Independent Lens

S21 E11 | FULL EPISODE

Always in Season

Always in Season follows the tragedy of African American teenager Lennon Lacy, who in August 2014, was found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina. His death was ruled a suicide, but Lennon’s mother and family believe he was lynched. The film chronicles her quest to learn the truth and takes a closer look at the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans.

AIRED: July 05, 2020 | 1:25:45
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TRANSCRIPT

- I need EMS.

I have a man hanging from a swing set.

- If you knew in your heart and in your mind

that someone took your child's life,

how far would you go to get to the truth?

- We sat there with no answers,

and then they tell my mom it was suicide.

- Was there more to the story?

This doesn't make sense.

Law enforcement did not do their job adequately.

- Honestly, it looked like it was a display,

like it was a back-in-the-day lynching.

- This community has a right

to demand more investigation!

female narrator: Filmmaker Jacqueline Olive

explores how the legacy of racial terrorism

still haunts us today.

- If you were black and alive,

you were always at risk to be killed.

- That isn't ancient history.

A lot of the people involved in lynchings,

they're still around today.

- If together we face that history,

it leads to a dialogue;

it leads to an opening for reconciliation.

narrator: "Always in Season,"

now only on Independent Lens.

[dramatic music]

[insects chirping]

- Well, Lennon was about 18 months here.

Almost two.

This is Lennon, the oldest.

Young uncle.

Think about it as if it was your son or your daughter.

If you knew in your heart and in your mind

that someone took your child's life,

and everything that you've done

that's humanly possible,

they've taken it and twisted it and turned it.

How far would you go to get to the truth?

How soon would you let it go?

Neighborhood is supposed to be a connection

of your extended family.

Someone in your family gets hurt, you hurt.

And until this wound is fixed and heals,

this neighborhood will always hurt

and always be a open wound.

[mournful humming music]

[phone dialing, line trilling]

[retches] Oh, God.

[retching]

[solemn music]

- If you read the accounts of lynching,

the acts themselves were so horrifying

that they became a kind of internal story

of so many communities.

And yet, like children, we still hope and pray

that it's far enough in the past

that maybe we never have to talk about it.

- This report is published with the hope

that its sheer sadism and abnormal cruelty

may stir thoughtful Americans to action.

If this report does not do so,

we fear that the situation is hopeless.

- We have the Moore's Ford lynching from 1946,

and no one has been charged.

And you mean to tell me, after all these years,

no one will speak up?

That angers me. Somebody knows something.

- I think that he was murdered.

I think they hung him up

to make it look like a suicide.

A group of people in this area,

some of 'em are all for a good show of a lynching.

- It makes you realize that things like that still happen.

We might not see them all the time,

but they still happen.

[dog barking and snarling]

- I grew up here. This has always been home.

It has sort of a Andy Griffith feel.

A lot of the people are country folks

and have a laid-back attitude.

I've been in many places around the country

where there's big cities and towns,

and I like the small-town atmosphere

simply because it's a slower pace.

[nostalgic music]

In my growing-up time,

Cotton mill was the main employer,

but were closed down by the 1980s.

It was a farming town as well.

- Who's glad to be part of the Annual Bladenboro Beast Fest?

[cheers and applause]

- I don't know if you've heard of the "Beast of Bladenboro,"

but they have a festival for that.

It's based on a legend.

- In 1954,

some kind of animal killed a number of pets

and some livestock in the area--

a figure in the dark.

The artist's conception is something--

almost a human-like, cat-like combination.

- You notice about the Beast of Bladenboro,

you don't ever see black people in that stuff.

That's a myth that was perpetrated

by our light-skinned brothers and sisters.

The Beast has always been black,

and black people always had a problem with that.

- We went with a black cat because that's the way

it had always been portrayed in the old articles.

It--you know, the--the killer cat.

You know, the black cat.

It was supposed to be coming out of the swamp

up into the edge of town.

Everybody wanted to be the one

to get their picture in the newspapers

that they captured the Beast.

