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America’s ‘angriest’ theologian faces lynching tree
A crowd gathers in Marion, Indiana, in 1930 to witness a lynching. This photograph inspired the poem and song “Strange Fruit.”
April 21st, 2012
10:00 PM ET

America’s ‘angriest’ theologian faces lynching tree

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - When he was boy growing up in rural Arkansas, James Cone would often stand at his window at night, looking for a sign that his father was still alive.

Cone had reason to worry. He lived in a small, segregated town in the age of Jim Crow. And his father, Charlie Cone, was a marked man.

Charlie Cone wouldn’t answer to any white man who called him “boy.” He only worked for himself, he told his sons, because a black man couldn’t work for a white man and keep his manhood at the same time.

Once, when he was warned that a lynch mob was coming to run him out of his home, he grabbed a shotgun and waited, saying, “Let them come, because some of them will die with me.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

James Cone knew the risks his father took. So when his father didn’t come home at his usual time in the evenings, he’d stand sentry, looking for the lights from his father’s pickup truck.

“I had heard too much about white people killing black people,” Cone recalled. “When my father would finally make it home safely, I would run and jump into his arms, happy as I could be.”

Cone takes on a theological giant

Cone left his hometown of Bearden, Arkansas, and became one of the world’s most influential theologians. But the memories of his father and lynch mobs never left him. Those memories shaped his controversial theology, and they saturate his recent memoir, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

Cone, who once called himself “the angriest theologian in America,” is still angry. His book is not just a memoir of growing up in the Jim Crow era; it’s a blistering takedown of white churches, and one of America’s greatest theologians, Reinhold Niebuhr - a colossal figure often cited by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, Niebuhr’s importance is acknowledged by both liberal and conservative Christian leaders. President Obama once called him one of his favorite philosophers. Niebuhr, the author of classics such as “The Irony of American History,” died in 1971 after a lifetime of political activism.

Cone, however, said neither Niebuhr nor any other famous white pastor at the time spoke out against the most brutal manifestation of white racism in the 20th century America: lynching.

Between 1880 and 1940, Cone says, an estimated 5,000 black men and women were lynched. Their murders were often treated as festive affairs. Women and children cut off the ears of lynching victims as souvenirs. People mailed postcards of lynchings. One postcard of a charred lynching victim read, “This is the barbeque we had last night.”

But Niebuhr said nothing about lynching, little about segregation, and once turned down King’s request to sign a petition calling on the president to protect black children integrating Southern schools, Cone said.

Niebuhr’s decision not to speak out against lynching encouraged other white theologians and ministers to follow suit, Cone said, because Niebuhr was considered the nation’s greatest theologian.

“White theologians didn’t say anything about lynching,” Cone said from his office at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he teaches a course on Niebuhr. “I tried to find a white theologian who addressed it in a sustained way. No one did it.”

Cone’s criticism of Niebuhr baffles at least one well-known Niebuhr scholar. Charles Lemert, author of “Why Niebuhr Matters,” said King often cited Niebuhr as an inspiration. He said he’d never heard that Niebuhr rejected a petition request from King. “It would be so remote from everything the man was.”

Lemert said Niebuhr had established a long record of speaking out against racism, beginning when he became a pastor in Detroit. Niebuhr may not have spoken out against lynching and other forms of racism later on because of another reason, Lemert said.

“He had a debilitating stroke in 1951,” Lemert said. “By the time the civil rights movement was full blown, he was retired and getting ill.”

Why Cone is angry

Cone has spent much of his career condemning the white church for saying little about slavery or racial justice. Yet his pugnacious reputation doesn’t jibe with his appearance. He is a slight man with a boyish face, cinnamon complexion and dimples. He has a high-pitched voice that drips with the Southern inflections of his native Arkansas.

Cone first gained attention in 1969 with the release of “Black Theology and Black Power,” a book he wrote after urban race riots and King’s assassination.

That book took theology out of academia and placed it on the still-smoldering streets. He became known as the father of “black liberation theology.” He said God was black (he meant it figuratively) because God was closest to those who were oppressed and despised - black people in America.

Cone said his passion for justice comes from growing up in the black church.

Cone blended the racial pride of the black power movement with an emphasis on social justice that had been a part of the black church since enslaved Africans first read the Bible. Jesus' primary message, he said, wasn't about getting people to heaven, but liberating people here and now from oppression - racial, economic and spiritual.

