There was a time when black men were lynched that parts of their body were taken as souvenirs. These trophies were ghastly but it was part of the festive atmosphere. In Texas from 1865 to 1942 there were 468 reported lynchings. The victims were black, 77 white, 53 Hispanic, and 1 Indian. Now in 2014 we have a murdered father, throat slit and an ear missing and the sheriff called it an overdose death.
In his essay “The Black Body as Souvenir in American Lynching” author Harvey Young writes about newspaper accounts of the lynching of Sam Hose in Newnan, Ga., “Before the torch was applied to the pyre, the Negro was deprived of his ears, fingers and genital parts of his body. He pleaded pitifully for his life while the mutilation was going on, but stood the ordeal of ﬁre with surprising fortitude. Before the body was cool, it was cut to pieces, the bones were crushed into small bits, and even the tree upon which the wretch met his fate was torn up and disposed of as ‘souvenirs.’ ”
Alfred Wright, 28, was found dead wearing only boxer shorts, tennis shoes and just one sock, his throat cut and missing an ear. All of these are the signs of a lynching and a trophy being taken.
This area of Texas is near the town of Jasper, which in 1998 was the place where James Byrd, a black man, was lynched. Byrd was beaten and chained to the back of a pickup truck by three white men and dragged until his head came off; other body parts were scattered on the road. The self-proclaimed white supremacists, Lawrence Russell Brewer, Shawn Allen Berry and John William King, were convicted and sentenced to death.
Wright was a father, a health care professional and married to a white woman, Lauren Wright; did this have something to do with his death? The sheriff in this case has a daughter who knows Wright’s wife and the couple. But yet law enforcement only searched for four days until the sheriff told Wright’s family that he was just “a missing person. My guys are tired. We’ve exhausted our resources and funds. We’re done … there was no foul play” and that Wright’s disappearance was probably “drug-related.” Shortly thereafter, the family found the body on their own in an area the sheriff said was searched. Even though the area was muddy, Wright’s body was clean and neatly laid out.
Wright’s wife found three hotel transactions the month before he went missing. Texas authorities are reviewing video from the hotels to see if they can develop any leads.
The racial situation in this area has not been calm since that James Byrd was lynched almost 16 years ago; now it seems another black man has been lynched and his body parts removed.