Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Telephone poles, war, lynchings and Christians

[Image from]

There really was a "war" on telephone poles, and Eula Biss, in her article, "The War on Telephone Poles" (Harper's, Feb. 2009, pp. 19 - 22) tells all about it.

Ms. Biss, with facts and humor, describes this war, which was first reported in 1889 by the New York Times.

"Whenever telephone companies erected poles, homeowners and business owners were sawing them down, or defending their sidewalks with rifles. Property owners in Red Bank, New Jersey, threatened to tar and feather the workers putting up telephone poles."

But there was a darker side to telephone poles.

"In 1898, in Lake Cormorant, Mississippi, a black man was hanged from a telephone pole. And in Weir City, Kansas. And in Brookhaven, Mississippi. And in Holdenville, Oklahoma, where the hanged man was 'riddled with bullets.' In Danville, Illinois, a black man was hanged from a telephone pole, cut down, burned, shot, and stoned with bricks. A black man was hung from a telephone pole in Belleville, Illinois, where a fire was set at the base of the pole and the man was cut down half alive, covered in coal oil and burned. While his body was burning, the mob beat it with clubs and cut it to pieces."

There's more, much more.

"In Shreveport, Louisiana, a black man charged with attacking a white girl was hanged from a telephone pole. 'A knife was left sticking in the body.' In Cumming, Georgia, a black man accused of assaulting a white girl was shot repeatedly, then strung up from a telephone pole.

"A postcard was made from a photo of a burned man hanging from a telephone pole in Texas, his legs broken off below the knee and his arms curled up and blackened. Postcards of lynchings were sent out as greetings and warnings until 1908, when the postmaster general declared them unmailable. 'This is the barbecue we had last night,' reads one."

Moving right along.

"In Pittsburg, Kansas, a black man's throat was slit and his dead body was strung up on a telephone pole. 'At first the negro was defiant,' the New York Times reported, 'but just before he was hanged he begged hard for his life.

"In Cumberland, Maryland, a mob used a telephone pole as a battering ram to break into the jail where a black man charged with the murder of a policeman was being held. They kicked him to death, then fired twenty shots into his head. They wanted to burn the body, but a minister asked them not to."

Ms. Biss says that over 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress during the 20th century, but none of them became law. "Seven presidents lobbied for anti-lynching legislation, and the House of Representatives passed three separate measures, each of which was blocked by the Senate."

I recall, years ago, of reading how men from a Methodist church in a small southern town, following an evening prayer meeting, decided they needed to lynch a black man, and did so. They had a great time. Knowing something of the religious demographics of the southern part of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, one can be fairly certain that most of those involved in the lynchings of blacks were members of either a Methodist or Baptist church.

Good Christians, too. Believed in Jesus. Going to heaven. Baptized and born again in the Holy Spirit!

Of course, the religious right, is not into lynching blacks today, but rather have taken after gay people (in every way but actually stringing them up), and they cry out, in wounded whimpering, that these United States is a Christian nation, always has been, and by God, if they have their way, it always will be. Some wish to stone gays to death just like God instructs his followers to do!

As if that would make us better people.

If we've always been a Christian nation, maybe we ought to look for another God. Or none at all.


Grandpa Eddie said...

If that is what christianity is all about, then it is Unconstitutional and needs to be outlawed in these United States.

From my experiences with "christians" during my life, I have come to the conclusion that most, not all but most of them are bigoted racists who despise just about everyone who isn't a white christian homophobic American.

tracie said...

Um, a little historical fact checking would be good. You're referencing legislators/presidents that tried to get anti-lynching laws passed. Then you refer to the right as the ones that are racist. The facts though, are that it was the right/republican party that fought against this and were continually blocked by the left. Time for the "righteous" left to own it's sins I do believe, before painting with a brush of judgement.

Terry Shistle Orlando Fl. said...

My Bible teaches forgiveness,long suffering and loving and praying for your enemies.
Christianity is a love thing, Don't let your fears cloud your reason. God love you and every living thing.

Terry Shistle Orlando Fl. said...

My Bible teaches forgiveness, long-suffering and to love and pray for those who hate you.
Christianity is a LOVE thing. Try not to allow fears to cloud judgement.
Theres still time to find the LOVE as long as you can still breath!
Find it!

Bob Poris said...

Wonderful news! When did that lesson finally reach the masses? The earliest teachings in the Old Testament, known to the family of Jesus — Mary, Joseph, etc. were not followed by many generations after. Jesus taught these teachings, as did Mohammed and thought Mohammed could not read, he admired what he heard.

But somehow, somewhere, some people decided the burning of witches, Jews, etc.,should become the wisdom of the day. But they were wrong. It is said that God spread HIS word, but men edited them and something was lost in the newer versions. The original messages were wonderful and the changes were not good enough. When will Jesus return and make the corrections? The world could use a new approach

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