raised his hand in victory.
Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin, were wrongfully executed in South Carolina. On Wednesday, a board voted 7-0 to pardon both men, clearing their names in the 1913 killing of a veteran of the Confederate Army.
The Meek brothers are the great-uncles of nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner.
Joyner journeyed to Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife, his sons, his brother and nieces and nephews for the announcement of the ruling. When the board announced its decision, they danced, hugged and kissed. “All of the above,” he said.
It marks the first time in history that South Carolina has issued a posthumous pardon in a capital murder case.
“It’s good for the community. It’s good for the nation. Anytime that you can repair racism in this country is a step forward,” Joyner said.
He said the ruling won’t bring back his great-uncles, who were electrocuted in 1915. But it does provide closure to his family. “I hope now they rest in peace.”
Many who were present were touched by the symbolism and significance of the moment.
“I felt like I was a witness to a historical event. It was pretty exciting around here,” said Peter O’Boyle, the chief spokesman for the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
Dwayne Green, an African-American member of the pardon board, said he admired Joyner for seeking the pardon. “He’s not only done his family a service, but also the people of South Carolina.”
“There’s no statute of limitations on doing the right thing,” Green said. “There’s so much good that can come out of this public show of mercy.”
The unanimous vote, he said, was heartwarming and satisfying. “It’s a great opportunity to show how much South Carolina has changed,” he said. “While change comes slow, outcomes like this are a positive sign.”
Joyner, the host of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” had known nothing of his great-uncles’ murder convictions until last year. That’s when esteemed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. uncovered Joyner’s past as part of the PBS documentary “African American Lives 2.”
Yes it’s the same Henry Louis Gates who arrested in Cambridge for disorderly conduct inside his own home.
In the documentary, Joyner explains that he never knew why his grandmother left South Carolina. “All I know is she left home and she ended up in Florida and she didn’t stay in touch with her people, either,” Joyner says.
“Do you know why your grandmother moved away?” Gates says.
“No,” Joyner says. “I have no idea.”
Gates then shows him his great-uncles’ death certificates. “Cause of death: Legal electrocution,” it says.
“They electrocuted my –” an astonished Joyner says, unable to finish his sentence.
In that moment, Joyner began the journey that led him to Wednesday’s pardon. Gates and legal historian Paul Finkelman aided in the research of his family history, and helped lobby South Carolina to pardon the two Griffin brothers.
It wasn’t the first time a pardon had been sought for the men. According to their research, more than 150 citizens of Blackstock, South Carolina, asked the governor at the time for their sentences to be commuted. Many prominent whites in the community, including the mayor and former sheriff of Chester County, came to the defense of the Griffin brothers.
“I heard this case, and I don’t think I could have given a verdict of guilty,” one magistrate wrote.
The Griffin brothers had owned 130 acres in the area and were well-liked in the community. They were convicted of killing John Q. Lewis, a 73-year-old veteran of the Civil War. Lewis was slain in his home on April 24, 1913.
“Only the most profound sense of injustice would have led so many white leaders of the community and ordinary white citizens to publicly support blacks convicted of murdering a white man,” Finkelman said in a letter to the board of paroles and pardons.
According to the research uncovered by Finkelman, Lewis, the former Confederate soldier, apparently had an intimate relationship with a married 22-year-old black woman, Anna Davis. Suspicion initially turned to her and her husband after the murder.
“It is plausible to believe that the sheriff did not want to pursue Mr. and Mrs. Davis because if they were tried, it would have led to a scandalous discussion in open court,” Finkelman wrote to the pardon board on October 2, 2008.
The investigation later turned to another man, Monk Stevenson, who would ultimately point police to the Griffin brothers and two other black men. Stevenson received a life sentence in exchange.
“Stevenson later told a fellow inmate that he had implicated the Griffin brothers because he believed they were wealthy enough to pay for legal counsel, and as such would be acquitted,” Finkelman said.
