever guilty in the eyes of Blacks who know first hand the depth of this county's racist depravity. First they enslaved us and later lynched us. Anyway you look at it, an apology at this stage is much too little and far too late.

Tell a friend about this Article on BlackState!
Their Name:
Their Email:
Your Name:
Your Email:

Check out the all new Job Center

Quick Job Search | Post Your Resume| Are You Underpaid?| Apply For Jobs Here; Employers Find New Employees Here!

advertisement: Click to Support Sponsors of, Thank you.

Become a Citizen of

Get Email Updates, Exclusive and Controversial BlackState Content, and more... Also Citizen's can submit articles, poetry or research for publication.

Citizen Comments: