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Melvin B. Miller

Before the Civil Rights Movement got underway with the Birmingham Bus Boycott in 1955, blacks across the country were mobilized to make lynching a federal crime. According to a recent report by the Equal Justice Initiative, there were 4,000 lynchings in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. Rarely were the assailants apprehended, and even more rarely were they convicted in local or state courts.

Many lynchings were precipitated by complaints from women against black men. The 1955 torture and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago resident who was visiting relatives in Mississippi, was the most publicized lynching of the era. The white woman who accused him of whistling at her admitted years later that he had done nothing to deserve such a death.

Many lives were lost in the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma race riot when blacks came to free 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshine boy, who was about to be lynched for allegedly assaulting Sarah Page, a 17-year-old elevator operator. Hundreds were killed and injured, and 10,000 blacks were left homeless when Greenwood, the black highly developed area, was burned to the ground.

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren plugged into an awful history for black men by accusing Mike Bloomberg of saying to a pregnant worker, “Kill it,” she unwittingly unleashed a negative reaction to all the false accusations from women. It is no wonder that her support from blacks is so limited. Blacks are aware that the anti-lynching law is about to be approved after an effort which began in 1900. But men continue to be falsely accused.

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