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Homework # 4: The Legacies of Racism
Homework # 4: The Legacies of Racism
Watch the documentary True Justice and read the interview with Norman Thibodeaux.
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality – Full Film (HBO / KUNHARDT FILMS, 2019) – YouTubeLinks to an external site.
After watching the documentary and reading the interview, write a reflection that is at least 400 words. You don’t have to answer every question, but you can use them as a starting point. Submit homework on Canvas Assignments.
1) What did you learn from the documentary?
2) Choose one scene to analyze and explain why you found it interesting or important.
3) What can we learn about the legacies of racism from the interview with Norman Thibodeaux?
Interview with Norman Thibodeaux, a survivor of a lynching, 1933
When we got to Labadieville, they stopped at the bridge. There were about 600 men there, everyone with a gun. They had every kind of gun and pistol except a machine-gun. The car stopped there, and they dragged me out of the car onto the bridge, where the automobile lights made it like daytime.
Freddie Moore was hanging from an overheard girder of the bridge. He was already dead. His clothes were all covered with blood. His toes were all burned where they had put red-hot irons to them. His hands were hanging free. They told me—and I found out later it was true—that the first thing they had done to him when they took him out of jail was cut off his testicles.
Later on they took pictures of Freddie, with a sign hanging to his feet saying: ‘Niggers Let This Be An Example. Do Not Touch for 24 Hours. Mean It.’
Before they took this picture, they tore off his shirt and tied his hands, to make it look more horrible. They peddled this picture all over New Orleans and everywhere around.
When they dragged me out of the car, they started to hit me. I guess about 60 or 70 took turns at hitting me. I knew some of them.
One was the District Attorney…
There were two brothers named Emil among those beating me…
They hit me everywhere except the soles of my feet. The only reason they didn’t hit me there was because I was standing on them.
They tried to make me say my name was Norman Jackson. I told them no, my name was Norman Thibodeaux, so they started to beat me again.
The reason they wanted me to say my name was Norman Jackson, I found out from what they said.
They had been torturing Freddie Moore before they hanged him. You could tell that from the condition he was in, especially his feet. Finally, it seems, they made him say that somebody by the name of Norman Jackson helped to kill this white girl. There wasn’t anybody living anywhere near by that name, and I guess that’s why Freddie said that. He hoped they would go looking for somebody by that name, and leave him alone. But it didn’t do any good. They hung him anyway.
Then they heard there was somebody by the name of Norman living in my grandmother’s house, and that’s all they wanted to know.
I knew there wasn’t any use saying anything to them, or pleading with them. I just told them I was innocent, and kept repeating it every time they hit me. I never pleaded with them.
They just had one rope that they hung [Freddie] Moore with, and they sent a boy away to get a brand new, springy rope. They put it around my neck, and threw the end of the rope over the girder to a boy who was standing there.
The District Attorney came up. He was a big fellow with glasses. Somebody said:
‘Here’s the big shot. Tell him what you want to say.’
I said: ‘I have nothing to say. I am innocent…”
“You lying [son of a bitch],’ [a] fellow said, and he hit me with his gun.
All the big shots were standing around there, all dressed up nicely. One of them standing there in a brown suit, said:
‘This nigger don’t even tremble—he will before we get through.’
So they started to hit me again with their fists and guns.
‘Nigger,’ they said, ‘do you know how to pray?’
‘No,’ I said, ‘I don’t know any prayers.’
‘Nigger, you’d better learn some kind of prayer quick because you black [bastard] we’re going to string you up high.’
There was one heavy-set white woman standing in the crowd, shouting: ‘Kill that black [son of a bitch]!”
Somebody said: ‘Let’s hang the nigger and be done with it.’
‘No, let’s burn him. We hung the other.’
But I guess since they had the rope around my neck, they thought it would do O.K.
They started to pull me up, slow. It was a new, springy rope. It isn’t an easy death to die. It isn’t hanging like that. It’s strangulation.
They pulled me up two feet. I hung there, strangling slow.
Then the old man of the bridge, the bridge-tender, came up. His name is Codeaux. He began to say:
‘Cut him down! This boy is innocent. He just came into town from New Orleans. I saw him get off the bus. He doesn’t know anything about the killing.’
I was hanging there and couldn’t say anything. But I was listening, and while I was strangling I was saying over and over again to myself: ‘I am innocent, I am innocent.’
I don’t know what the sheriff and the other big shots said, but the old man’s son, Harry Codeaux, got up on the side of the bridge and cut me down, and I fell to the bridge.
They are two white workers, Codeaux and his old man, that saved my life.
As soon as I fell, the sheriff and two other men picked me up quick and threw me into a car and got in after me, and they drove away.
‘We’re going to kill you anyway, nigger,’ Deputy Richards said. ‘You’ll never get away alive.’
‘Nigger,’ the sheriff said, ‘say you killed that white girl and we’ll let you loose.’
I knew better. I didn’t say anything except that I was innocent.
‘Nigger,’ he said, ‘we’re going to show you yet what happens to niggers who want white meat.’
They took me out [to] a gravel road about five miles, then they turned down a dark old road called Vallance Road, and said:
‘Get out, nigger.’
I got out and started to walk. The blood was caked all over me. I was all blood, blood. The moon was shining bright and I made for the sugar-cane. I walked about 20 feet, and somebody yelled:
I started to run and they shot at me three times. I could hear the bullets singing beside my head before I heard the sound of the shots…
I fell flat into the sugar-cane, and they thought I was shot. I heard one of them say:
‘We got the nigger.’
They backed out and went away.
I lay in the cane a while, resting. They could never have found me in a week once I got into the cane.
After a while [I] made my way to a lady’s house I knew. I knew her son. They let me in, but they wouldn’t do anything for me. She went back to bed. They wouldn’t wash off my wounds or anything. They were scared…
‘We don’t want the sheriff to come here and hang us all,’ the lady said
I went back though the cane to my uncle’s house. On the way I passed close by to some white people’s house and I heard somebody say:
‘We had cheap fun last night down at the bridge.’
I got to my uncle’s house, and he gave me a sweater and an old hat, and something to eat, and told me to hide in the corn-crib. I stayed there all day…
When my grandmother saw me, she was surprised to see me alive. She had been crying all day.
Even after this remarkable series of events, the nightmare wasn’t over. When he finally made it back to New Orleans, Thibodeaux was once again captured by police and held in a jail for five days, where he was repeatedly interrogated and pressured to confess to the murder. One day the police chief simply walked into his cell and told him he was free to go. Thibodeaux later learned that the murdered girl’s own stepfather had confessed to the crime. The history of lynching is littered with tragic stories like this, such as in one case where “10 negro men were cruelly tortured to death for the murder of a woman whose husband confessed to the murder on his death-bed.”
 “Taken By Mob: Lives to Talk.” The Pittsburgh Courier, 30 December, 1933. Pg. A1.
 “The Curse and Cure of Lynching.” The Chicago Defender, 26 April, 1913. Pg. 1.
Note essay must be 400+ words