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Northern Society For Jazz Study Vol.3 No.17 0008

Northern Society For Jazz Study Vol.3 No.17 0008

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RACE

PREJUDICE

I N ALABAMA

THE SOCIOLOGICAL INFLUENCES THAT DETERMINE THE MAKE-UP OF A RACE.

TOLD BY

HARRY

5^

TURNER IN CASE YOU FORGET.

THE REASON FOR THE NEGROES* OUTCRY IN HIS FOLK IDICH (E.G.BLUES): A PSYCHOLOGICAL

OUTLET OF EMOTION.

BEFORE TELLING YOU THE STORY, I* d like to answer a question which .

I*ve been asked several times, and which same readers may be asking now - "Where does this sort of thing come into jazz ?" It* s a question that hasn* t got a lot of thought bohind it, for it* s fairly obvious -that jazz and the baok- ■* ground to it, cannot be separated. Moreover, if pne gives a little thought to the matter, if there had been no race prejudice there would in all probability have been no jazz as we know it. Quito recently, if the negroes of CHICAGO in the 1920* s had been given decent living conditions, there would have been no need for *Rent-Parties«, and the style of piano playing we now know as Boogie Woogio would have died a natural death, fifteen years ago. Wherever one turns, the question of race and race discrimination crops up in jazz, and therefore, the student should know something of the conditions that produced JAZ2 MUSIC. The SC0TTSB0R0* case is also interesting booause of the fact that it helped revive old prejudices in the north, and helped kill HARLEM1s boom poriod.

On March 25th 1931, nine negro lads were riding the rails on a freight train going from CHAIANOOGA to

12,

!»•

MEMPHIS. Their names were -ANDY WRIGHT aged 18; his brother ROY aged 13; CHARLIE WEEMS aged 20; CLARENCE NORRIS aged 19; HEYWOOD PATTERS® aged 16; WILLIE ft

ROBERTSON 17; OZZIE POWELL, "

14; EUGENE WILLIAMS 15; and

OLIN MONTGOMERY aged 14 and nearly blind. There were also some sixteen other negroes who had stowed themselves out of sigjit in another part of the car, two white girls - VICTORIA PRICE and RUBY YATES, and a band of white youths.

Several of the white youths . started talking to -the girls but nothing happened until the train reached the town of STEVENSON, when -the sixteen negroes made their appearance. A fight broke out between the two groups of white and negro youths, and when the train slowed down, the combatants jumped down on to the track. The two girls and the nine negro lads stayed whore they wero.

Howovor, the white boys telephoned to the police at POINT ROCK, ALABAMA, that

they had been beaten up by a gang of "black hooligans", and the train was stopped and searched. The nine lads were arrested, but the presence of the two girls put a very different complexion on the matter. RUBY and VICTORIA were examined by the local physician, with the result that the nine lads wero charged with rape. They wero taken to SC0TTSB0R0*, and the governor - (ROOSEVELT by the way) had to call out the malitia to prevent a lynching.

On April 6th, the first trial took place at SCOTTSBQRO*. All the boys wore under age, none could read or write, Not a single negro was allowed in the courtroom, not one was on the jury.

The trial was farcical. The only two witnesses for the prosecution were the two girls, and of the two, RUBY BATES was a very unsatisfactory witness.

On April 7th, WEEMS and NORRIS woro sentencod to death. The verdict was greeted with hilarious applause.

On April 8th PATTERSON, MONTGOMERY, ANDY WRIGHT, WILLIAMS, ROBERTSON and POWELL were condemned to the chair.

The town went wild with joy. ROY WIGHT was ordered back to jail as the jury could not agree, and three years dragged by before this tairtoen—year—old kid vras again 13.

brought before the court.

The trial infuriated the

Northern States. A Committee

was formed by the I.L.D. to

carry the case to a Higher

Court. The nows spread. •

Demonstrations took place

outside the American

Embassies in DRESDEN, BERLIN

and CHEMNITZI — and in

November 1932 - note the date, eighteen Bfdhths later - the

Supremo Court orderod a retrial. *_

0n March 27th, 1933, tho new trial was oponod. One of the girls, RUBY BATES took the stand and denied -----that either sho or VICTORIA PRICE had been handled by tho lads. One of the white lads, LESTER CARTER, also came forward and gave evidence in favour of the defence. • .

Tho lads wero condemned to death, and tho execution fixed for Juno 16th.

150,000 workors paraded in WASHINGTON