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
Word spread through town like wildfire. George finally told his father that he had seen the girls in their front yard, that Amie was by his side. Mr. Stinney was quiet for a long time. His skin was cracked and wrinkled from the sun. The palms of his large hands seemed yellow. He kept his hair short, though you could see the grey coming in. But his eyes were kind. George was confused, his father was always quite decisive.
“Did anyone see you talking with them?” Mr. Stinney asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” George said.
Mr. Stinney put his fork down. He had been eating a plate of vegetables, mashed potatoes, and pot roast. But he seemed stuck. The gears were turning. Amie was sitting next to George, but she wasn’t paying attention. She was munching broccoli. George’s mother was looking at him, from the counter. His older siblings had already eaten and were moving about the house. Katherine was in her room. Johnnie George’s older brother came downstairs at that moment.
“Ya’ll just look positively dumbstruck. What’s going on?” Johnnie said entering the room. Mr. Stinney stood up suddenly.
“Johnnie, could you go across the street. Talk to Phillip. Tell him we need to organize a search party.” Mr. Stinney said. “Ask him to find everyone he can to join us.”
“Right now?” Johnnie said. “It’s after dark, he won’t take kindly to me coming onto his property,” Johnnie said.
“I work with Phillip, you can trust him.” Mr. Stinney said.
George stood up, his mother, in the background. She wasn’t speaking but her eyes were wide. It was a look he had never seen his mother wear. Later he’d think of her face and he’d remember the fear in her eyes.
The next thing George knew, the majority of the neighborhood was out on the street. They had torches, Mr. Stinney and Phillip were directing everyone to move in the direction of a field full of flowers. White ones, red ones, and purple ones. There were black and white people, George did not realize the sway his father had with workers from the sawmill. The factory employed pretty much everyone on this side of the tracks. They agreed to search the roads, the fields, and backyards. They searched for a few hours.
They didn’t find the girls. The search party went all the way to their side of the tracks. They did not find them. Phillip was walking next to Mr. Stinney in the dark. They were in the very field George had directed them to. George thought they were trampling the flowers. George was holding his father’s hand. Phillip didn’t understand the context or the importance of his question. He looked at Mr. Stinney.
“Why did we come this way to search for the girls?” Phillip asked innocently. Mr. Stinney hesitated and didn’t speak. He lifted his hand to indicate later. George didn’t understand what was happening and Phillip was near him.
“I saw the girls earlier today, they were looking for flowers to pick in that field we just passed through.” George Jr said.
Mr. Stinney looked around quickly as if to see if anyone heard them. He looked down at his Son, he stared at him gravely. It was hard to see him in the darkness. But he was wearing his mother’s expression only worse.
“Did I say something wrong Dad?” George Jr asked. Mr. Stinney grabbed his son’s face.
“No, you didn’t say anything wrong son,” Senior said. When the party reached the tracks, they turned around and headed home.