- And then, you know, they call it

the "Swamp in the Quarters" down there for a reason.

That's based upon that slave term, there,

from the slave quarters.

And here in Bladenboro,

most of the African Americans live in this particular area.

- So right here, there was a cleaners,

and right here was a little feed store.

They done changed it now.

All these places that I'm telling you,

you knew where you could come

and what time that your place was.

You know, the first part of the morning

was mostly the business time,

and the white people come first,

and then the black people came.

- We had it hard coming up.

We all have our skeletons,

but honey, Bladenboro got skeletons

that, if you open the door, they will scare you to death.

Some things that you see, you keep it to yourself.

You will live longer.

- I haven't experienced any, uh, personal racial division.

Everybody gets along.

Of course, we do have the young man

that was found hanging here

in Bladenboro a couple of years ago.

Lennon Lacy was found hanging from a swing near his home,

I think, is the way the story went.

Most people just don't know what happened there.

- All right, I'm gonna take you by the cemetery

where Lennon's in.

This here is my grandmother and my grandfather,

Ed and Benjamin Lacy.

And that's my uncle. He was a brickmason.

And down here...

This is Lennon's grave, right here.

That's Lennon's grave.

[sorrowful music]

- I'm playing basketball.

- Is your brother showing you how to play?

- No. I already know how to play.

Mm-hmm. - Okay.

- I'm good at it.

- Okay.

Lennon would've never wanted me to not know

what happened to him.

You know, he would want me to have some type of closure

because we were very close.

Told my son there was nothing too insignificant

that you can't tell me.

Nothing too personal. I know you. I had you.

I know everything about your body,

everything about you.

all: Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.

- For them to say what they did,

as far as he had taken his own life,

I couldn't see that.

He had too much to live for.

Too much.

And I just want justice and closure.

Last time I talked to Lennon

was the day that we buried my uncle.

So we all came back here.

After the funeral, Lennon was dressed down.

He had on his dark-blue sweatpants,

a sports jersey with "Bladen" on the front of it,

and his tennis shoes stuck out

because they were that neon green,

but that's the color he wanted

because he had a hat that it matched, too,

'cause he bought the whole outfit.

The hat, the pants, and the shirt, and the shoes matched.

I said, "Well, I'm gonna go head to bed

'cause I'm tired and don't feel too good. So..."

Lennon was like, "I got to finish hanging out my things

for a football game tomorrow."

So he kissed me on the forehead.

I said, "Don't forget to take that stuff off the line,"

and I went to bed.

And that was the last time I talked to Lennon.

In the morning, I was talking to my sister over the phone

because she was checking in on me.

I happened to glance out the window,

and I said, "Lennon's done left his jersey

and his support socks on the clothesline."

She said, "Well, I'ma let you go."

She--"'Cause I know you got to run to the schoolhouse

and drop off his things."

And there was a knock at the door.

Chief Hunt is on the other side.

He let me know that I needed to go with him.

I got in my vehicle, and I followed him over to the park.

There was a crowd of people

standing on the side of the road,

and I noticed

that the police was rolling up crime scene yellow tape

from around one of the swing sets.

The State Bureau investigator told me

that I needed to see if this was my son.

I go up the three steps, sit on the back of the EMT.

I got close--as close as you could get

other than laying on top of his body--

to look and see and feel and touch and smell his body.

And I rubbed his face. I rubbed his chest...

and I just looked at him with amaze

'cause I was literally...

disbelief...

that it--you know, his lifeless body was there,

and I just saw him a couple of hours prior.

It was unreal...

like I was watching a bad movie

and it was never gonna end.

And from that point on, it became a blur to me.

and I tried to allow my family members--

other family members-- to deal with the police.

I couldn't deal with any more than what I was dealing with.

I just couldn't.

- At the time, I was working in Stafford, Virginia.

And then my supervisor is like,

"Hey, you got a phone call."

And my godbrother was...

he was telling me, "They found Lennon."

