Commentary and Philosophy Poetry posted January 15, 2019

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Justice Denied (Please read aloud)

The Groveland Four's Legacy

by Mrs. KT

"Jim Crow" was in full force that year
White woman lied
When “Rape” she cried,
Police tactics were very clear:
Contrived questions
Forced confessions…
Who dared believe young black men’s plight?
Hatred soon raged
“Guilty" were caged
No DNA, yet case: “Airtight”
The truth was readily displaced
Rush to accuse,
None could diffuse
Those blinded by racism’s spurred haste...
Added fury?
All-white jury
Four innocent, yet guilty found
Contempt preserved
Justice not served
Even with attorney renowned 
Yes, lies consumed their years detained 
Such damage done...
Now pardon won
For these lost lives prejudice chained
With no relief
To expunge grief
For seven decades? Now, no blame?
So very long
To right this wrong
America, please, no more shame...

These four could not escape their fate
Their story told
May seem so old,
Yet it is one that bears much weight - 
Times now have changed
Still, some shortchanged...
Injustice, and lives it shatters,
Must meet its end
With us, my friend...
Be brave to see all life matters...

Rhyming Poetry Contest contest entry



The Groveland Four (or the Groveland Boys), none of whom is still alive today, were four young African-American men, Earnest Thomas, Charles Greenlee (then a minor at age 16), Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, who in 1949 were accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman on July 16, 1949 and assaulting her husband in Lake County, Florida.
Earnest Thomas fled and was killed by a Sheriff posse of nearly 1000 white men, on July 26, 1949 in South Madison County between Moseley Hill and Greenville; Thomas was shot 400 times as he slept underneath a tree. Greenlee, Shepherd and Irvin were arrested. They were beaten in jail to coerce confessions, but Irvin did not confess.
The three survivors were convicted at trial by an all-white jury. Greenlee was sentenced to life because he was only 16 at the time of the crime; the other two were sentenced to death.
In 1951 the United States Supreme Court ordered a retrial after hearing appeals by the latter two men, led by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It ruled they had not received a fair trial because of excessive adverse publicity and because blacks had been excluded from the jury.
In November 1951, Sheriff Willis McCall shot both Shepherd and Irvin while they were in his custody, saying they had tried to escape while he was transporting them from Raiford State Prison back to the county seat of Tavares, Florida, for the new trial. Shepherd died on the spot; Irvin survived his wounds and later told FBI investigators that the sheriff had shot them in cold blood and that his deputy Yates had also shot him in an attempt to finish him off.
No charges were ever brought against any white law enforcement officials or prosecutors involved with the case.
At the second trial, Irvin was again convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death. In 1955 his sentence was commuted to life by recently elected Governor Leroy Collins. In 1968 Irvin was paroled. He died in February 1969 in Lake County.
In 2016 the City of Groveland and Lake County each apologized to survivors of the four men for the injustice against them. The four were posthumously exonerated on April 18, 2017, by a resolution of the Florida House of Representatives.The state senate quickly passed a similar resolution, and lawmakers called on Florida Governor Rick Scott to officially pardon the men.
On January 11, 2019, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted to posthumously pardon the Groveland Four. (Wikipedia and New York Times: January 11, 2019).

For additional reading: "We're truly sorry": Fla. apologizes for racial injustice of 1949 Groveland Four rape case from The Washington Post

The Jim Crow laws were a number of laws requiring racial segregation in the United States. These laws were enforced in different states between 1876 and 1965. "Jim Crow" laws provided a systematic legal basis for segregating and discriminating against African Americans.

Image = Google Images

A note about the poetic format: This offering began as an 10 line Amphion, but then it took on a life of its own the more I researched the tragedy of the "Groveland Boys." Thus it is a four stanza poem, tetrameter lines, alternate with sets of rhymed dimeter couplets: 8/4/4/8/4/4/8/4/4/8.

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