Cone said he was tired of white theologians writing about an otherworldly theology while cities burned and blacks were murdered by racists.

“I felt like I was the angriest black theologian in America,” he once wrote in his book “Risks of Faith.” “I had to speak out.”

Cone inspired some and angered others.

Critics say he developed a divisive, racist theology that describes God as black and whites as evil. They say he’s stuck in the '60s and never abandoned the bitterness of growing up in segregation.

Supporters say Cone exposed the hypocrisy of white churches and gave voice to helpless, poor and oppressed Christians in places as far away as China and Latin America.

The Rev. James Ellis III, an author who has been both critical and supportive of Cone, says before Cone, theology was interpreted through a white male perspective.

Cone has inspired not only blacks but also women and other racial minorities to enter seminaries and the pulpit, he says.

“Whether you agree with Cone or not, he’s definitely someone you need to deal with,” said Ellis, author of “OnThaGrindCuzin: The School Daze of Being ‘Incognegro’ in 1619.”

“He takes the gloves off and gets down to the nitty-gritty.”

Jonathan Walton, an assistant professor of African American Religious Studies at Harvard University, said listening to Cone is like “listening to a Hebrew prophet.”

For many people, Walton says, Cone “exposed that the God that they were worshiping was more consistent with the Pharaoh in Egypt than the Hebrew children.”

Cone said people still misunderstand his theology. He said he does not believe that whites are more sinful than others.

“God made us all as brothers and sisters,” he said. “I’m mad when people don’t treat others as brothers and sisters. I’m concerned about the suffering of all people, not just black people. If anybody is being treated unjustly, I’m with them.”

Singing about the ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’

Cone said his passion for justice comes from growing up in the black church. In his recent memoir, he describes how blacks relied on music and faith to deal with the cruelty of segregation.

On Saturday nights, he said, blacks in his hometown would go to juke joints with names like Sam’s Place to hear blues songs like “Hoochie Coochie Man.” On Sunday mornings, some of the same people would go to church to sing spirituals like “Lord, I Want to be a Christian in My Heart.”

Church comforted Cone, but it also made him ask questions.

“My thing was, if the white churches are Christian, how come they segregate us? And if God is God, why is He letting us suffer?”

The cross, he said, helped him find some answers. He said many white Christians “spiritualize” the cross, seeing it as a penalty Jesus had to pay for mankind’s sins.

But black Christians, starting with the slaves who took up the Bible, also viewed the cross as a way to cope with suffering.

Blacks looking at the images of lynching victims took heart from Jesus’ suffering on the cross and his resurrection, Cone said.

He writes:

“Black Christians believed that just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross.”

Cone also talked about his personal suffering in his memoir.

He writes about his wife, Sandra, who died of cancer in 1983. He saw her on the night she died. He said they were joking and laughing as she chided him for not leaving her hospital room to get rest.

He finally did leave, but she died at 3 that morning. Thinking about the cross helped him grieve, he said.

“God talked me through that,” he said, his voice softening. “You look suffering right in you eye and say, ‘You may get me, but you’re not going to have the last word.’ ”

Cone also talks about his parents, Charlie and Lucy, who inspired him and his two brothers. Charlie was a woodcutter who encouraged his wife to return to school, where she eventually earned a college degree.

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of fear,” he said. “I just thought my mother and father would protect me.”

One of Cone’s fears today, though, is that the contemporary black church is losing its distinctive theology. He said there’s less talk about justice and more talk about prosperity.

“You go to almost any black church today, and you don’t hear spirituals anymore,” he said. “What you hear is this happy, ‘I’m prosperous’ kind of stuff. I’m not for that. You don’t come to church to be entertained. You come to wrestle with your spirit.”

Cone may still be angry, but he’s also mellowed. He’s tempered some of the voltage from the language he used in his earlier books. And he’s accepted criticism from some black women theologians who said he didn’t include the perspective of black women in his works.

Yet thoughts of his childhood and his parents never seem far off. In his books and lectures, he returns once again to them, especially when people compliment him for his boldness. In one essay, Cone wrote:

“At most, what I say and do are just dim reflections of what my parents taught and lived.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Bible • Black issues • Books • Christianity • Church • Crime • Culture wars • Persecution • Prejudice • Race

soundoff (2,563 Responses)
  1. martog

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    ReplyReply AllMove...mls

    April 22, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • just a guy

      For me it was no mandatory meetings.

