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
Johnnie sat in his cell alone, he was in the same clothes as the night before. His lips were bloodied, they could hold him for the rest of his natural life. His family wouldn’t be able to do a thing. He was sitting on the lower bunk, the cell was small. It must have been old as well because the bars were rusty. They had taken George, the Sheriff had accused him of murder. It simply wasn’t possible. Johnnie was a teenager, he accepted the treatment he received from whites, it simply was. But now he thought for the first time how unfair it was. How could God in heaven allow this? He wept then. Not for himself or family, but for George, any interest a white person took in a black person was negative. They had come for his brother. What would they do to him?
“Get up, Boy.” The Sheriff looked at him outside the cell. “You crying?”
Johnnie stood up.
“No, Sir,” Johnnie said wiping his eyes. The Sheriff unlocked the cell. Left the gate open wide. Johnnie looked at him and didn’t move. The Sheriff took the cigar out of his mouth and blew smoke.
“You like it here or something? You are free to go.” The Sheriff smiled. “I’ll walk you out.”
The Sheriff was holding Johnnie’s arm with a vice-like grip. They walked through the station. As if on cue, as they got close or passed an officer. They would turn and give John a dirty look. The cells were on the second floor. The Sheriff opened a knee-high flip door and swung it outward.
“Where is my brother,” Johnnie said.
“Shut up.” The Sheriff belted.
He stepped through dragging Johnnie. They passed through a large set of double doors. They were near the descending stairs. He let Johnnie’s arm go. The Sheriff raised his hand and flung it twice in the air in a sort of fuck off gesture.
“I’m not leaving out of here without George,” Johnnie said trembling.
“Your brother is in custody for murder.” The Sheriff said.
“He had nothing to do with it.”
“He was the last person to see them alive, we both know a nigger ain’t no better than a mongrel dog. His instinct was to rape and murder those girls. We can’t afford such a dangerous menace to society walking these streets.” The Sheriff said.
“I’m not leaving here without him,” Johnnie said.
The Sheriff’s huge left hand was around Johnnie’s throat suddenly. The Big Man walked him to the edge of the steps. Johnnie wanted to fight but he let his arms fall to his sides. This bastard held all the cards.
“Are you making demands?” The Sheriff asked, his tobacco breath wafting into Charles’ face.
“You do realize I can hold you indefinitely, hell I could pull my weapon.” He pulled his weapon. He put the gun to Johnnie’s right temple.
“I could blow your brains all over this stairwell, I would be regarded as a damned hero. You don’t have to leave without your brother but understand, I will see to it, that you will die here.” The Sheriff smiled
“Yes, Sir,” Johnnie said voice quavering.
He pushed Johnnie, he caught the railing in both hands. He stared at the Sheriff for a moment and then bolted down the steps.
Johnnie was on the dirt road home. He was running, he had been in town and people were watching him. Did they know him? Did they know his brother had been taken in for the murder of those two girls? Or did they just hate you for the color of your skin? Johnnie thought it was prudent to get off the main street and get to backroads. But he knew that would be a great place to ambush him. So, he ran.
When he got home. He called out for his father and mother. There was no answer. Johnnie ran into the house. They were gone. His mother and father would only leave them if there was a credible threat. They would go to his grandmother’s house. It was seventeen miles in Pinewood South Carolina. Johnnie knew he could make it. It wasn’t safe here. He mostly knew the way. But not on foot. He didn’t want to be outside running in the dark. The clan rode at night. God help me. Johnnie bolted for the door.