By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
The date was Aug.7, 1930. The place: Marion, Indiana. Three young African-American men were lynched. The horror of the crime was captured by a local photographer. The image of two hanging, bloodied bodies is among the most iconic in the grim archive of documented lynchings in America. Most associate lynching with the Deep South, with the vestiges of slavery and the rise of Jim Crow. But this was in the North. Marion is in northern Indiana, halfway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, and about 150 miles from Chicago. But intolerance knows no borders.
In the photo, beneath the towering maple tree in Marion’s Courthouse Square, stands the white mob who lynched the men. Some are smiling for the camera. One man points at the hanging corpse of Abram “Abe” Smith, hanging next to Thomas Shipp. The third victim actually survived. James Cameron was the youngest of the three, and was beaten and dragged to the base of the tree, beneath his dead friends, and had a noose put around his neck. He was, for some reason, not killed. He went on to found four local NAACP chapters, as well as the America’s Black Holocaust Museum. He would also serve as Indiana’s director of civil liberties.
Indiana certainly doesn’t want to be remembered for this terrible crime, or for being a bastion of hatred. So why did Indiana Gov. Mike Pence legalize a new wave of intolerance by signing into law Indiana’s controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA)?
The law’s supporters claim it protects religious freedom. Opponents call it a thinly veiled attack on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The law allows individuals and businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It has provoked a national backlash, with prominent people, large corporations and city and state governments condemning or boycotting Indiana.
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