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
The next morning was just as beautiful as the day before, it was going to be a hot one. The birds were chirping and there was a mild breeze. It was jostling the leaves of a nearby dogwood. Just off the road, there was a torn piece of cloth, a good inch of it. It seemed to be stained red with blood. Even still the original yellow color shone through. The wind changed direction it picked up the fabric and dropped it further into the ditch halfway filled with stagnant water. The cloth got caught on a brand new shiny yellow bicycle, in perfect working order. The cloth had gone in between the rim of the back wheel and was caught on one of the spokes. The bike was dumped on its side covered in a sheen of dust. But the wind blew harder and the cloth drifted further down the ditch to a pink bike, its back wheel sticking halfway out of the ditch, the handlebars turned in such a way that the front wheel was turned up towards the heavens. Shelly was missing a shoe, her sock soiled and wet, she was lying face down. A pool of black blood gathered about her head. The cloth landed in the blood about her skull, the cloth stuck in the blood and water, flapping as the wind picked up. Blood had pooled in her ears, her hair was matted and sticky where she had bled. Her right arm was thrown over the small of her back and her left arm splayed out away from her body. The cloth broke free of the sticky blood, it drifted right up to Rebecca’s face, she lay on her side, her dress had been torn up the center. Her skin and skull had been broken at her left cheekbone and her right brow. Her eyes were closed, if not for the injuries and the blood halo around her head you may have thought she was asleep. Her hands were beaten up, swollen, tiny scratches across them. She was missing a fingernail on both her index finger and thumb on her right hand. Within hours the bodies were found and the great horn at the sawmill sounded.
Mr. and Mrs. Stinney were at work. Johnnie and George sat at the dining room table doing math homework. Amie was in the front yard with a brood of Rhode island red hens surrounding her. They were pecking seeds out of her open hands. They were sitting at the table. Doing schoolwork. She saw two black cars roll up on the road behind the house. Amie dropped the seeds and stood up. At least eight white men emerged from the vehicles. What was happening? They marched right into her backdoor. Amie was scared. She ran to the chicken coop, she opened it and got in. The Men left out the backdoor a moment later. Johnnie and George were in handcuff’s they were being led away by the white men with guns. Were they police? Amie’s heart leaped in her throat, she yelled.
“George.” She cried “Why are you leaving me?”
George heard his sister’s voice and looked. His eyes were wide with fear.
“Go get Kat and Charles! And get Ma!” George cried.
One of the cops put their hand on the back of George’s neck and squeezed. George’s body tensed, the car door opened, George disappeared into the black Cadillac. A White man jumped in beside him. Near simultaneously Johnnie was being shoved into the back of the other car. The doors slammed and the vehicles took off in a trail of smoke.
George senior stood near the dining table. He had come home early after he heard the police had taken Johnnie and George. This was worse than he imagined. There was a double-barreled shotgun leaning against the table. Amie was tucked under his right leg, tears ran down her face. She was terrified. Katherine was standing next to her oldest brother Charles. His arm was wrapped around her. She was trying to hold it together and failing. Charles’s fatherly gaze wasn’t helping. She wanted to break down but she wouldn’t. She was ten years old.
“What are we going to do?” Mrs. Stinney said.
“I don’t know yet.” Mr. Stinney said.
Mrs. Stinney turned toward the front door. She grabbed the shotgun aiming. Phillip was running toward the house.
“George?!” Phillip’s voice called.
“I think we have had enough visitors for one day. Stay back, Phillip!” Mrs. Stinney said.
“Is everything okay?” Phillips said.
“No, nothing is ALL RIGHT!” Mrs. Stinney said.
George pulled away from his girls. He grabbed the barrel of the gun with his left hand. He lowered it. His wife was crying. She let go of the gun. Her arms fell at her side uselessly.
“I need to speak to him.” Mr. Stinney said. He stepped out onto the porch.
“George?” Phillip held his hat in front of his chest as if he was at a funeral or about to ask a girl for her hand in marriage
“What is it, Phillip?” George lost his composure for a moment. He cleared his throat.
“They took Johnnie too?”
“Why did you come, Phil?” George Senior asked.
“Sanford was just at the house,” Phillip said.
“He fired me,” George said.
“Yes, he didn’t mince words, he said don’t come back to the sawmill.”
“But what about my pay?” George asked.
“He didn’t say a thing about it.”
Mr. Stinney sighed heavily. “Fuck!” He said.
“Word is getting around that George murdered those girls,” Phillip said.
“He didn’t do it,” George said.
“I know… George, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.” Phillip whimpered.
“It’s okay,” Mr. Stinney said. But it wasn’t okay. There was a good chance he would never see his sons again.
“George, you should get out of town soon. I heard that a lynch mob is coming.” Phillip said.
“I’m not leaving without my boys,” George said.
He did not want to leave without his children. He told his wife he had been fired and she cried. It had seemed like such a miracle when he got the position. He was able to nearly support the entire family. They had to flee now because if they stayed, his entire family would die. They needed to go. He instructed them to grab as many pairs of clothes as they could and whatever else they could carry. He ran upstairs and packed a suitcase. He would grab his things first while his wife would watch the door with the shotgun, then they could trade-off. George Stinney senior didn’t realize it for nearly a minute. But he was reciting the Lord’s prayer.
“Our father who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
He pulled his folded clothes out of the chest of drawers, placing pants and shirts beside one another. He prayed.
“Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
He took the shells for the shotgun and placed them in his suitcase with his clothes. He looked around the room. Was there something he was forgetting? He stopped he took a deep breath and then another. He closed his eyes and finished the prayer.
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
He opened his eyes, they needed to get out of here, the clan could already be on their way.