The Michael Donald Story

( This story has a graphic image which may be disturbing to some.)

The lion found the elephant where the tall grass grows
and said I come to punch you in your long ass nose
The elephant looked up at the lion and said in surprise
Boy you better pick on somebody your own size
The lion wouldn’t listen and then he made a pass
The elephant said are you crazy and slapped him down in the grass.
The lion then roared and sprang from the ground
and that’s when the elephant really went to town.
I mean he whupped that lion for the rest of the day.
And I still don’t see how the lion got away.
But he dragged on off… more dead than alive,
and that’s when that monkey started his signifying jive.

Rudy Ray Moore

Screech!! Screech!! …. Yep, it’s time to talk about it, but first we have to give out our propers. The above piece comes from celebrated comedian and actor Rudy Ray Moore. He is best known for creating the character Dolemite, a pimp from the 1975 film Dolemite. The verse is from a piece called the “Signifying Monkey,” and I have included this link to one of Rudy’s shows, but I need to warn you that it is “REALLY RAUNCHY!!…” and this is the clean version… black people don’t use the word raunchy that much… so I’m saying something... Anywho, the signifying monkey has been around a lot longer than Rudy. He is a character that our ancestor brought over from Africa during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade of the early 16th century and derives from a figure of Yoruba belief named Esu Elegbara. According to the belief, Esu is a mediator between men and the gods. His mediation is often predicated by ruse or deception. Esu is sometimes portrayed with a monkey by his side. So the Yorba story goes like this… “The monkey insults the lion by claiming he is only repeating the elephants words. The lion confronts the elephant who then assaults the lion. The lion later sees that the monkey was signifying and had duped him. He returns and finds the monkey, which he then castrates, leaving him unable to reproduce.” Whew.. that elephant must have really whipped that lion’s azz, so that the lion felt he had to castrate somebody. Anyway, I am going to touch on one more thing before we move on to the main article. Esu Elegbara is an Orisha, which mean he is a spirit that was sent by a greater deity called Olodumare. Olodumare is the Supreme Creator in Yorba religion. The religion is practiced in different iterations all over the world. Yoruba tradition says that there are 400 + 1 Orisa, which is associated with the sacred number. Other incarnations of the religion put the number of Orisa as high as 1400. Santeria, a religion practised in Cuba is a iteration of the Yoruba religious belief… and here I am thinking the whole thing was just a joke Rudy made up…

Well unlike Esu’s monkey, I want to keep mine, so Ima tone my signifying down a little bit… because the people I’m getting ready to talk about have a history of relieving people of them. So this story starts in Mobile, Alabama on March 21, 1981. Sometime before March a black man named Josephus Anderson had been charged with the killing of a white police officer in Birmingham, Alabama during an armed robbery. I had to look at that twice because the report said he had been charged with killing a white police officer instead of saying he had been killed by a white policeman who “suspected” him of armed robbery. That’s him in the picture above. After all we are talking about Mobile, Alabama, in the 1980’s. You got to remember people like Byron De La Beckwith… who murdered Medgar Evers and Thomas Edwin Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry, the killers of the three children at the 16th Street Baptist Church and Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer and John King, the white trash who dragged James Byrd behind a pick-up truck for miles until he died.. well they were still walking the streets. Anywho.. so yeah Anderson had been charged and somehow his attorney got him a change of venue…. because if he hadn’t somebody was gonna commit suicide by cutting off their own Johnson and hanging themselves upside down with a rope they bought from Walmart after they tied their hands behind their back. The trial was moved to Mobile, Alabama where they hadn’t finished building the Walmart yet. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 which outlawed discriminatory voting practices like poll taxes and literacy test, also meant that more blacks were on juries, since they took the jury pool from the voting rolls. Now I am not going to talk about voir dire, the process which courts used to pick fair and impartial jurors, except to say I don’t know why the prosecutor want to ask a folk, “Do they know how many black people were shot in the back leaving the courthouse yesterday?…” has anything to do with being a fair and impartial juror. Anywho Anderson was put on trial in Mobile. The first trial ended in deadlock with the mixed black and white jury. Anderson was retried and the second trial ended in a mistrial on all four counts. A mistrial is when there is no verdict for or against the defendant. Most likely the second trial ended in a hung juror…. I mean hung jury. Anyway I could not find out what happened to Anderson after the second trial, whether he was freed or retried. Reminds me of Leroy… wherever he’s at…

News of the second mistrial is spreading quickly. Confederate flags all over the state are being flown at half mask. The line at Billy’s Stench Trench, a popular laundromat, stretched all the way around the block due to people pulling up with two and three baskets of white sheets and pillow cases. In other news… Sheriff Bo closed down the Popeyes on Collard Green Ave because of a bomb threat and several weddings had to be cancelled due to reports that two white men wearing black tuxedos were shot after being mistaken for African Americans.

Lol… During the deliberations, members of the United Klans of America (UKA), Alabama Realm, complained that Anderson was not still convicted because the jury had African-American on it. ( I’m saying African-Americans. You know what they said..”) Back in the “good old days,” George Stinney, the youngest person to be put to death in the U.S, deliberations only lasted ten minutes before they returned a guilty verdict. Stinney was convicted of killing two white children. He was 14 years old. His conviction was overturned in 2014 seventy years after a court ruled had not received a fair trial. Following a Klan meeting of the Alabama Realm, three good ole boys decided to matters into their own hands. It was reported that Bennie Jack Hays, the second-highest-ranking official in the UKA said: “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man.” Yep even though they are a bunch of rats.. it seems the rats got rats. Somebody put the mouth on the Grand Poobah or whatever the @##! they call him. Anyway after the meeting Henry Hays who was Bennie’s son and the Exalted Cyclops of the UKA, whose name is not mentioned in my research materials, along with James Knowles also known as “Tiger,” began driving around Mobile looking for an innocent black man to accost. They had gotten a gun and a rope from Frank Cox, Bennie’s brother in law.