I said, "'They?' Who're 'they'?

And what are you talking about?"

He was like,

"They found him dead.

They say he hung himself. He committed suicide."

He wouldn't do nothing like that.

I just--you know, I just saw him a couple weeks ago.

That wasn't on his mind.

I started crying.

I was--I wanted to stop crying, but I couldn't.

I cried from my job all the way to my mom's house.

When I walked in the house, I was just--I saw my mom.

I'm like...

"How?

How did this happen?" You know?

And she--she couldn't-- she couldn't really--

she couldn't even really look at me because she was so hurt.

And it hadn't--you know, I didn't take nothing personal.

It just hurt me to know that she was that hurt.

And I couldn't imagine what was going on through her mind

when she had to go out there...

and see him like that.

And then they tell her

she don't know what she talkin' about.

"He did this to himself."

And you gonna force-feed a lie to my whole entire family

and make us think we're crazy?

It looked like...

honestly, it looked like it was a display,

like it was a message,

like it was a-- a back-in-the-day lynching.

Like, that's what it-- that's how it made me feel.

That's how it made me feel.

[mournful humming music]

- Lynching as a form of racial terrorism

is a very particular thing.

And that really began after the Civil War

during the Reconstruction period

when newly emancipated slaves were making political gains,

economic gains, educational gains.

Between the 1890s and 1960,

there were about 5,000 lynchings in the United States,

most of them of African American men,

although there were a few dozen cases

of African American women.

Mostly they did happen in the South,

but they happened all over throughout the United States.

And lynchings very often involved hangings,

very often involved shooting,

but also burning, including burning alive, of victims.

But it really was the character of the murder

that made it a lynching.

Those who were involved in the lynching perceived themselves

as having the right to do this,

and that's why it's most often done openly

and notoriously

with the participation of average people...

Not just to punish the individual person,

but as a symbol, as a sign to the larger community--

both the white community and the black community.

Lynching was a message crime.

Sometimes they happened in the woods,

but most often,

they happened in places where the body would be seen,

sometimes in a crowd of 10 or 15,000 spectators.

And it's the public nature of lynching

that really condemns the white community

because the idea that people didn't know...

they did know.

They did know.

- "At sundown, the negro will be taken

"to the farm two miles from here

"where Miss Lola Cannady, the murder victim, lived.

"There he will be mutilated by the girl's father.

"Then he will be brought to the pigpen and murdered

"where the girl's body was found.

"Finally his body will be brought to the county seat

"nine miles from here

"and hung in the courthouse square for all to see.

All white folks are invited to the party."

[overlapping chatter]

- We want that nigger, Roger!

Now! Get him out!

- Get out of the car, nigger!

[men shouting]

Who do you think you are?

[overlapping shouting]

- Take him down!

- [wailing] Why are you doing this to me?

What are you doing?

[shouting continues, blows land]

- Please! Don't hurt us!

We didn't do nothing! We didn't do nothing!

We didn't do nothing! [screaming continues]

- Get the niggers tied up!

- Please don't kill us!

[screaming continues]

All right. Get your rifle--

get your guns ready.

[shouting continues]

- Please! - Please don't kill her.

- Please don't kill me. [crying] Please don't kill me.

No! No!

[gunshots fire]

[wailing]

- Make sure he's dead.

- All right, one more time. Come on.

Let's make sure that nigger's dead!

[gunfire continues]

- The baby. Get the baby.

- Cover me, and we gonna back up.

- And then open up when she gets the baby.

Open up.

Open up. - [grunts]

- This good, boss? - That's real good.

[crowd gasps] Real good.

Lloyd, do you see anybody you know here?

I'm asking you. You see anybody you know here?

- No. - That's what I thought.

Get him out of here. Get him the hell out of here.

- [exhales heavily]

Hmm.

I don't think I've watched it since I did it.

You can feel it out here.

You can feel the spirit of those that died out here

when we came out and we did--

you know, did just the rehearsal.

