Jeffrey Lord of the conservative American Spectator has some "breaking news": Shirley Sherrod's story about her relative's "lynching" is false, and she is a liar. There, it's settled. Except that Jeffrey Lord doesn't know what "lynching" means.
The now-famous story that Shirley Sherrod told in the full version of a speech to the NAACP notes that a relative, Bobby Hall, was "lynched" in the Deep South, which, along with her own father's murder, led her to harbor resentments against whites for some years until a powerful experience helping desperate white farmers changed her.
The arrest was made late at night at Hall's home on a warrant charging Hall with theft of a tire. Hall, a young negro about thirty years of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the car at the courthouse square, the three petitioners began beating him with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds. They claimed Hall had reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground, they continued to beat him from fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet first through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor, dying. An ambulance was called, and Hall was removed to a hospital, where he died within the hour and without regaining consciousness.
Lord's revelation? It can't be a "lynching" if they don't use a rope!
It's also possible that she knew the truth and chose to embellish it, changing a brutal and fatal beating to a lynching. Anyone who has lived in the American South (as my family once did) and is familiar with American history knows well the dread behind stories of lynch mobs and the Klan. What difference is there between a savage murder by fist and blackjack — and by dangling rope? Obviously, in the practical sense, none. But in the heyday — a very long time — of the Klan, there were frequent (and failed) attempts to pass federal anti-lynching laws. None to pass federal "anti-black jack" or "anti-fisticuffs" laws.
Ha ha "fisticuffs"! Nice, Jeffrey Lord.
Not only would Lord's revelation be classified under the semantics file of "who gives a shit?" if it were accurate, but Lord does not know that "lynching," while most popularly associated with hangings, is a term for an extrajudicial mob killing. And as the American Prospect Adam Serwer notes, here's the language from one of those failed attempts at a federal anti-lynching law, from the '20s:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the phrase "mob or riotous assemblage," when used in this act, shall mean an assemblage composed of three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offense.
[Image via AP]
Update: Bobby Hall was a relative of Sherrod's but not her father, who was murdered by a white neighbor in a separate incident. I apologize for being a moron, too.