The Griffin brothers and the two other men, Nelson Brice and John Crosby, were convicted in a trial that lasted four days. They were electrocuted on September 29, 1915.
Now, Joyner says he urges all African-Americans to explore their pasts — no matter how difficult that journey may be.
“You can look at your ancestor struggles of the past and be encouraged. If they can go through what they went through, you can do much better,” he said.
Joyner’s journey is continuing. Tom wants to know even more about his great-uncles — what happened to their land, how they made the community better, what made them so well-liked by whites in segregated South Carolina.
“Until we can repair some of the deeds of the past, we can’t really look forward,” he said.
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Anyway the President might need to adjust his words again and make it teachable moments. Because this situation is full of teachable moments.
First of all, criminal defense attorneys know all too well that police officers will lie in their reports to justify their use of excessive force and/or abuse of authority. Now that we have had the chance to hear the 911 (see video above) and dispatch tapes (See Video at bottom) we can see that Crowley’s arrest report (see report at the bottom) on Professor Gates is latent with inconsistencies.
Sgt James Crowley Cambridge Police Department
Sgt Crowley reports that he was responding to the break-in by two black males with back packs. Not only does the caller Lucia Whalen not mention the race of the two men at the door, but she isn’t sure that there has been a break-in. Ms. Whalen only states that she thinks without certainty that one might have been Hispanic, after she is pressed to give a description. Ms. Whalen as well as the dispatcher states that there were two suitcases on the porch, and not back packs as Sgt Crowley wrote up in his arrest report.
It should be noted that Ms. Whalen acted like a responsible citizen by calling authorities. Unfortunately, Sgt. Crowley attributed to her statements that she did not make thus making it appear that Ms. Whalen was practicing racial etiquette. A White House invitation should also be extended to this fine citizen.
I think its safe to say that most people think of homeless individuals when they hear back packs. I think it is also safe to say that unfortunately many associate homelessness with crime. This scenario sets the scene for a sympathetic Sgt who only has Professor Gates safety in mind. This is certainly not the portrait of a racist.
Now as we continue down the road of inconsistencies, other than the parking lot of a Donut shop, common sense will tell you that the presence of numerous police cars with police officers standing on the outside of them will draw public attention and gather on-lookers. The tape clearly indicates that this small gathering was a result of Sgt. Crowley. Crowley is heard on the tape acknowledging that Gates had provided the proper identification and appeared to be the owner of the house, yet he insisted on involving that more police be sent including the Harvard campus police. This continuing intrusion into of Gates privacy would set anybody off, including Colin Powell. Any insults hurled at Crowley was done in doors, and could in no way have disturbed anyone but Crowley. If the Professor was a little loud on his front porch in front of the small on lookers, good for him. It might have even saved his life. The Professor’s so-called behavior belligerent behavior would have brought attention to the appearance of the Professor in case the Sgt decided to get a little rough, or worse utilize excessive force.
The teachable moment: Sgt. Crowley for personal reasons falsely arrested the Professor, and therefore, abused his authority.
Now the teachable moment doesn’t stop there. As stated, Sgt. Crowley has attempted to paint himself as a Negro loving white police officer who had the professor’s best interest at heart. His report even states that he was so concerned about the professor that he changed the handcuffs from back to front and even with inside to get the professor’s cane. Well between Crowley and the Black Sgt on the scene, somebody is lying. The Black Sgt stated that it was he who convinced Crowley to change the cuffs to the front so that the Professor could use his cane. The good old Sgt also said that he wanted to make sure that the Professor’s house was secured, so when the maintenance man showed up to fix the door, he checked with the professor to make sure it was okay.
Damn, what a nice Cop. Sgt Crowley could never be considered a racist. Especially since he was selected by a black police officer to teach about racial profiling. Wow!
Sgt Crowley as well as many whites don’t want to be considered a racist, and I suspect they equate a racist with the likes of Bull Connors. No way you might say that Sgt. Crowley acted like Bull Connors the former Birmingham Alabama Police Commissioner who used fire hose and police dogs on peaceful demonstrators.