      I hate meetings.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      11. Long winded explinations for a personal choice. Thou doth protest too much.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Colin

      I guess I should be complimented that you have a habit of copying my posts, martog

      April 22, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Kelly

      You do know that nobody reads anything over 3 sentences long don't ya? You just wasted a lot of time....

      April 22, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • martog

      Yes Colin, it is totally a compliment. If it bothers you I will stop. Your posts are well worth repeating(IMHO).

      April 22, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Daniel

      Nice write up- I wish mine – which was more in referrence to the article had been posted. You made excellent points. Much of Christianity became the oppostie of what Jesus taught- It became an Idol Worshiping religion. Anytime one finds it necessary to behave or believe in a certain way because they fear they may be thrown in "hell"- implies Quid Pro Quo.
      Quid Pro Quo worship is Idol worship. There are the minority that as Jesus taught love the principles of Love above All- simply because it brings peace and a sense of inner harmony. They Love "God" so to speak for pure reasons. It is not a belief out of fear of Wrath. Those that believe out of fear of wrath are no different from the Greeks who believed that they had
      to do this or that in order to appease God, or Gods. QuId Pro Quo.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  2. PeterD

    In today's 21st century Black People have either equal or more opportunities to be successful than any other race in America unless they stop crying foul about racism and slavery. Those days are part of a continuous evolution of human civilization

    April 22, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • just a guy

      Easy for you to say, impossible for you to prove. You have never had to live with being black in our racist society. You have the upper hand and it is no surprise that you sit back and claim ignorance of the plight of others.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      One day you should test that theory. Darken yourself and take a walk around. You don't even have to "hood up" put on a suite and tie if you like and carry out your normal business. Then go home and tell yourself again how many "wonderful oppritunities" blacks have today. I'm sorry and i know you mean well but if you feel that way try this out I'll guarantee you'll have a different outlook on this subject at the end of the day.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • redcitizen

      @just a guy "you have never had to LIVE with being black." you just discredited the plight of an entire race of people. Well Done Sir. Well done...

      April 22, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • just a guy

      Red, I said plight of living as being black in our society. Big difference in what I said and what you attempted to imply.

      Don't believe me, don a hoodie, hide your hands and face so no one knows your race and take a walk. Carry a bag of skittles.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • J

      The quality of schools are not necessarily equal.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  3. Michael h

    I like the message and follow up reply by Rainer Braendlien. Love is the key. I'm white and a follower of Jesus. I grew up a Pastors kid in South Carolina. There is much truth to what Mr. Cone stands for. The church was so divided. As a kid it was a black church or a white church. I can't imagine our hearts showing love for just one or the other could be pleasing to Jesus (who looked more like a black man than a white man). If His color of skin(flesh) makes a difference to us I think we have totally missed the reason He came. Jesus came to show us the the ultimate example of love. Jesus was asked what were the greatest of the commandments and he said love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Also to Love thy brother as thy self. All of them hinge on these two. Love does not seperate us but brings us together. If this makes you mad you may have an issue with the whole love concept. There are people of all races that are racist but, we are to be seperate and Love one another. God's love is not separated into compartments of race or determined by who has done you wrong or not. Who you deem to use the system or has use race to get special treatment. It breaks my heart to think we would crucify Jesus all over again because of greed and selfishness, to think we are better than or deserve better than others.
    There are many Churches that are integrated now. They all should be an open door to the love of Christ to all people.
    Please forgive me for every racist comment I every made or let go by me and said nothing.
    Change is something we can all do by repenting and changing our hearts in the path of God's love. This is not a political issue. It is a heart issue.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Michael h

      Which denomination do you belong to?

      April 22, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • redcitizen

      I tried to follow Jesus but I'm one of the unlucky ones that can't see him... Maybe God should scale his opacity up just a bit..

      April 22, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @redcitizen

      How about considering that God could have more dimensions than we?

      If he moves in one of his dimensions (changes his position), which we don't have, he becomes invisible for us.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • NorEaster TC6

      Dear Brother Michael H,

      I totally agree with your statement I am a African American Reverend living in the liberal Northeast, many churches have embraced the gay & lesbians life style here, but whats' so shocking is that they still Hold true to racism, both issues are about biblical morals.

