A Message From The AuthorFor the last several months, hate crimes and hate speech have been on the rise. Innocent Americans, and world citizens, have been targeted, attacked, and intimidated, based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, while working, walking, enjoying loved ones. People have been seriously injured, and killed, protesting hate, demanding justice. We must never forget them.
In 2017, I personally invited more than 200 university/college presidents to make HATE CRIME: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas, available to students and faculty for use in campus discussions and criminal justice, history, journalism, or African American studies, and other appropriate courses. Sadly, a few elected officials have used cultural differences to divide our people, instead of celebrating our unique diversity.
Students are being bombarded by recruiters peddling hate, groups seeking to normalize hatred as pride. I applaud students for standing strong, against hate. I would like to thank Southern Methodist University for appointing me an Honors Department Lecturer and using Hate Crime as the topic for our amazing dialogue. Without talking to each other, walking in another man’s shoes, we miss some wonderful opportunities to embrace healing justice.
20 years ago, James Byrd, Jr. accepted a ride with three white men, in Jasper, Texas. It was his last ride on Earth. His crime: the color of his skin.
Thank you for joining the ‘1 Million Readers’ Campaign. I am deeply touched by readers who did have the courage to read Hate Crime in its first publication. I have received kind words of encouragement from London to Louisiana, from Canada to California, and I look forward to hearing from you.
To learn more about The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009,
The ‘BUY HATE, SHOW LOVE’ Campaign was officially launched at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Several students pledged, that day, to become part of the 1 Million People who will read this book, share this book, or, listen to this book narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck.
On June 7, 1998, James Byrd, Jr., a forty-nine-year old black man, was dragged to his death while chained to the back of a pickup truck driven by three young white men. It happened just outside of Jasper, a sleepy East Texas logging town that, within twenty-four hours of the discovery of the murder, would be inextricably linked in the nation’s imagination to an exceptionally brutal, modern-day lynching.
In this superbly written examination of the murder and its aftermath, award-winning journalist Joyce King brings us on a journey that begins at the crime scene and extends into the minds of the young men who so casually ended a man’s life. She takes us inside the prison in which two of them met for the first time, and she shows how it played a major role in shaping their attitudes—racial and otherwise. The result is a deeply engrossing psychological portrait of the accused and a powerful indictment of the American prison system’s ability to reform criminals. Finally, King writes with candor and clarity about how the events of that fateful night have affected her—as a black woman, a native Texan, and a journalist given the agonizing assignment of covering the trials of all three defendants. More than a spectacular true-crime debut, Hate Crime is a breathtaking work of reportage and a searing look at how the question of race continues to shape life in America.
Hate Crime audio book available! Narrated by the talented Jennifer Van Dyck
Six steps led to a curved stretch of sidewalk, connected to a front porch of winding greenery. A wooden rail offered the sheriff, deputies, and mortician little support for what was ahead. Painted a fudge color on the sides, the neat house had three lighter shades of brown in front—a kaleidoscopic overlay of vertical rows in tan, milk-chocolate, and the color of tree bark.
A weatherized screen door opened about the same time Rowles and Carter neared the edge of the small front porch. Signs of life were everywhere: Elephant-ear plants stood at attention, while other leafy vines blended in. A single red rose bush to the left of the door, out in the yard, was almost hidden underneath a sticker bush. Smells of a down-home Sunday dinner wafted through the small garden.
The veteran lawmen had delayed the delivering the news for as long as they could. With as much compassion as possible, the sheriff of Jasper County told Stella and James Byrd, Sr., “A man found dead on Huff Creek Road this morning has been positively identified as your son, James Byrd, Jr.”
Rowles thought of the excruciatingly painful words he was not about to say—that forty-nine-year-old James Byrd, Jr., their son, their brother, their loved one, was out in the middle of the road like so many scattered pieces of a puzzle , dragged to death like an animal. He could not say that.
They heard the ungodly news three times before it made a dent. They were stunned and incredulous at first, then angry and unassailably sad. Words of comfort, unanswered questions, and a plethora of emotions merged into an ocean of sorrow. Betty Boatner tried to comfort her aging parents as all three bravely mustered up the strength to continue listening. The pale horse was gone, mission completed. Nothing for the Byrd family would ever be the same. They knew this. “Son” was gone forever. In his place—body parts scattered over Huff Creek Road, changed and rearranged. All that was left of a loved one were personal effects strewn all over a nameless logging road.
Betty Boatner immediately began to call family members, including her six siblings, to tell them the unthinkable news—not only had Son been murdered, but for some reason unbeknown to the family he was the victim of an atrocious deed, done under the cover of darkness. The ghastly nightmare they starred in woke a sleeping nation.
Overwhelmed, the Byrd family watched the sun set. It brought a glimmer of comfort that their tiny home was filled with friends and neighbors ready to take the next difficult step with them. Night fell quickly. Someone remembered it was still Sunday. They prayed for justice and embraced Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. For James Byrd, Jr., the circle was complete.