Then the leather came down on me twenty more times. Somewhere, halfway through the beating I went out.
I put that down as the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.
It hurt me so much it hurt my heart. Dr. Hodges, he had to give me a shot afterward because the blood stopped circulating through my heart. Afterwards he dressed the cuts. He put something on that burned as bad as the lashing.
I was in the hospital for many hours. Then they made me get up to go see the warden. I went to him all bandaged. He said, "If one word of this gets out you going to get forty-two licks. What goes on down here stays down here."
"I won't say nothing."
"If you write to those Communists in New York you'll be the sorriest nigger in the South."
It took me two months before I healed. They dressed the cuts every other day. When they pulled off the plaster they pulled off the scabs too. That kept it sore all the time. I had to go out on the farm each day. At first when I came in I had to lay face down because I couldn't bear anything to touch it. I wore my pants torn open in back so the cloth wouldn't touch my skin.
Men were always going around Atmore with their pants open in back like that so their clothes wouldn't touch their beaten behinds.
I was in pitiful shape for some time. I felt myself drifting down into stir-craziness. I wanted nothing. Not even freedom any more. Just only to die.
One day right after that great news passed across the farm. Like lightning from squad to squad. The warden, Brute Kelly, he dropped dead.
THE man to replace Kelly was S. W. Hixon. He was the type of fellow, he had been about. Been to New York. Done everything. A regular guy. He knew a lot, knew how to treat a black man, how