In April, 1939, a young African American man was accused of stealing merchandise from a store in Tennessee. Shortly afterward, he was found dead in a nearby river.
That man’s name was Jessie Lee Bond. His death certificate says he drowned accidentally, but his family always maintained that after an argument with white shop owners, he was lynched — shot, castrated, and thrown in a river.
At StoryCorps, Charlie Morris (L), Jessie Lee’s brother, remembers the moment he learned what happened.
No one has ever been charged in Charlie’s brother’s death. But his story inspired a lawmaker in Tennessee to introduce a bill to the legislature that would create a task force to study unsolved civil rights crimes. That bill stalled in the state Senate.
Click here for the transcript.
So I went to my grandmother's, and I had carried with me a .38 revolver. And I was crying, and she says, "Son, don't do this." She said, "I've got one grandson dead. I don't want the burden of another grandson being dead."
To be honest with you, I carried a burden of hatred on my shoulder for 10 years. I was just sick. I was aching. I'd go to the doctor--the doctor couldn't find anything. But one day the doctor said, "When you come next week bring your wife with you."
So the next Thursday I carried my wife with me. And when we got in there, he started questioning her. I was having nightmares but she never told me. I was crying in my sleep--I was calling for my brother.
And then I began to realize what was happening. And the doctor told me, he said, uh, "I'm the wrong doctor for you."
And when I began to forgive, there was all the answers to my illness. I didn't have to go to the doctor anymore. I didn't have those pains.
But it did put a dent in my life for a long time.