I suggest our history of the relationship between American whites and American Blacks that has been taught to us in school has been tilted one way which is I suppose expected because the history was written by white folk. One thing that always stood out with me is the lament of Black Americans back around the turn into the 20th century that America is the only nation in the world that lets fellow Americans be lynched by mobs with impunity. The sordid history of that time was kept well hidden from us going to school.
Back in those days two Black men from Massachusetts W.E.B. DeBois and William Monroe Trotter along with other Black citizens sought to bring notice of this to Congress seeking a federal anti-lynching law. A Black preacher in 1899, the Reverends D.A. Graham noted: “Lynchings of Negroes is growing to be a Southern pastime.” To date the “United States Congress never outlawed lynching due to powerful opposition from Southern senators . . . “
I suppose it is nice to point the finger at those from the South but we also must look at ourselves when it comes to dealing with our fellow Black citizens. We had in Boston, as I have written about before, the murder of a Black man Herbert Smith in his forties and two Black teenagers, Elizabeth Dickson and Douglas Barrett, one night back in 1968 as they were sitting in an automobile. For all extent and purposes nothing was done about it.
Not by the police or the media. Two or three stories appeared in the newspapers. The police telling us they were doing an investigation. But not one elected official noted the triple murder in any public manner. A slaughter of three people passing like ship in the night. How could that be if Black lives did not matter?
The person who admitted to that slaughter was John Martorano. He murdered Smith because he disrespected him. He murdered the two teen agers because they were with Smith. He left a trail of incriminating evidence behind that a high school kid playing Dick Tracy could follow but nothing came of it.
Murdering Black folk was something John Martorano was used to doing. In September 1956 he murdered John Jackson because he was a possible witness against him in the murder of Margaret Sylvester. He ambushed him at night as he was coming back to his girlfriends apartment where he lived along with others.
Not only that, after having murdered Jackson and the three in the car, he murdered another Black man, Ronald Hicks. What was his reason for doing that. He met a woman who was the wife of a guy in jail awaiting trial for murdering other people who told her Hicks was going to be a witness against her husband. He didn’t know the woman before meeting her or her husband or co-felons in jail. But he decided he would murder Hicks to help them out.
The way I figure John Martorano murdered more Black individuals than any person in the history of Boston. I also figure no one cared because they were Black individuals. Yet you wonder why our fellow Black citizens are on the streets reminding us that Black lives matter. It is a disgrace to a nation that having gone through slavery, hangings, and Jim Crowism that white Americans just do not understand the cry of help from their fellow citizens.
You may say that is all in the past and things are different now. There is improvement. I do not think the murder of three Black individuals in a car would receive such cavalier treatment in the media. Yet it was only a few years ago that John Martorano got sentenced for these murders – he received about six months in prison for each one. How is it that the man who murdered more Black Americans than any other man in Boston received so little prison time? Did Black lives matter?