      The majority accepting (in the church) the G&L life style are white due to the fact that the majority of Gs' and Ls' are white

      Yet their racial up bringing is still strong, you cannot hold God's hand and the devil hand at the same time many will be turned away from Heaven's gate.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • NorEaster TC6

      Brother Michael H,

      I left you a message NorEaster TC6 racism is one of Satan's strongest tools it involves pride, anger, arrogance, murder, hate, harm, it is a destroyer of families, people and nations.

      Only God can straiten this out & he has at the CROSS everyone can choose this day whom they will serve as for me and my family we WILL SERVE THE LORD.

      SEE YOU IN HEAVEN BROTHER GOD BLESS YOU.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Michael h

      I actually go to a non-denominational church. It is at least 50/50 white, and black. I pray that we would welcome all with the love of Jesus no matter where, who, or what that they may come from.
      Red citizen, my prayer is that Jesus makes himself known to you. I love ya no matter you believe.
      Ditto, Noreaster TC6, see you in heaven. Thanks for sharing wisdom!

      April 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  4. drgene

    CNN's Ignorance of who is/is not qualified to be designated as a "THEOLOGIAN" is apparent.

    James Cone, despite his long tenure at the U Chicago Divinity School, is no Theologian. He lacks the disciplines methodology necessary for such nomenclature. Indeed, as a young PhD student, we studied his writings–in a graduate class on Theological Methodology. He was found deficient by all PhD students, and our Professor. James Cone was an Affirmative Action appointment at the UChicago who spent his years there ranting about Racism. Like his student, Jeremiah Wright(and Obama), he sprinkles very selective verses from Jewish and Christian sacred texts to Rationalize his presuppositions and pre-defined conclusions.

    That makes his a Preacher, not a Theologian. A very sad man, consumed by his belief in the corporate guilt of all whites as historically racist.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Colin

      And what makes one a "real theologian?" The whole field to me is pathetic. Running around quoting Iron Age mythology to support one position or another, without any kind of historical or scientific discipline. Philosophy is bad enough, but theology is philosophy for the simple-minded. It is to intellect what astrology is to astronomy. Play school nonsense.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Frankie Goes to Ottawa

      I wonder if Jesus' was a Theologian ... or if it mattered. Seems to matter a lot to you. You have a troubled heart, my friend.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      ...and what disputing evidence to the contrary (historically) can YOU offer? As I see it white history is one long tale of war, genocide and colonization most recently (within the last 75 years) built on slavery and exclusion. I defy anyone to show me a period within the last, say, thousand years where white societies were at peace with no populations under colonization. I mean you can literally follow the wars French and Indian, Revolutionary. Mexican, Civil, American Indian, Cuba, Phillipines, WWI, Banana Wars, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afgahnistan and that's just us (America). Sounds like this behavior is ingrained over MILLENIA. Whooops, sorry to burst your "that's all behind us now" bubble.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  5. Tee

    More CNN race bait stories to inflame people even more.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • JG

      all them inocent prisoners(black) should be released.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • just a guy

      Race baiting? I guess all of those black people shouldn't have climbed up in those trees all by themselves.

      Just look at all those good white people wanting to help them down.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • redcitizen

      @Just a guy This picture was taken 80 years ago..all those people are dead... Too bad they dont post pictures from every horrific act around the world within the last 80 years. Be black,whites,browns and every other color "standing round the tree" with black,whites,browns and every other color hanging from the tree... Blacks are one of the few standing contradictions to theory that struggle promotes success.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      .The Truth....Hurts, don't it ?

      April 22, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • just a guy

      To those of you who keep saying things have changed.... Overt racism HAS changed for the most part. The sneaky racism is much more insidious.

