Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College

By Tim Spofford | Go to book overview

1

STRANGE ROOTS

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

—Lewis Allan

They named it Lynch Street back when it was just a muddy roadway through a black neighborhood in Jackson. Not for the hanging Judge Lynch of Old Virginia, but for an emancipated slave who had done himself proud in Mississippi during Reconstruction.

His name was John Roy Lynch. He was a thin and light-skinned young man with a moustache, self-educated, and just twenty-four when the whites in the state legislature made him Speaker of the House of Representatives. At twenty-six, Lynch became Mississippi's first black congressman. But he had not come so far by playing Uncle Tom. At the capitol in Jackson, Lynch fought to repeal the "black codes" the Confederates had passed to create a new form of slavery after the Civil War. And in Washington he labored for passage of the 1875 Civil Rights Act. Later, after the whites had turned to the rope and the gun to drive blacks from office in Mississippi, Lynch urged President Grant to send federal troops to protect the freedmen. Grant never did send those troops, and soon Reconstruction and liberty for blacks came to an end in Mississippi. Not long afterwards, the political career of John Roy Lynch also drew to a close. But black Jacksonians remembered that he had never turned his back on them, so they named for Lynch one of the main streets in their city.

A century after John Roy Lynch held office in Jackson, the Second Reconstruction—the civil rights movement of the 1960s—transformed the politics of the Deep South. By 1970 black Mississippians could vote once again, though few held office. And while the street named after Lynch still ran through a black neighborhood, now it was a three-mile stretch of con

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Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Lynch Street - The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Strange Roots *
  • 2 - Mayday in Amerika *
  • 3 - The Miniriot *
  • 4 - By the Magnolia Tree *
  • 5 - Jacktwo *
  • 6 - Yoknapatawpha in Black *
  • 7 - Crisis *
  • 8 - Majesty of the Law *
  • 9 - Showdown *
  • 10 - Nixon's Court *
  • Epilogue *
  • Sources and Methods *
  • Index *
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