Brandon McClelland, 24, was dragged to death beneath a truck driven by two white men in Paris, Texas last month. McClelland was black. The site of his death is about 200 miles from the location where James Byrd was murdered in a similar manner ten years ago. (Image at left: Jacqueline McClelland, Brandon's mother; photo courtesy Jesse Muhammad.)
McClelland's murder took place on September 16, 2008. Parts of his mangled body were found strewn along the highway at great distance.
First responders treated the case as a hit and run. The county district attorney's office denied the possibility of racist motivations, and said comparisons to the Byrd lynching were "preposterous."
Some bloggers and news sites associated with the Nation of Islam [ * ] have been discussing the killing as a hate crime for weeks, and claim local law enforcement ignored key forensic evidence at the crime scene.
Howard Witt at the Chicago Tribune, who has covered related stories about racial injustice and hate crimes in this region, wrote about the case as a possible hate crime earlier this month.
The story of McClelland's death — and allegations the investigation by (white) local police investigators was botched — seems to be gaining broader attention after having been picked up by AP today: Another Dragging Death In Texas (Associated Press).
Snip from a related story about racism in Paris, Texas, also from Witt at the Chicago Tribune:
The public fairgrounds in this small east Texas town look ordinary enough, like so many other well-worn county fair sites across the nation. Unless you know the history of the place. There are no plaques or markers to denote it, but several of the most notorious public lynchings of black Americans in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were staged at the Paris Fairgrounds, where thousands of white spectators would gather to watch and cheer as black men were dragged onto a scaffold, scalded with hot irons and finally burned to death or hanged.
One of the most widely-publicized lynchings of a black person in American history took place there 115 years ago. On February 1, 1893, former slave Henry Smith was tortured to death in front of a crowd of ten thousand (mostly or entirely white) people. Here is the New York Times article from that day, documenting the brutal details of his death in explicit detail.
The child's father, her brother, and two uncles then gathered about the Negro as he lay fastened to the torture platform and thrust hot irons into his quivering flesh. It was horrible–the man dying by slow torture in the midst of smoke from his own burning flesh. Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd of 10,000 persons. The mass of beings 600 yards in diameter, the scaffold being the center. After burning the feet and legs, the hot irons–plenty of fresh ones being at hand–were rolled up and down Smith's stomach, back, and arms. Then the eyes were burned out and irons were thrust down his throat.
Another snip from that century-old NYT story, which presumed Smith was guilty, and deserved the lynching:
Whisky shops were closed, unruly mobs were dispersed, schools were dismissed by a proclamation from the mayor, and everything was done in a business-like manner.
Update: BB commenter JWB nails it:
This must be viewed in light of the Ashley Todd incident this week. Todd made up a false story that a black man attacked her and carved a "B" in her face, ostensibly because she supports John McCain. In Paris, Texas, a hundred years ago, a charge like that would get a black man burned alive. Today it doesn't go quite that far but you could see the shadow of the lynch mob forming in the darker corners of the right-wing blogosphere when the Todd story first circulated.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has an interactive map of racist organizations and businesses (think: White Pride record stores, KKK branches) in this part of Texas, which you can view here. [ * ] Incidentally, SLPC also categorizes the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party as "hate groups."
Previously on Boing Boing: The Last Lynching: Ted Koppel documentary on Discovery tonight