      Just read posts here with an open mind, if you are so capable.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  6. jon

    Hang a noose in front of a house or building it's called a hate crime. Show a photo of a noose and some 60 year old photos of a hanging victim, it's called journalism

    April 22, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  7. joe

    what's with the picture of a noose? Trying to outsensationalize the people at Fox? disgusting.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  8. jon

    Much has changed, today they lynch people like George Zimmerman in the media instead of a tree

    April 22, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • cscann

      So very true.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  9. redcitizen

    ..You rejects should stop acting like Indiana is in the south. Blacks faced atrocities... we get it. As has every other race of people throughout history. Get over yourselves.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • JG

      thay be still stupid.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      Obviously you don't get it. As evidenced by your previous, current and, I dare say future posts, you never will. I challenge you to darken up and go out to see how your fellows treat you after that although from what I've read from you so far I don't think you have the courage for that.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  10. Duane

    This is one of the reasons I don't buy into Christianity...It is a farce and full of hypocrisy, even today. I don't believe this country has ever had, or will ever have an honest conversation about race, but I know for a fact, that conversation – if it should start – will not come out of a church, especially a Christian one.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • redcitizen

      ...Pretty sure all churches are "Christian ones" being that the word church is defined as a Christian place of worship.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Kelly

      Can you name a religion that doesn't have something in it's past. or present, that it is ashamed of? Or are you just a Christian bigot? Religions are made up of humans, humans are flawed. That doesn't mean that the philosophy of the religion is bad.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  11. Daniel

    why is my post not being shown

    April 22, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • 7Pillars

      2 reasons: some Key Words will prevent it (done by computer) and many times there is a bad CNN Glitch and NONE of your or my comments show up no matter what I do! I have complained for months

      April 22, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  12. just a guy

    Have we had a racist foxtard mention Black on Black crime statistics yet?

    Shouldn't take long, it's all they gotz

    April 22, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • 7Pillars

      Are all you sad armchair warriors reading from the EXACT SAME SCRIPT!?! You all sound alike, obviously been TOLD what to think...

      You should try ORIGINAL THINKING! I love it – being a Patriot in the world's greatest nation and with an actual Free Will; no one tells me what to think or gives me a script to read. TRY IT!

      April 22, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • just a guy

      You are a fool pillars, no one has told me what to think.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Kelly

      wow... "just a guy" feels that if someone mentions Black on Black violence and what a tradgedy it is that so many young men lose their lives over sensless killings that he/she is a racist for mentioning it.. Apparently he believes that young Black men do not deserve this attention and should be left to kill each other as they may. What a racist.....

      April 22, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  13. PumpNDump

    It's no surprise how backward, filthy, racist, uneducated and a general failure the south is.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Tee

      Then stop acting so surprised you thespian.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • tron777

      And yet the south is where all the new jobs are!

      April 22, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • KeninTexas

      Hey dumb-ass, didn't you notice that picture was from Indiana? That's a long way from the south. If you'd paid attention in school, you'd have known that.

      April 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Average American

    I believe CNN is drudging up these thing to fuel hatred among blacks. Why CNN?

    We all know this was a terrible situation and terrible times. This is like posting a childs mutilated body on the parents facebook account every year. This is not news. This is sick.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • just a guy

      Because people like you still exist.

      April 22, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • skpfrmdc

      Yeah, Let's just forget all about it now that we's friends an' all it's like it never happened.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Ted in California

      It is only sick in your mind so what does that say about you?

      April 22, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Kelly

      This type of thing belongs in a US history class, which is where I learned it.. If your going to put it on a contemporary news site then why not put other atrocities on mainstream news? 5,000 were lynched, a tradgedy. How many Black men were murderedjust last year, the year before, the year before that... You get the point.. The news media selects a particular tradgedy to fit a particular agenda, and those complaing about your post are race baiters.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  15. just a guys

    Obviously a case of "Truth Hurts"

    CNN isn't race baiting, they are Racist Baiting. And all of you fools answered the call.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • 7Pillars

      WOW! The armchair warrior geniuses are out today! All reading from the exact same tedious script.

      ARE YOU ACTUALLY SAYING THAT AN ARTICLE THAT SAYS "LYNCHING IS TERRIBLE" IS 'RACIST BAITING'!?! Is that your argument, genius!?!

      April 22, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • just a guy

      7 pillars, the vast amount of the posts are exactly that. Racists accusing CNN of race baiting.

