Item nine million in the conservative racial cluelessness files comes from Jeffrey Lord and the American Spectator who insist that Shirley Sherrod was wrong to say that sheriff Claude Screws lynched her relative Bobby Hall. Lord cites the following evidence from the Screws v US Government case to insist that the Hall lynching tale is just more of the vast liberal media conspiracy to keep the right-wing down:
The arrest was made late at night at Hall’s home on a warrant charging Hall with theft of a tire. Hall, a young negro about thirty years of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the car at the courthouse square, the three petitioners began beating him with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds. They claimed Hall had reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground, they continued to beat him from fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet first through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor, dying. An ambulance was called, and Hall was removed to a hospital, where he died within the hour and without regaining consciousness. There was evidence that Screws held a grudge against Hall, and had threatened to “get” him.
Lord’s article, which is quite extensive, seems to be based on the theory that being beaten to death by a mob on the courthouse steps with the complicity of local law enforcement doesn’t count as “lynching” because nobody was hung from a tree. But considering the length of his article on the matter, you’d think he might have looked up the term in question. To lynch is “to seize somebody believed to have committed a crime and put him or her to death immediately and without trial, usually by hanging.” Or perhaps “to put to death, esp. by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority.” Or maybe “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal sanction.”
If you read the anti-lynching section of the Truman administration’s landmark report on civil rights, “To Secure These Rights,” you’ll see that at no time did anyone think the purpose of federal anti-lynching legislation was to ensure that lynching victims were shot or beaten rather than hanged.
More from Adam Serwer.