Black Justice in Georgia: 5 Minutes, 4 Lives

Read the account by journalist Pierre van Paassen, who visited the Atlanta courtroom of Judge Andrew E. Calhoun in 1925:

The judge, a shriveled up little man with blackened teeth stumps and a drooping mustache, wore a soiled linen jacket and had unfastened his collar, for it was stifling hot in the courtroom. On the side stood the prisoners closely packed together, all Negroes. They were waiting to be tried, or rather to be sentenced, and were called one by one to face the man on the bench.

“Joe Smith,” called out a cop.

The man answering to that name approached the magistrate.

“Nigger, what was you doing in that woman’s room Saturday night?”

“Judge, I wasn’t in no woman’s room…”

“Thirty days! Next!”

“Fred Hastings!” called out another cop.

“Haven’t I seen you here before, nigger?”

“No, sir, judge, I never…”

“Thirty days! Next!”

“Elsie Gibson!”

“Your name Elsie? You scratched your landlady’s face?…Was you drunk, Elsie?”

“No sir, Your Honor, I wasn’t drunk…”

“Thirty days!”

“Charles Newman!”

“Nigger, you were caught with a knife in your hand, threatening an officer… “

“Your Honor, that wasn’t no knife!”

“You carried a deadly weapon! Thirty days on the chain gang!”

“But Your Honor, I was peeling potatoes when the officer walkedin….And it wasn’t no knife…“

“Don’t talk back! Sixty days!”

“Sixty days, Your Honor! What for?”

“Shut up, nigger, ninety days on the chain gang. The trouble with you is that you talk too much…”

“Jeez, Your Honor, it was the victrola that was playing. I wasn’t doin’ no talkin’!”

“You talked yourself into a year on the chain gang, nigger. You used profane language in court…Take that blabbermouth away…Next!

In just 200 words (five of them “nigger”) and about five minutes, the four Blacks were sentenced to a total of 455 days, their lives, and the lives of their families, unalterably redefined and irrevocably labeled “criminal.” 

 


Excerpt from The Secret Relationship Between Blacks & Jews, Vol. 3: The Leo Frank Case: The Lynching of a Guilty Man