Just since I've been here in this town,

I see the way that they look at you

and the--this feeling of

"Nobody should say anything. We don't want to talk."

You know. "Let's not talk about this."

- [crying]

- Since 2005, Civil Rights activists

have returned to the Moore's Ford Bridge

to re-create the night two black couples,

Roger and Dorothy Malcom

and George and Mae Murray Dorsey,

were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in 1946.

No one has ever--

- An outraged President Harry Truman

ordered a federal investigation

and a grand jury was convened,

yet no indictments were brought for the killings.

The FBI reopened its case in 2007.

Georgia state representatives--

- The reenactment serves as a dramatic call to action

and an annual reminder to the Monroe community

that an injustice has never been corrected.

Chelsea Bailey, NBC News.

- And this place is an eerie place, you know?

[chuckles] I didn't remember until we came here today

that we went up under this bridge

and there was writings

that the Ku Klux Klanhad put under this--

under this very bridgethat we're standing on.

- Wow.

because I'm helping to, - It m hopefully,l sad.

bring some closure to what happened with these families.

It's intense just watching the reenactment.

It's intense thinking about the fact

that it's getting ready to happen again.

- All right, one more time. Sharice, I need you louder.

Sharice? Action.

- I don't care. I wanna know.This is my town.

- I need you to stay. Please. - I wanna know.

- Nigger, what are you doing on my land?

- You have been with my wife! - Come on back.

- You're a lying man! - What is going on?

- Nigger, get off my land.

- I'll get off your land when you--

- Roger-- [screams]

- Oh, you still hit him upthe back, but that's good.

Okay. Good. Good.

- You killed him.

- That's "Mr. Malcom" to you.

Good. Okay. You all right, Mr. Barney?

- Oh, yeah. - [laughs]

That was good. Look.

They keep wanting to stab you in your back, but it's okay.

We'll get it in the front, I think.

All right, so that's scene one. We're going to the next scene.

I will be directing

the Moore's Ford Bridge lynching reenactment

for my third year this year.

I've been doing plays for about 10 or 11 years now.

It was all because of social issues that I saw

that needed to be addressed that no one wanted to address,

and those are the issues that I go for.

- Fire! - [imitating gunfire]

No more moving.

It wasn't just killing these people.

It was overkill.

They were shot so many times.

Dorothy being pregnant didn't matter.

Pulls it up. Yep. "Got it."

"Got it, boss." Down.

The baby was taken out of her body.

A baby.

Out of a woman's body.

Whether black, white...

so we really push that part

so that they know that this was some sick stuff.

- Okay. - All right, actors.

How did y'all--how did y'all-- you all dead folk.

How do y'all feel about-- y'all get up.

This year, we're trying to bring in more actors

to play Klansmen.

Believe it or not, it's hard to get whites

that live in the area to participate

because a lot of people are actually afraid

of coming out and facing what happened.

When we go into Monroe, I mean, you can feel,

like, "What the heck are you all doing here?"

- Since I've been here, every year

they have the reenactment,

and in my opinion,

leave the past in the past.

Let these people rest.

- You know, I directed the first two reenactments,

and I had a whole crew of white people

that played the Klan.

And it was just two days

before we were supposed to have the reenactment,

and all these guys had backed out

and were saying that they couldn't do it.

So we used white masks and things on black people

to play Klan that first year.

- They had swastikas drawn on, and there were black people

that had colored their faces in white,

and could you imagine us doing a blackface reenactment?

It would be on every news thing in the entire world.

When you have a reenactment of something that horrific

every single year,

what does it teach young black people?

But I think what we need to do is say, "That happened,

but look where we are today."

- I think it's one of the most greatest things

that ever happened in Walton County

because we--we want justice.

We need justice, and that has not happened as of yet.

- Any injustice affects everybody that's around it.

So why are we so afraid of the truth coming out?

Why are we so afraid to talk about it?

And that's what the reenactment does--

keeps it in the light.

Keeps it in the light.

We don't want anything in the dark.

