The Boss's Dog

A tumultous (unfinished) history

By The General

We Chessies have American ancestors - my very great uncles kicked off the breed on the shores of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland from the 1840s onwards. So I take a passing interest in what's happening over there and it's been a bit lively lately.

The Boss was reminding me of his visit to Montgomery, Alabama, a couple of years ago. He had driven up from New Orleans with a couple of mates to see the Rosa Parks Museum. Rosa was the lady who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white male passenger in 1955.

Her defiance started the Montgomery bus boycott by the African American community - that boycott ended when the US Supreme Court ruled segregation on buses to be unlawful but it ignited the entire civil rights movement.

When he turned up at the Rosa Parks Museum, The Boss heard about the new "lynching museum," which had just opened on a six-acre site overlooking the city. His visit there was a sobering experience, he said.

Visitors take a stroll along a grim cloister - 805 hanging steel rectangles, the size and shape of coffins, suspended from the roof; etched on each column is name of an American county and the people who were lynched there.

The walkway gradually descends into the hill along marble-lined walls, where plaques record sparse details of particular lynchings, until all the steel coffins are hanging overhead, evoking the wretched pain of BiIlly Holliday's song, Strange Fruits.

The Boss reckons the excuses for lynching were pretty flimsy and told me about Mary Turner, who after denouncing her husband's lynching by a rampaging white mob, was hung upside down, burned and then sliced open so that her unborn child fell to the ground.

According to The Boss, the people engraved on the columns were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned and beaten to death. He saw photographs of mass lynchings with hundreds of townspeople turning up, with their children, to watch the hangings.

He was shaking his head. 

"It was more about keeping black people terrified and traumatised from birth, so they were always under control, General," he said. 

"It's hard not to conclude some people think it should still be like that. People who ought to know better."

The Boss said he's been thinking about that lately. Woof!