Anti-Lynch campaign, vintage postcard
In 1937 and again in 1940, yet two more anti-lynching
bills passed through the House of Representatives, but were defeated in
the Senate. Although the NAACP had failed to get a federal law
lynchings had almost disappeared by 1950.
The NAACP's 30-year struggle to publicize the barbarity of lynch mobs had
penetrated even the most backward and racist regions of the country.
was not one single event alone that spurred the people to action when
finally the Civil Rights Movement was born. Instead, the Movement
developed out of the post-World War II society in the mid-1950s and early
1960s. Instead, each individual struggle and its subsequent achievement
altered the tone of society and the expectations of present and future
As a reaction to the Civil Rights Movement,
southerners revived the ever-effective
which had been in decline, to combat the achievements of of the movement.
The violent deaths inflicted both on locals who attempted to work within
their own community as well as on "outside agitators" from such Civil
Rights organizations as the Congress of Racial Equality attempted to
maintain the status quo of Southern society through the implicit threat of
the lynch mob. Lynching, however, had the opposite of its intended effect.
Instead of silencing the black population and dissuading them from
organizing, several well-publicized
galvanized the Civil Rights movement, introduced a national audience to
the violence inflicted by an archaic social order, and even forced the
federal government to become involved in what had been a state government
Even after the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964,
lynchings persisted in the Deep South,
the most significant of which was the illegal execution of nineteen year
old Michael Donald.
1981, a black man who was charged with the murder of a white policeman,
stood trial in Mobile, Alabama. When his trial took place, the jury
was unable to reach a verdict. Upset Ku Klux Klan members believed that
some black members of the jury had affected this outcome and at a meeting
after the trial, Bennie Hays, the second-highest ranking official in the
Alabama Klan said: "If a black man can get away with killing a white man,
we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man."
Saturday March, 21, 1981, Bennie Hays' son, Henry Hays, and James Knowles,
decided they would get revenge for the failure of the courts to convict
the African American for killing a policeman.
Traveling around Mobile in their car, they soon found Michael Donald
walking home. Donald had nothing to do with the murder of the police
officer and was in no way involved in the trial. He was just a an
innocent man that the Ku Klux
chose randomly to exact revenge for the
acquittal of the other man during the trial. When the pair spotted
Michael Donald, they forced him into their car, drove to the next county
An investigation resulted in the local police
finding that Donald had been murdered over a drug deal gone bad. However, Beulah Mae Donald knew her son was not involved in drugs and
resolved to obtain justice. Soon, Jessie Jackson and the FBI were
involved and it did not take long before FBI agent, James Bodman was able
to obtain a confession from James Knowles.
In June 1983, Knowles was found guilty of
violating Donald's civil rights and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Six months later, when Henry Hays was tried for murder, Knowles appeared
as chief prosecution witness. Hays was found guilty and sentenced to