Bring it to the light.

[indistinct conversation]

- They desecrated the grave five days after he was buried.

They took--took his flowers off of it

and threw 'em way back over here,

and the West Bladen Styrofoam WB,

they took and broke it,

threw it way over by the street.

You see how the sand is?

They had dug a hole deep enough where the guy,

one of his classmates, stuck his arm way up here.

He stuck his arm all the way in the hole

where they had dug the grave--dug sand out of it

like they were trying to dig up his grave, yeah.

And they said it was not racial or a hate crime.

I said, "I don't know why it wouldn't be."

Lennon as an individual, losing his uncle,

which is more or less like a grandfather,

and then having his first major, serious breakup

with a female,

I guess people would say that would be a lot

for a teenager to deal with,

but Lennon was not a typical teenager.

Like-- [train rushes by]

- Sorry, the... - Oh, yeah. I know it.

I know it. I hate that thing.

- That was real good, though. You got it.

- I hate that thing.

[whistle blaring]

But Lennon, when he was a child,

he could not stand that thing.

He would do this. Oh, he would scream.

He would cover his ears. He did not like that train.

[train continues]

[train rushing, bell dinging]

[somber piano music]

He was the biggest kid I had,

and I'm like, I gained a lot of weight,

but trust me, running around behind Lennon,

it was easy to get rid of 'cause he kept me running.

- [singing indistinctly]

- I think Lennon was about four.

Pierre had taught him his ABCs by rap.

He said, "a-A, a-B," and, oh, it was hilarious.

And Pierre was like--

he was like his hero.

- Me and Lennon's relationship was kind of--I don't know.

It was just like he was my influence

as much as I was his influence, you know?

I wanted to do better because he was--

I knew he was watching me and paying attention.

His thing was football, and he was really good at it.

My mom and Lennon moved to North Carolina in 2012.

He took it hard because

he really didn't want to leave.

He was born in Virginia; he lived in Virginia.

He wanted to go to college in Virginia.

So I had to... [sighs]

You know, persuade him that it'll be okay,

that you're gonna make new friends,

and then he would calm down. He'd be like, "You're right.

That's why I'm glad I called you," you know?

We would have those... [laughs]

I would just be like, "Man, you got a lot of growing up to do,

but you'll be all right. You know what I'm saying?"

- I was born in Bladen County, Bladenboro,

right here in this same town.

So he made it his home because he had a lot of family here.

The neighbors here--

there was only him and Justin Jones

and Trey Hudson.

They were the only three teenage boys

in this neighborhood.

You wouldn't see one without the other.

You would see Justin coming down past my house.

He'd get Lennon, and then they'd go over

to Trey's or vice versa.

- Lennon was funny, protective,

just an all-around good friend.

You couldn't ask for a better friend.

We'd hang out like teenagers do.

Walk to the park at night.

He had asthma,

so he wanted to walk at night, and I was like, "All right."

He'd come get me about 1:00 in the morning.

Yeah, Lennon didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't do drugs.

He'd drink water and Powerade.

- Hey, how you doing?

- We'd talk a lot. We'd talk about everything.

Like brothers. Every day.

I have a tattoo of himon my arm.

Lennon Lacy.

- We had so many good times. Like...

he was funny.

He was funny.

[sniffles]

But, uh...

yeah, he was--he was like my brother, though.

- Yeah, I know it must be difficult.

You must miss him.

- I only knew him for two years,

but them two years, we were like that.

He's still in all of our minds.

We're not gonna let it go.

We just want to know what happened,

but all of us think it's not a suicide.

- From day one, nothing was done right.

They found my brother on a Friday night.

They put us on hold because it was--

I think it was like, Memorial Day, Labor Day,

one of them days.

It didn't make no sense. The police station was closed.

We sat there with no answers from Friday night

until Tuesday.

Then they, on Tuesday--

they come to the house and then they tell my mom,

"Sorry for your loss. It was suicide."

And then they walk back outside.

