WARNING : the following post contains graphic descriptions of human torture.
A dictionary definition of “Excursion”,
‘A short journey usually made for pleasure, often by a group of people.’
I’ve started to browse books I’ve had at home, for decades in some cases, but never gotten around to reading just yet. I like to pick up books at second hand book shops for future reading and reference. One small book I read recently is a history book called, “America in the Early 20th Century” by R G Hamel.
It contains extracts about what sometimes constituted a family “excursion” in 1920’s America as well as how sensationalized and racially motivated media coverage caused frequently fatal consequences.
One infamous example of sensationalized media coverage was the ‘elevator incident’ involving black 19 year old shoe shine boy, Dick Rowland and white 17 year old elevator operator Sarah Page. This incident and its reporting led to the Tulsa Massacre in 1921 in Oklahoma, USA. The Tulsa Massacre was the topic of another post here at The Font. It is the only known time that American planes have been widely acknowledged as having bombed American (black) civilians, on American soil.
However, today I wanted to share passages from the above book, “America in the Early 20th Century” just to highlight exactly what allegedly went on at that time in the southern and racially segragated states of the United States of America. It is quite unpleasant reading. But should be read none-the-less.
If you have seen the movie “Django Unchained” you will have some idea of the human abuses that went on during the time of the Atlantic slave trade. The movie’s writer and director, American Oliver Stone was criticised in some quarters for the graphic use of violence unleashed by white people against blacks which he showed onscreen. In response, Stone said that much worse things went on in the southern states of America than what his movie depicted. Things so terrible in fact, that if he tried to include them, his movie would not be fit for public viewing.
After reading my shelved history book it seems that Mr Stone was likely correct in his comments about the level of violence inflicted upon black people. What I read in the book shocked me to the core. Not just the acts themselves – which are quite certainly unspeakable racial atrocities and torture – but what I found to be even more deeply disturbing are the attitudes and social and cultural etiquettes surrounding these acts. That is, what things were considered normal or acceptable in some circles of white America.
Here are a few of the more sickening extracts from the book, (note: accounts of human torture follow) …
‘The following examples demonstrate ….. and highlight the extent of white America’s prurient and morbid interest in seeing “justice done”.
In the 45 years up until 1927 from when ‘official’ records were kept, almost 5000 black people were lynched by mobs but the real toll is likely far higher. Most of the lynchings were done by hanging or shooting but many were achieved by much more hideous means.
A crowd of 10,000 people journeyed to Paris, Texas by specially laid on excursion trains to watch the execution of a mentally retarded black man, who had killed a little girl. Red hot irons were repeatedly plunged into his body, his eyes burned out and red hot pokers forced down his throat.
After an hour of sadistic torture his barely alive body was set on fire.
In Palmetto, Georgia, special excursion trains bought thousands out on a Sunday afternoon journey to watch a black man being burned alive. His ears, toes and fingers were first cut off and passed through the crowd. Afterwards, his heart was cut out and slices were sold as souvenirs.
In Livermore, Kentucky a black man convicted of murder by an all-white jury was taken to the city Opera House and tied to a stake on the stage. Tickets were sold for the Orchestra seats, (the seats very near the front of the stage) which entitled those seat holders to empty their guns into the victim at will. Those in the gallery could only fire one shot per seat.
And in another sadistic act of killing in Georgia, a pregnant black lady was slowly roasted alive as her baby was cut out of her stomach and trampled on.‘
The crimes that this (white) American “justice” was meeted out for, included “talking back to whites”, “acting sassy” and “making boastful remarks.”
It is hard to believe this sort of stuff really happened right? These passages leave me in numb disbelief. Maybe the authour had an agenda or was otherwise unreliable. Or is it actually that hard to believe?
Such heinous acts even on animals are deeply sickening. Such acts on people by torch wielding Klu Klux Klan members in the dead of night are even more sickening. Such acts committed in public by bigotted law enforcement authorities are even more sickening.
So how to describe these acts when they were committed on other human beings, sometimes in state Opera houses, sometimes by participants in specially organized social events, aimed at families for their amusement, and where specially laid on excursion trains bring thousands of family members to witness the event for their amusement and entertainment?
For once, I don’t have words to describe this. I just shake my head in silence and use these events as an eternal warning as to what respectible people are capable of.
Even today. Anywhere in the world. We call it war. And it is still acceptable to many people.