BLOOMSBURG, Penn. - On Mar. 26, students at a state university [Bloomsburg University] in the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania, old Molly Maguire territory, used their feet to raise their voices in memorial of Trayvon Martin, the African American teenager from Sanford, Florida, who was shot and executed, vigilante style, in a gated community by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26.
The march of some 250 students, staff, and faculty started at Carver Hall, where top administrators work, and ended at the Bloomsburg University fountain, a central campus gathering spot. Members of the university community from across the social spectrum came out and participated in this racial justice march.
We can only say that in Florida the racists did it again! Trayvon, armed only with Skittles and an ice tea, was slain on the streets of Sanford by what can only be described as a "lyncher" who racially profiled an innocent kid. The first thing a racist sees is color!
Lynchings of black men continue in that state and in the US after we have elected our first African American president. The late Professor Derrick Bell is right, anti-black racism runs deep in American society and culture.
The history of lynching in Florida has been the subject of much scholarly study. See Dr. Maxine Jones's FSU report to the Florida Legislature on the Rosewood massacre in which white vigilantes virtually exterminated a black community in an orgy of violence. A major motion picture on the Rosewood case has been made. It has even been shown on our campus.
See also, "Lynchings: Extralegal Violence in Florida during the 1930s." In 1934 a mob of thousands announced on radio an upcoming lynching of a black teenager named Claude Neal. The local sheriff, Flake Chambliss, did nothing. No one was ever arrested!
This picture was turned into a postcard and sold as a souvenir. Also, amputated fingers and toes from the lynch victim were shared among white lynchers with their friends.
In the mid-1930s, a black man, Ruben Stacy, was lynched and white children were brought to the event.
During the 1940s in Florida, a young black man named AC Williams actually survived a lynching attempt. And on the way to hospital, the ambulance was stopped by an enraged white mob who dragged the injured Williams out of the ambulance and finished the job.
In the Bloomsburg University history department, I have been teaching the Values course [42-210] for over 20 years. And I use these historical facts and contemporary events to illustrate how, at the grassroots level, perpetrators of racism in white America still places very little value on black life in the United States. Their aim is to stifle and crush the kind of progress that has led to millions of white working-class Americans casting their vote in 2008 for an African American who ran for and got elected to the presidency.
Photo: PW Photo