This story is true, names have been changed to protect the innocent, other names are real to allow you to examine the cruelty of a broken system or to allow the reader to examine the actions of real persons.The Ballad of George Stinney Jr
There were clouds in the sky, but the sun was out. It was hot, but not a dry heat. The heat was oppressive, it was like a thick hot uncomfortable embrace. Stifling. George Jr was sitting in the grass, under a red maple tree, the red leaves were vibrant. George Jr legs were splayed out, his arms holding him up. He was wearing broken in overalls, no shirt, and no shoes. A catcher mitt right beside him, his fathers. He stared up into the sky, squinting. Occasionally he’d shield his eyes. His sister Amie was beside him, mirroring him. They were sweating.
“It’s hot.” She said.
“Yes, it is.” He looked at her
“Can I take off my shirt?” She said tugging at her white undershirt. She was wearing overalls as well.
“No, you can not.” George Jr said firmly.
“Why not?” Amie tilted her head. “You’re not wearing a shirt.”
“I’m a boy, it’s not decent for a girl.” He said.
“How come?” Amie asked.
“No idea, ask Momma.” He said.
She looked up at the sky. She didn’t want to ask Momma because she wouldn’t tell her what she wanted to hear.
George Jr was fourteen, Amie was just seven. He wasn’t closest in age to his sister. Katherine was, but when Amie wanted to play she’d always call on him. He didn’t mind. Even though he was fourteen he still found enjoyment in her kid’s games. George picked up his mitt, an oversized baseball fell out. He put the glove on and stood up. Amie jumped up with a glove of her own. She ran across the yard underneath the great old Loblolly pine.
George picked up the ball and sweat trickled down his dark skin. His mother kept his hair long in the colder months, but spring had just arrived so his course hair was short against his scalp. Amie turned around and stood ready for his pass. George lobbed the ball, sending it at a good clip, but not too hard. Amie got butthurt when he’d toss the ball underhand, do he didn’t. She caught it like a champ. She jumped up and down in place three times. She giggled. This made George smile. The ball was too big for her hand. She threw it back with all her strength. But it only made it halfway. George didn’t chastise her, he tucked his mitt and jogged to it. Amie said she was sorry. George didn’t acknowledge it, it was no big deal. She’d get better, he’d see to it. George Jr picked up the ball and went back under the maple. He tossed the ball again. She closed her mitt a little too early and the ball bounced out of the glove. She didn’t hesitate, she picked up the ball and threw it back. The pitch was a little better but still short. George Jr decided he wanted to catch it. He darted forward suddenly. He leaned down and caught the ball just before it hit the ground. He ran in a circle, Amie raised her hands above her head smiling. George looked at her. When she smiled, it always made him smile. Two beautiful black children in the deep south.
There was a gentle breeze blowing. There was a sound of a bell from a child’s bike. It made George Jr turn round. There were two children riding bikes up the road behind him. Amie began to walk toward George. They were two little white girls. One of them saw George and waved wildly as if she had just seen her best friend. George Jr waved back. But he was concerned, he realized that this was the first time he had ever seen these white girls. Everyone in this area black or white worked at the mill, these girls didn’t belong. He walked toward them, he decided he would stop at least twelve feet away. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but George’s Momma had always said, black and white people do not mix, that white people were trouble and that they should stay away. George stayed twelve feet away just like he planned.
“Hi.” The taller girl said. “I’m Rebecca, that’s Shelly.”
“Hello, I’m George, that’s my sister Amie,” George said. Amie was standing behind George peeking around his arm. Her big brown eyes peering from Rebecca to Shelly and back. Rebecca had her feet planted, legs akimbo, her yellow bike gleaming in the sun, hands-on her handlebars. She was smiling, her sundress was the same color as her bike. Her thick curly brown hair was shoulder length. Her eyes were large and brown and honest. She must have been eleven years old. Shelly was standing much the same way. Standing over her pink bike, her dress was a pastel sort of blue. Shelly had a bob haircut that only went to her ears. She was stoic, George got the feeling that Rebecca did all the talking.
“I hope you don’t take this wrong, but what are you doing here?” George said kindly.
“We wanted to pick some flowers.” Shelly Said.
“Oh yeah?” George said.
“Do you know where to find some?” Rebecca asked. “A bunch of different kinds too, do you know where?”
“Maypops?” Shelly said.
“I love flowers, there is a bed may be a half-mile down the road,” Amie said suddenly, she had stepped from behind George and pointed. Comically both of the two white girls looked in that direction.
“What color are the flowers?” Rebecca said.
“Mostly white, but red and purple too,” Amie exclaimed.
Rebecca and Shelly suddenly had a nervous energy about them.
“Maypops are purple!” Shelly smiled for the first time.
Rebecca smiled at the thought of colorful flowers. Rebecca mounted her bike to take off.
“Thanks!” She said.
Shelly mounted her bike too. Rebecca waved and they rode off, she nearly dumped the bike, waving and smiling and riding.
That was the last time anyone saw Rebecca and Shelly alive.