SYLVANUS JOHNSON…..AFRICAN AMERICAN TREATMENT YESTERDAY AND TODAY

A story of white man’s justice as regards blacks in 1897.

The event took place in Key West. Representative of justice at the time for people of color throughout the South.

It was June 1897. Sylvanus Johnson resided in Key West. An African-American. A United States citizen. Johnson was accused of raping a white woman.

He was brought to trial immediately. The rape charge a capital crime. Death the expected sentence, if convicted.

Johnson was assigned counsel. He could not afford one on his own. A kangaroo court and an all white jury decided his fate. The judge a good old boy. He would not permit Johnson’s attorney to cross examine witnesses.

A lynch mob formed during the trial. Daytime outside the court house. Night time, outside the jail. The mob wanted white man’s justice immediately. Hang him!

Blacks formed outside the court house by day and jail by night to protect Johnson.

A confrontation.

The Sheriff panicked. Stood his ground, but knew he needed help to keep Johnson safe from the lynch mob. Asked the Governor for assistance. The Governor viewed the situation as a black insurrection. He immediately asked President McKinley for federal troops. McKinley considered the matter not worthy of assistance.

A local reporter described the African-Americans as a “tough negro element.” Portrayed them as troublemakers.

Johnson was convicted. Took the jury one hour forty minutes.

When the verdict was announced, Johnson turned to the jury and said, “If God was black and came before this jury you would find him guilty. You may take my black body, but you cannot harm my innocent soul.”

Johnson was hung within a matter of days.

There is a reason why I recall the Johnson story. It has to do with Irma and retrospectively Katrina.

African-Americans have come a long way since Johnson’s days. Not far enough, however. They have equality in name. Not in fact.

FEMA had tents erected in the public parking area behind the Key West fire station on Simonton. A place for people to seek and receive governmental assistance. I noted the people applying were all persons of color. Tan. Blacks, Cubans, etc. No whites.

Saturday evening, I drove down Duval. Somewhere in the middle of Duval was a FEMA truck. It was handing out food packages. All the people waiting for the packages were black. No tans,  no whites.

Katrina had similarities. Blacks ended up in the huge sports arena. Nary a white.

My point is African-Americans and other persons of color have come a long way since 1897. Not enough, however. Equality and opportunity not yet fully theirs.

How much longer must these people wait?

Understand what I have written here and you will understand why we continue to have turmoil in the streets involving blacks and whites.

There was a concert in Mallory Square over the weekend. A locals event. To celebrate survival and exhibit the community will come back. A huge crowd in attendance whooping it up in Key West fashion.

My yesterday quiet. Worked with Sloan in the morning. Under the weather the rest of the day. Heavy sweating and a runny nose. Stayed in bed. This morning, I feel fine.

Comcast has finally completed its responsibilities. Late last night, I got back wi-fi and hard line.

Like being reborn! Computer, wi-fi and hard line all at one time!

Consistent with most positions he takes, Trump is totally off base as regards the NFL. He fails to realize that freedom of speech includes spitting, urinating, defecating, burning, and dragging through he dirt the American flag. Constitutionally guaranteed free speech.

The United States has survived over 200 years recognizing the right.

Trump understands neither the history of this country or the Constitution. He prefers standing before a huge American flag Patton style denouncing the NFL and its players. Shouting words he is most famous for…..You’re fired!

I feel good this blog has returned to normalcy. Irma is behind us, except for recovery.

Tonight Louis will be at Aqua for Dueling Bartenders. I suspect many others will also.

Enjoy your day!

ARGENTINE TANGO

Dance the Tango! The Argentine Tango!

Tonight!

Key West Theater on Eaton Street. Part of the Key West World of Culture Dance Series. Learn or watch. Your choice.

Trump on the receiving end. The tide is turning. It does not seem he can take it as well as he can give it out.

Liberty University a major Trump supporter. Liberty’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr. at the forefront. A few graduates are unhappy with Falwell’s support of Trump following Trump’s Nazi and alt right comments. So far, one hundred. They are returning their diplomas.

I have become a fan of the Justice Building Blog. Sometimes bland, sometimes humorous. Today’s on the funny side.

Trump on frequent occasion makes statements that are historically incorrect, nonsensical, just plain stupid. Some quotes attributable to Trump listed today. None said by Trump. Could have been, however.

Like…..”Nazis are people too. Americans.” How about…..”We spend all the money on nuclear weapons and don’t use them. What good are they? Or…..”Lincoln did not believe in global warming. Neither did Patton. Neither do I.”

Confederate statues and memorials being removed. Some in the dark of night. My thoughts move back and forth.

At first, I did not agree. Like it or not, the Civil War is part of American history. The Nation united following the war. Southern peoples have the right to honor their heroes of that moment in American history.

Then I heard the voices of today’s African-Americans. Most of the statues/memorials were constructed during the 1920’s by and in support of the Klu Klux Klan or in support of southern States during the 1960’s civil rights disturbances.

Their voices loud and clear. Whether a statue, monument or flag, we are reminded of our slavery heritage. These items represent a time when our people suffered.

I understood. Or, thought I did. Tear them down became part of my thought process.

Now, I find myself swaying back and forth between both conclusions.

Which brings me to Key West and the issue.

This morning’s Key West Citizen reveals three Confederate statues/memorials. One in Bayview Park. Another, Clinton Square. The third, Mallory square itself. There is a fourth I discovered myself.

The Confederate memorial in Bayview Park was constructed in 1924 by the Stephen Mallory chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Dedicated to the soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy.

The one in Clinton Square erected in honor of Confederate veteran and Judge J.V. Harris.

Mallory Square the best of the best or outrageous based on one’s perspective.

The huge expanse known as Mallory Square is named after Stephen R. Mallory. Mallory was raised in Key West. A United States Senator representing Florida prior to the Civil War. Served as Confederate Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War. Charged with treason following the war. Imprisoned for a time. Then paroled by President Andrew Johnson.

When a U.S. Senator, his first speech was for a return to flogging on U.S. Navy vessels. The nature of the man reflected?

I am unaware if he continued to live in Key West during his Senatorial years or any time thereafter. He died not in Key West, but at his home in Pensacola.

Well my fellow residents of Key West, do we tear down the Bayview Park memorial, the Clinton Square statue, and rename Mallory Square? No thought given so far. I doubt that Key Westers really care.

One more example. Asa Forseyth Tift.

Tift was the first owner of what today is the Hemingway House. He built it in 1851. Tift owned 14 slaves. They constituted the labor force used.

Tift’s bust is located in the Memorial Sculpture Garden at the edge of Mallory Square.

Should the Hemingway House be torn down? Should Tift’s bust be removed from the Memorial Sculpture Garden?

All food for thought. What is good for Charlottesville, Baltimore and other cities, should be good for Key West. Lets have a universal application. Or, cease and desist with the removal of these historical representations.

A confusing issue for those with no ax to grind. Like me.

Enjoy your day!