Sgt. Crowley may in fact not be a Bull Connors, but he sought and achieved the same result for the same reason.
The result was to humiliate the African American scholar for having the audacity to step out of the bounds of racial etiquette and challenge Crowley’s authority.
Back in the 1960s Civil Rights era, African Americans demonstrated to have their constitutional rights as citizens recognized. Demonstrating was their right of freedom of expression which is afforded under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Bull Connors representing the sentiment of many white citizens was not about to consent to equal treatment of African Americans. African Americans cry for freedom of oppression in the form of demonstrating ran afoul of racial etiquette. This was something the white citizens would not tolerate. To quiet the non violent black civil rights protesters, Bull Connors humiliated them by having them (children included) sprayed unmercifully with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs as well as placing us under arrest for disorderly conduct. This did not sit well with numerous white citizens as they watched the horror unfold on the evening news. Bull Connors instantly became a racist monster.
Bull Connors motivation was definitely the preservation of racial etiquette.
Racial etiquette is the customs and rules of behavior created in the Jim Crow south during reconstruction and it’s chief purpose was to maintain white male dominance over minorities.
Although, it is said that Charles Hamilton Houston slayed and buried Jim Crow, it must be recognized that Jim Crow had children who carried on with the Jim Crow practices and beliefs. These practices and beliefs migrated from the south.
In his effort to preserve racial etiquette, Bull Connors, abused his authority.
Crowley may not have used the same techniques as Connors but he too abused his authority in the name of racial etiquette.
While many whites accepted Crowley at his word and feel that Gates was out of line, minorities in this country are far too familiar with the practices of racial etiquette. These practices goes back to slavery, and were utilized to break the spirit of the dark individuals brought to this country in captivity and made to labor for free. These Africans were treated no different than animals as they were shackled and branded to show ownership.
U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor
The practice of racial etiquette continue today and was quite noticeable in the confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor. In showing pride of her Latino roots, Judge Sotomayor was racked over the coals, labeled a racist and sexist and ultimately, made to regret showing such pride. Sotomayor’s admission of regret garnered her the vote of S.C Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and her nomination is now headed for vote before the full Senate.
What Sotomayor experienced is something that all minorities face if they show pride in their culture. Minorities are only accepted if they assimilate to whites. Otherwise you are considered Un-American.
CNN Rick Sanchez
Rick Sanchez of CNN came to this realization after filming a segment about wise Latino women which included his non- English speaking mother. Sanchez who has a popular show on CNN was visibly hurt after receiving negative comments about his mother’s inability to speak English. Sanchez responded in a blog about the sacrifices his mother made so he could speak English and realize the American dream.
This was totally unnecessary. So was the arrest of Professor Gates.
To not accept Gates’ Harvard identification which showed him to be employed by the distinguished institution was motivated by racial etiquette. It sent a loud message that this black man couldn’t possibly be a professor at Harvard. Gates could have done the same as Sanchez, but he decided to stand up for his rights and sent a loud message back to Crowley. Many whites and a few African Americans like Larry Elder think that he over reacted in challenging Crowley’s authority. Whites and apparently Larry Elder are not treated in the same matter constantly, so they have no idea how degrading it is. Yet they feel that it is better for minorities to submit to such treatment. To suggest that minorities continue to take these insults with a smile is unknowingly motivated by racial etiquette. Yes this includes the shallow Mr. Elder.
Racial profiling is also another form of racial etiquette, where Latinos and African Americans are stopped for no reason other than their race. This segment of America society is falsely arrested and branded by way of finger prints, mug shots and issued a police identification number. It a way of control. The arrest record can prevent minorities from obtaining security clearance and certain licensing, thus eliminating them from certain types of employment and business ventures. It makes it difficult to create a economic base within legal means thus inducing violate crime within the community and acting as a barrier to the American dream.