      CNN may not have intended it but they have baited the racists nicely today. Have them all up in a little racist hissy fit.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  16. Happy ShockSunday Morning

    This is garbage for a Sunday morning. CNN why not for for the intended shock factor but the actual 1930 picture of the hanging up on the main http://www.cnn.com page? You are clearly trying to position yourself as a political pawn to further divide this nation at a critical time between now and the November election. You've even made a point to reference President Obama in the same article, on the same age, as the picture of the hanging. And you know there will be a bunch of idiot racist whites that will put stupid comments up here, just to further footnote your study. I agree racism is wrong, completely. But these types of articles just bring the idiots out from both sides of the debate, ignorant whites that are obviously going to make comments through the day, but then also other ethnicity groups that need be kept alert at least to the point of voting in the November election.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Happy ShockSunday Morning

      typo...I meant "on the same age"; not "on the same age"...oh well, have your say...let the games begin...sad.

      April 22, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Ted in California

      Are you afraid that voters will not reward republican politicians that condone racist acts the happened in the past and continue to happen today? Too bad!

      April 22, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Happy ShockSunday Morning

      Thanks for taking the bait and confirming the CNN Experiment, yes I am so glad that you realized that this is all about the "rewarding of republican politicians" that perhaps not only "condone", but perform "racist acts". CNN VOTER ALERT: chock one up CNN you've got another confirmed Democratic Voter fired up out there!!! Make sure you take his/her e-mail address provided to further distribute your pre-election propaganda.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  17. Stacky

    Did anyone read the entire story? Why can't he express "His Story"? All of this was going on in most of our lifetime, and if not us then our parents. Haven't your parents told you about your grandparents and great grandparents experiences? This is what happened in his lifetime. "Imagine"

    April 22, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Average American

      Why? How about exploit to make money? Just like Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.

      April 22, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • pattyB

      I believe that these are the kinds of stories we need. It's just like the holocaust. If we are not reminded how far human beings can go to oppress each other, we may repeat history. Looking at the true picture of a lynching is painful. The very idea that this could happen is reprehensible. I am not black, I am an old white girl that was young in the 60s, and I remember some of the things that were said and done by my peers, and their parents. Even my own family. I can truly say that I am not a racist. There is so much anger that comes from both sides of this issue. I wish there was a way to bring us all together. If we don't talk about it, it will rear it's ugly head again. Mark my words! (I grew up in Sanford, Florida)

      April 22, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Daniel

      Exactly, my comment keeps getting erased- I'm glad yours was posted ill try again:Thanks-I was simply commenting on the accuracy of the article based on my (im white) mom's experience while studying in Europe, then returning the US in 1956.My father's first job was w/N.C. state in Raleigh.She and my father (Fr/white) appalled by the silence of white protestant and catholic communities regarding the way blks were terrorised, or simply treated as less than dogs.You might be on the other end of the argument- but everything is quite accurate/ I have first/or second hand experience
      either of my own, or what my parents saw.This was not long ago-we are talking just mid 20century.Being Christian I feel it is important to express the truth so that Christianity does not end up becoming some idol worshiping empty religion as this man
      explains

      April 22, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Daniel

      Stacky- I was not referring to you as being on the "other end of the argument". It looks like at least part of my comment was posted. I'm glad you were able to get yours posted. It is frustratingly odd that people do not seem to realize that all these things- lke you say- happened not long ago- and even after the Holocaust. Why people insist on claiming black on black crime is ignored is beyond me. There are plenty of community organizations fighting gang violence, and inner city plague. Just because AlShrptn or JJackson may exploit some situations does not make those situations irrelevent.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  18. jobdespair

    I am sure the guy smiling on the left and the guy pointing with a grin are burning in hell right now. What a sad comment on American society at the time. We've obviously only partially cleaned it up.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • wrong side of the bed

      Not so fast.If the smilin' dudes accepted Jesus into their lives, they were good to go!

      April 22, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Tee

      He thinks God is a lyncher also.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  19. Victor

    As expected, we're seeing a lot of "stop laying the guilt trip" in the comments sections. If people seem to think that this is an article "laying blame" on white people, here's the reality – there were white Americans who cared about doing the right thing. They should be (and in many cases are) celebrated. Remember Andrew Goodman? Michael Schwerner? They're just two of many whites who were on the right side history.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  20. YouKnowWhoIAm

    Judging by the ignorance in these comments, it is clear how little progress we have actually made on race relations in America. But let it be known, GOD sits on high and looks low, and wickedness will be avenged.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • wrong side of the bed

      Yeah,the God does a lot of looking and judging ,doesn't it?

      April 22, 2012 at 11:01 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.