Monday, March 28, 2011

Long History of Targeting Black Elected Officials

In the aftermath of our coverage of Waterproof Louisiana, we've gotten many comments from around the US. One longtime New Orleans activist wrote that Waterproof reminds her of a 30-year old case from rural Mississippi. She sent us the following excerpt from an article about the struggle. From 1980-81, activists from New Orleans' Equal Rights Congress, People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, and others organized around this case:

Tchula's First Black Mayor
(Excerpt from The Militant newspaper):

... In 1977, Eddie Carthan was elected mayor of Tchula, the first Black ever to be elected mayor of a biracial town in the Delta. He was forced out of office in 1981, just one month shy of completing his first term, after being convicted on trumped-up charges of assaulting a police officer. He was given a three-year prison sentence. After seven months, the governor suspended the rest of his sentence.

When Carthan took office, he recalled, Tchula was still segregated, with whites living on one side of the railroad tracks, and Blacks - who were 85 percent of the population -on the other. In the Black community, roads were unpaved, there were no sidewalks or streetlights, 80 percent of the houses had no indoor plumbing, other social services were poor or missing entirely. There were no Blacks heading up any city department, and many Blacks "did not know where the City Hall was," Carthan recalled.

Carthan sought to bring in improved housing, medical care, as well as water and sewage programs to the Black community. In an effort to punish him and put the Black community back in its place, the local white business and landowning establishment began "investigating" him from the moment he took office. "It was a legal lynching and a political lynching," Carthan said.

Before he was even released from prison on the assault charges, Carthan was again framed up -- this time on charges that he had murdered a city alderman a year earlier, in 1980. He was finally acquitted of the murder charge, after his case became known nationally and internationally....

While in jail facing the murder charges, he was framed up again, this time on charges of giving false information to a local bank. Sentenced in 1982 to three years in federal prison, he was released by judge's order after eight months...

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