Michael Donald Lynching
Michael Donald Lynching
Gruesome Killing by KKK Klansmen
Extra judicial killings by mob are termed lynching and they took place in US on a large scale during the last century. Nearly 75% of the lynching cases involved blacks being brutally killed while there were also some cases of white lynching. The last of the famous lynching cases in the country was that of Michael Donald, a 20 year old hapless African American, who became victim of hatred against blacks by members of Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacy group that has been active in the country for the last 150 years. Anyone interested in the whereabouts and history of the organization can get all the facts from KKK website.
It all began with the now infamous trial of a black man named Josephus Andersonan in 1981, who was charged with the murder of a white policeman in Mobile, Alabama. The jury was unable to reach a verdict at the end of the trial which prompted many to say that this happened as the jury consisted of some blacks. The trial infuriated members of KKK who decided to get away with the killing of a black man in retaliation of this mis-trial. Benny Hays, who was the 2nd highest ranking official in Ku Klux Klan at that time in Mobile, Alabama, is believed to have ordered his son to kill a black man in retaliation. The gruesome murder of Michael Donald was done by Benny Hays’ son Henry Hays and James Knowles after beating him with a tree limb and slitting his throat with a knife. They later hanged his body with a rope on a tree.
The police tried to wrap up the case saying this killing was the result of a drug deal gone wrong. The mother of the deceased, Beulah Donald vehemently denied this theory saying her son was not involved with drugs and was a clean boy. She contacted Jesse Jackson and organized a protest march in the city. This activated the police and later FBI got involved with the case. Two years later, both Henry and James were arrested on charges of killing Michael. Benny was also charged, but he died before the trial began. Hays (Henry) was convicted and finally executed on an electric chair in 1997. His execution is believed to be the first in Alabama in the 20th century where a white was sent to death row for killing a black.
James Knowles avoided death penalty by testifying against Hays and was thus awarded a life sentence. There was another related case where the Klan was sued for wrongful death of Michael Donald and had to pay $7 million to the mother of the deceased.
The case of Michael Donald served as a precedent for cases against KKK. Later Donald’s story was converted into a movie released in 2007 and even National Geographic Channel made a program on the horrific killing of this young black man. In 150 years of KKK history, this is perhaps the most famous case where Klansmen were legally sentenced to death.
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