George Junius Stinney Jr. (October 21, 1929 – June 16, 1944) was, at age 14, the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century. Stinney, of Alcolu, South Carolina, was convicted of murdering two young girls after police… said he confessed to the murders. But the question of Stinney’s guilt, the validity of his alleged confession and the judicial process leading to his execution has been criticized as “suspicious at best and a miscarriage of justice at worst”, and as an example of the many injustices African-Americans suffered in courtrooms in the Southern United States in the first half of the 20th Century. Following his arrest, Stinney’s father was fired from his job and his parents and siblings were given the choice of leaving town or being lynched. The family was forced to flee, leaving the 14-year-old child with no support during his 81-day confinement and trial. His trial, including jury selection, lasted just one day. Stinney’s court-appointed attorney was a tax commissioner preparing to run for office. There was no court challenge to the testimony of the three police officers who claimed that Stinney had confessed, although that was the only evidence presented. There were no written records of a confession. Three witnesses were called for the prosecution: the man who discovered the bodies of the two girls and the two doctors who performed the post mortem. No witnesses were called for the defense. The trial before a completely ‘white’ jury and audience (African-Americans were not allowed entrance) lasted two and a half hours. The jury took ten minutes to deliberate before it returned with a ‘guilty’ verdict.
The Original Django!
Dangerfield Newby (1815 – 1859) was the oldest of John Brown’s raiders, one of five black raiders, and the first of his men to die at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Born a slave in Fauquier County, Virginia, Newby married a woman also enslaved. Newby was later freed by his Scottish father, but his wife and seven children remained in bondage. A letter found on his body revealed the motive for joining John Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry. Newby’s wife was the slave of Jesse Jennings, of Arlington or Warrenton, Virginia. She and her children were sold to Louisiana after the raid. Newby had been unable to purchase the freedom of his wife and seven children. Their master raised the price after Newby had saved the $1,500 that had previously been agreed on. Because all of Newby’s other efforts had failed he hoped to free them by force. Harriet’s poignant letters, found on his body, proved instrumental in advancing the abolitionist cause. Newby was six foot two.
On the 17th of October, 1859, the citizens of Harpers Ferry set to put down the raid. Harpers Ferry manufactured guns but the citizens had little ammunition, so during the assault on the raiders they fired anything they could fit into a gun barrel. One man was shooting six inch spikes from his rifle, one of which struck Newby in the throat, killing him instantly. After the raid, the people of Harpers Ferry took his body, stabbed it repeatedly, and amputated his limbs. His body was left in an alley to be eaten by hogs. In 1899 the remains of Newby-plus remains of nine other raiders-were reburied in a common grave near the body of John Brown in North Elba New York.
Dangerfield Newby’s descendants are still alive today; Tyler Newby currently lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Josh Newby lives in a suburb of San Francisco, California and Drew Szrom lives in Massachusetts.
Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was born a slave and her original name was Isabella Bomfree. She felt called by God to change her name to Sojourner Truth and crusade for the rights of slaves and women. As a powerful speaker, she drew crowds of people from across the country. Being unable to read or write, she dictated her autobiography titled “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth.” She nursed African American soldiers during the Civil War and she established a job placement program. In 1864, she was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to counsel former slaves on making the transition from being slaves to being free people. She retired in 1875 to Battle Creek, Michigan.
W.E.B. DuBois, civil rights leader, writer. He was the greatest African American intellectual and civil rights leader of the 20th century before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was committed to gaining full citizenship for African Americans and fought against racial prejudices. In 1905, he cofounded the Niagara Movement dedicated to the civil and political rights of African Americans. The Niagara Movement later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an African-American civil rights activist from Mississippi involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. After returning from overseas military service in World War II and completing his secondary education, he became active in the civil rights movement. He became a field secretary for the NAACP.
Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council. As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests, as well as numerous works of art, music, and film.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. It held that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the territories, and that people of African descent (both slave and free) were not protected by the Constitution and were not U.S. citizens. Since passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Const…itution, the decision has not been a precedent case, but retains historical significance as it is widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court. The opinion of the court, written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, stirred debate. The decision was 7–2, and every Justice besides Taney wrote a separate concurrence or dissent. For the first time since Marbury v. Madison, the Court held an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional. The decision began by concluding that Scott, as a person of African ancestry, was not a citizen of the United States and therefore had no right to sue in federal court. This holding was contrary to the practice of numerous states at the time, particularly Free states, where free blacks did in fact enjoy the rights of citizens, such as the right to vote and hold public office. In what is sometimes considered mere obiter dictum, the Court went on to hold that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories because slaves are personal property and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution protects property owners against deprivation of their property without due process of law. In reaching this decision, Taney had hoped to settle the growing controversy surrounding slavery in the United States, but it had the opposite effect. The decision was fiercely debated across the country, as perhaps best exemplified by the Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858. Abraham Lincoln, the second-ever Republican nominee for President, was able to win the presidential election in 1860; the stopping of the further expansion of slavery was a key Republican party plank. The decision played an important role in the timing of state secession and the Civil War, although it is extreme to say the decision “caused” the war. The decision is acknowledged for the influential role it played in altering the national political landscape: the decision is credited with launching Abraham Lincoln’s national political career and ultimately allowing for his election. Although the Supreme Court has never explicitly overruled the Dred Scott case, the Court stated in the Slaughter-House Cases that at least one part of it had already been overruled by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, which begins by stating, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” To which the Court noted: The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States.
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