So now I am getting ready to describe the events of the killing and I am going to tell you this is right outta one of those slavery movies you watched that made you have to call your friend to come and get your gun because you don’t want to do twenty five to life. Somewhere along the line the Exalted Cyclops got out the car and Hays and Knowles continued on. They started cruising through black neighborhoods to catch their victim. In a predominantly black neighborhood they saw Michael Donald, who was coming from the store where he had bought a pack of cigarettes for his sister. They lured him to the car by asking him the directions to a local club. At gunpoint they forced him into the car and drove off. They ended up in a secluded wooded area in another county where they beat Donald with wooden clubs they found nearby. Donald did try to escape, knocking the gun from Hays’s hand. He fled into the woods but was soon recaptured. Hays wrapped a rope around Donald’s neck and pulled on it to strangle him while Knowles continued to beat Donald with a club. “Once Donald had stopped moving, Hays slit his throat three times to make sure he was dead. The men left Donald’s lifeless body hanging from a tree on Herndon Avenue across the street from where Hays’s lived in Mobile… where it remained until the next morning. (Imagine coming out your house and seeing a black man who’s throat had been slashed, hanging from a tree…) The same night, two other UKA members burned a cross on Mobile County courthouse lawn to celebrate the murder.

After the murder the police chief tried to say the Donald was killed by drug dealers… imagine that. They arrested three men who were later freed due to lack of evidence. Beulah Mae Donald, Michael’s mother slammed the police investigators telling them her son was not involved in drugs and then called Jesse Jackson, who promptly organized a protest march demanding answers from the police. The FBI was called in and was getting ready to close the case when Atticus Finch got involved. Now his name wasn’t really Atticus Finch. Finch was the attorney in Harper Lee’s fictional Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” I am not sure if you have seen the movie, but I highly recommend it. It is about Finch defending a black man for raping a white women in 1950’s Alabama. You can look at a short clip here. Anyway, the attorney’s name in this case was Thomas Figures, who ordered a second investigation. His brother Michael Figures, a state senator and civil rights activist, served as an attorney to Beulah Mae Donald. Two years after the killing Hays and Knowles were arrested. Knowles was the first to rat. He ratted out Cox, who gave them the gun and rope and he ratted out Henry’s father Bennie, who said “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man.” Henry Hays was convicted of capital murder and at first was sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was overturned by the trial judge who change it to death. Ever hear of “Yellow Mama?” That’s the name of the electric chair at Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama. On June 6, 1997 they strapped Hays down to Yellow Mama and fried him a deep golden brown, extra crispy… Hays was Alabama’s first execution since 1913 for a white-on-black crime and is the only known KKK member to have been executed in the 20th century for the murder of an African American. Knowles was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 for ratting out the younger Hays, Cox, and other Klansmen. During the trial Knowles said they did it to show the power of the Alabama Klan. He was released on parole in 2010. Knowles went to jail when he was 21. He would be 56 now and if he is still alive.. he is walking among us. Cox who gave the racist the gun and the rope was sentenced to life in prison as an accomplice and Henry’s father, the man who said “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man,” was indicted for inciting the murder. During the trial the elder Hays collapsed after being told that while the court was recessed for lunch he would be sharing a cell with inmates Peter Long and Dick Ard. Okay.. I’m kidding.. but he did collapse and a mistrial was called. He died of a heart attack before he could be retried.

Today the United Klans of America (UKA), Alabama Realm will be meeting with attorneys for Ms. Sue Dey’Assoff in open court where they will be ordered to strip naked and and surrender their clothes, including their drawers. Ms. Sue Dey’Assoff won a summary judgement of $7 million on a wrongful death suit. Attorneys for the UKA will ask the judge if his clients can keep their drawers as a show of mercy from the court. Attorneys for the plaintiff, Ms. Sue Dey’Assoff said the drawers are need to help start the fire that’s going to burn down the Klan Headquarters she won in their civil suit. The judge has recessed court pending a ruling later this afternoon. The judge further asked that the UKA surrender their clothes including their drawers and place them in the bags marked flammable the plaintiff’s attorneys brought until he rules. Attorney’s for the UKA plan to appeal.

In 1984 Mrs Donald brought a wrongful death suit against the United Klans of America in federal court in the Southern District of Alabama. The suit was spearheaded by Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1987 the Klan was found civilly liable by an all-white jury and sentenced to damages of $7 million in the wrongful-death verdict in the case. So in the beginning when Mrs Donald brought the case to court, it was deemed to be vague. It was going to be thrown out until the trial judge applied a legal concept known as “Agency” to the case. Agency, in law, the relationship that exists when one person or party (the principal) engages another (the agent) to act for him—e.g., to do his work, to sell his goods, to manage his business. Payment of the judgment bankrupted the United Klans of America and resulted in its “national headquarters” being sold for $51,875, the proceeds going to Donald’s mother in 1987. The building was estimated to be worth $250,000. Mrs Donald also brought civil suits against Bennie Hays estate, the only one of those involved who had substantial assets. Mrs Donald died the following year on September 17, 1988. It was the first time that a civil judgement against a hate group had been won. In 2006, Mobile commemorated Michael Donald by renaming Herndon Avenue, where the murderers had hanged Donald’s body to Michael Donald Avenue. Mobile’s first black mayor, Sam Jones, presided over the commemoration.


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