William “Froggie” James was a dashing young man. Tall and dark with a body full of muscles. Many women wanted him, but he only had eyes for his Sandra. They had been together for some time now and would be getting married soon.
Walking down the streets of Cairo, IL, he was filled with such pride. Black people had come a long way, but still had a ways to go. White folks still had a short fuse just looking for someone to blow up on. He made sure to steer clear of them when he could.
As he came upon a building, he heard a scream. Something told him to keep walking, but it was a woman and he didn’t want to leave her helpless. As he got ready to go inside, his friend Alexander came barreling out, almost knocking him over and continued up the road. Venturing inside he saw feet from someone on the ground that eventually revealed a young white woman. Fear filled him like never before and he dashed away from there.
Once he made it home, he slammed the door as his love came out of the kitchen.
“What’s wrong,” she rushed to him when she noticed the look on his face.
“I found,” he struggled to get his words out, “white girl dead.”
Sandra felt a chill come over her, “Did anybody see you?”
He merely shook his head no.
“Good,” she started to pace, “You didn’t do it right?”
“Of course I didn’t,” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
“We have to get out of town.” She started gathering their belongings.
William frowned, “I did nothing wrong!”
“You think they care!” She shouted.
Just then loud knocking came at the door.
“Come on out William,” they heard the voice of the well known sheriff.
“I didn’t do it,” William said as he opened the door.
The sheriff had been kind to him many times.
“People say they saw you running away from where a girl was found dead,” the sheriff pulled out his cuffs, “It’s better for me to take you in now before anyone else comes after you.”
William took a look a Sandra, “Stay here and don’t let anyone in.”
Tears fell as she watched them drive off. Dark clouds hung over the town. Destruction was coming.
Just as the sheriff was booking in William, a mob had formed outside. They were demanding that William be released to them for revenge.
Not knowing what else to do, the Sheriff snuck out the back and drove William out of town. He hoped to stay there until things calmed down. That never happened.
In the middle of the night, they heard rumbling where they were hiding before seeing a group of men.
“Hand him over Sheriff,” one of them said.
Before the sheriff could grab his weapon, they had him at gunpoint while others dragged William away screaming.
He was dragged all the way back to town, “Please! I didn’t do it!”
His words fell on deaf ears. That night the town seemed to destroy William and whoever else they could unleash their rage upon.
See as there was no getting through to them he yelled, I did it and Alexander took the lead!”
He knew the right person would hear the message in his confession.
William was dragged through the town square as people hit him and called him names. In the center, there was a noose tied around his neck as not the men, but the women pulled the rope. After he was hung, his body was riddled with bullets before the people cut pieces of his body for souvenirs. Then as they were finally satisfied, they placed his head on a light pole and set it on fire.
With all this going on, no one noticed Sandra standing in the background. Filled with rage, she embraced the ways of her ancestors. Her grandmother had taught her many years ago that she would know when to use her special gifts.
Calling on her ancestors, she placed her hands on the ground, “Ancestors, feel the innocent blood spilled here today. The blood of my love. He did not deserve this and neither did the ones before him. I declare today, until all wrongs are righted, there will never be peace. For as long as innocent blood is spilled, these streets shall forever crumble. Take the peace and take Alexander.”
The streets shook as a scream could be heard in the distance. That scream belonged to Alexander being dragged away before the mob even thought to look for him. Sandra walked off into the night away from the town never wishing to return. Now cracks fill the streets of the town and no matter how many times they fix them, they still crumble.
Note: Cairo, IL. is my hometown. Although I put a twist of love in the story, William “Froggie” James was an actual person that was lynched for the murder of a white girl there in 1909. Many of us resident have been taught the story. He maintained his innocence and just before his hanging, he admitted and said a man named Alexander helped. That man was never found. Many say that because of all the bad that happened there, the streets are cursed and indeed are filled with cracks no matter how many times they were fixed.Let me know your thoughts in the comments as if you have heard of this story. I hope you like the sprinkle of love and fantasy I placed in it.
The people lingered on the plantation unsure of what the day would bring. Many fidgeted with uneasiness and others were planning on the best way to escape should the day bring about terror as done before. They had been told early that morning that there would be an announcement come noon.
Neva, a young slave girl, stood holding her daughter close to her body. Her skin was the color of dark chocolate, her body was short and petite, she had a long braid going down the center of her back, and dark eyes filled with strength. She prayed that this would not be the last day she would see her daughter. Each day they had together was a blessing from the universe. Many of her children were sold long ago. If the day should be their last, she had prepared her well to survive, but that would not ease the hurt.
“What’s happening, Mama,” her daughter Betty asked, looking just like a mini version of her.
Just then, a man rode up on a horse bringing many others with him. The slave master stood on the porch with his wife, both faces were twisted in anger.
The man got off his horse and looked at all of the people. It was a shame that even after being free for over two years, these were the last to find out. It was terrible how that information was withheld from them. Some say the messenger was killed and others say it was done deliberately to get another crop of cotton. Either way it was just plain wrong.
“I come with news from General Granger,” he spoke loud enough for them to hear.
Murmurs could be heard throughout the crowd. What could he possibly have for them to hear?
“As per General Order 3, The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” He began to read off the paper.
Gasps could be heard throughout the crowd. Many cried, many shouted, and many stood in disbelief. Their dreams and prayers had finally been answered.
“What’s going on mama,” Betty asked her mother.
“We’re free baby,” she lifted her up as much as she could with tears falling down her face.
People started rushing off to get their belongings. Many unsure of where they would go next, but knew the plantation life was not for them.
“Where are you going,” the slave master yelled, “There’s nothing out there for you people!”
“That may be, but there’s nothing here for us either,” a man named William yelled before walking off with the others. He was a large muscular man with skin the color of molasses.
As Neva and Betty gathered their belongings, they heard music playing. Stopping to look outside of their shack they saw people gathering around in celebration. Food was being brought out of houses and combined to make a big spread for everyone.
“Can we join them mama,” Betty looked up with hopeful eyes.
“Of course, they’ll always be our family,” Neva smiled down with tears still in her eyes.
They both ran out and joined in the laughter and dancing.
Soon Neva felt strong arms around her. Turning she saw William with that smile she had come to love. They had been quietly seeing each other for quite some time now and shared many meals together as a family.
“We’re free now baby, you know what that means,” he asked.
With her words lost, she merely shook her head.
“Today we finally get married and then me, you, and my new daughter is headed north to start our new lives.”
And get married they did, surrounded by all of their newly freed brothers and sisters.
When it was time to leave, William stood embracing Neva and Betty.
“We’re finally free,” she whispered.
“So we don’t have to live here anymore,” Betty asked fearfully.
“No baby, we’re free,”William lifted her up and tickled her, “but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
With one last look, they then joined the others walking up the road to a new freeish way of living.
This short contains the exact beginning of General Order 3 that was instructed to be read announcing the end of slavery in Texas. Also, the names listed in this short, Neva, Betty, and William are all relatives of mine. My grandparents and mother. Although they were not actually there I thought it would be cool to incorporate their names in the story. Let me know in the comments what you think and if it interests you enough to want to see more shorts like this on here. Thank you for reading!