Blood in Jasper

Revolutionary Worker #962, June 21, 1998

The recent modern-day lynching of James Byrd happened in the city of Jasper--which has a Black mayor and a population that's 45 percent African-American. Jasper is in East Texas, which is part of the Old Plantation South, and shares the region's bloody history of murderous crimes against Black people. Between 1889 and 1918 at least 355 people, most of them Black people, died in the state of Texas from racist mob violence. And today, you don't have to go back too many years to find other AmeriKKKan incidents in this East Texas region:

  • Vidor, 1994: Three Black families move into an all-white public housing project. The families are part of an effort to integrate the project but are greeted with death threats and patrols through the projects by Ku Klux Klan members displaying high-powered weapons.
  • Cleveland, 1988: After being arrested for stealing an ink-pen, a 30-year-old Black man, Kenneth Simpson, dies in his jail cell after being beaten by white officers. The pen was later found atop a soft drink machine in the police station lobby. The cops are cleared of all charges in the death.
  • Hemphill, 1987: On Christmas Day, Loyal Garner, a Black Louisiana truck driver, is arrested for drunk driving. Garner says he is sober and asks for a sobriety test. But the police take him to the county jail in Hemphill. Garner asks permission to phone his wife. Instead he is taken to the jail detox room and bludgeoned to death. Hemphill's police chief and two county deputies are later convicted of murder, but one deputy's conviction is overturned.
  • Mount Enterprise, 1987: Troy Lee Starling, a 24-year-old Black man, is fatally shot in the neck by a state trooper after a high-speed chase in Rusk County. The trooper is cleared of any charges.

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