By arresting the Harvard Professor, Crowley shackled him and branded him with finger printing, and mug shots. Crowley made Gates a member of an exclusive club by issuing him a police identification number.
Bottom line: Sgt. Crowley’s actions was a form of racial etiquette and just like Bull Connors he abused his authority.
Over beer, Crowley should apologize for his behavior. Crowley should also publicly apologize to both Gates and Whalen. Further, the DA office should move to expunge Gates’ arrest record including finger prints mug shot and police identification number.
The final teaching moment is that nothing is going to change until racial etiquette is eliminated and it can’t be eliminated if whites and Larry Elder continue to insist that minorities submit to disparate treatment.
Elimination also requires that the U.S. Supreme court revisits the majority opinion in the Ricci v. DeStefano decision and rid it of the unequal duty of showing heightened disparate treatment before a Plaintiff can prevail.
Maybe a wise Latino woman will lead the high court to a better conclusion. That for sure will be a teachable moment.
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Professor Henry Skip Gates Arrested for Residng While Black?
Harvard Professor Henry "Skip" Gates
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is one of the most powerful academic voices in America. He is most recognized for his extensive research of African-American history and literature, and for developing and expanding the African-American studies program at Harvard University. Most Americans became familiar with Gates in his four part series entitles African American Lives. That series explored the roots, race and identity of several African American celebrities such as talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, and radio personality Tom Joyner.
Recently, Dr. Gates found himself under arrest by Cambridge police officers inside his Ware Street home near Harvard Square.
Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home after a woman reported seeing “two black males with backpacks on the porch,” with one “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry.”
By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.
“Why, because I’m a black man in America?” Gates said, according to a police report written by Sgt. James Crowley. The Cambridge police refused to comment on the arrest Monday.
Gates — the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research — initially refused to show the officer his identification, but then gave him a Harvard University ID card, according to police.
“Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him,” the officer wrote.
Gates said he turned over his driver’s license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He said he then followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was handcuffed in front of other officers, Gates said in a statement released by his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, on a Web site Gates oversees, TheRoot.Com
He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he “exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.” He was released later that day on his own recognizance. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26.
Gates, 58, also refused to speak publicly Monday, referring calls to Ogletree.
“He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification,” Ogletree said.
Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying “I think the incident speaks for itself.”
Some of Gates’ African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.
Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.
“We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white,” Counter said. “It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates’ arraignment.
“This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen,” Sharpton said. “I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs.”
Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home — which he leases from Harvard — shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property’s management company when police first arrived.
Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.
“He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he’s been in a very delicate physical state,” Ogletree said.
Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, said he met with Gates at the police station and described his colleague as feeling humiliated and “emotionally devastated.”
“It’s just deeply disappointing but also a pointed reminder that there are serious problems that we have to wrestle with,” he said.
Bobo said he hoped Cambridge police would drop the charges and called on the department to use the incident to review training and screening procedures it has in place.
The Middlesex district attorney’s office said it could not do so until after Gates’ arraignment. The woman who reported the apparent break-in did not return a message Monday.
Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious “university professors” positions at the school. He also was host of “African American Lives,” a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.
“I was obviously very concerned when I learned on Thursday about the incident,” Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. “He and I spoke directly and I have asked him to keep me apprised.”
The first black to have received a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, Gates is the author of many books, articles, essays, and reviews, and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Gates, who has displayed an endless dedication to bringing African-American culture to the public, has coauthored, coedited, and produced some of the most comprehensive African-American reference materials ever created. In naming Gates one of the twenty-five most influential Americans in 1997, Time magazine described him as a combination of “the braininess of the legendary black scholar W. E. B. Du Bois and the chutzpah of P. T. Barnum…. The chairman of Harvard’s Afro-American-studies department has emerged as a prolific author, a whirlwind academic impresario and the de facto leader of a movement to transform black studies from a politically correct, academic backwater into a respected discipline on campuses across the U.S.”
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