So I asked them--I'm like,

"Well, how did you get to that point?

What did you rule out?"

One of his response was,

"Are you telling me that I didn't do my job?"

I said, "Well, I'm not telling you

"that you didn't do your job.

I'm just saying you could do your job better."

He said, "Well, if you know anything

"or if you have any information that you come up with,

give me a call and let me know."

I said, "Okay."

I said, "If I find out anything,

I'll call you and let you know."

And I did. I found out a whole lot of stuff.

I found out way more stuff than he found out.

- I've been working on murder cases

in the state of North Carolina

for almost 20 years.

Claudia is a remarkably strong woman

but was so emotionally raw

that Pierre really did step up

and take on a central role in the investigation.

When I started looking at the steps law enforcement took

and I started interviewing people

like the local medical examiner,

who told me that he was trying

to take pictures of the death scene,

and law enforcement seized his camera from him--

which, in 16 years of working on murder cases,

I have never heard that before.

The SBI stands for

the "North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation."

What concerned me about this case

was that they brought in Agent Paul Songalewski,

who had never investigated a homicide.

He's brought in whenever there's a suspected suicide.

When you're approaching

any sort of death scene investigation,

you want to make sure that these are seasoned detectives

that know the importance

of preserving the forensic evidence

to ensure that it's not a homicide

that is staged to look like a suicide.

Based on my investigation,

I feel strongly that

whoever made that call to bring him in

wanted this investigation to be steered a certain direction.

In that part of the state, particularly

all the way across along the South Carolina line,

it's a belt that is known for white supremacist history,

particularly during the Civil Rights movement

because there was still a very heavy KKK presence

and a lot of intimidation by people

who were in positions of power at that point.

But that isn't ancient history,

and a lot of the people involved in lynchings

and covering up the lynchings, they're still around today,

some of which are still in law enforcement

and their children are in law enforcement.

- White power!

- This black community has felt

that law enforcement had not been addressing its needs

for a long time in Bladenboro.

They had felt there was a lot of police misconduct.

Between 2002-2006, there was a large federal investigation

in Bladen County and Robeson County

that led to the arrest of police officers

who were actually heavily involved

in narcotics trafficking.

They would also pull over drivers

of African American descent.

They would harass them for money,

take the money, and then let them go,

and it would never be documented.

So you had concerns

from the African American community:

"Was there more to this story? What happened?

This doesn't make sense."

As I started researching black males

committing suicide in public,

and I realized there had been almost 20 black males

found hanging in public parks over just the last few years--

and when I realized

how quickly law enforcement that responded to those scenes

deemed those deaths suicide,

I became quite concerned that there may be

a bigger surreptitious movement at play, here.

Evidence in this case suggests that steps taken

by responding officers and investigators

failed to meet even the minimum accepted guidelines

and practices for death scene investigations.

[camera shutters clicking]

That is a large part of the reason

we have been compelled to ask the U.S. Department of Justice

and the FBI to conduct its own investigation

into the death of Lennon Lacy.

Thank you.

[determined music]

- An autopsy for a Bladen County teen found dead

in August shows no indication of foul play.

- The response that occurred in this case

and the investigation which has followed

has been nothing short of professional,

and I'm proud to be a part of this outfit.

- The family certainly don't think so,

and I have to say, having been down there

and spent quite a bit of time on this story...

- Yeah. - It doesn't look

very professional to me.

[applause]

- We march today. Why?

In the quest for one thing: the truth about Lennon's death.

[crowd murmurs in approval]

- The medical examiner noted that she was not presented

with any photographs or dimensions

of that swing set in question,

meaning that it was impossible for her to know

with absolute certainty that Lennon Lacy had hung himself.

- The last time Claudia Lacy saw her 17 year-old son,

Lennon Lacy,

was around the time he snapped this selfie.

The caption: "Last night pic before the game."

- That does not sound like a person that was planning

on killing himself.

State Bureau of Investigation and Bladen Police

never searched his room for a suicide note.

They never asked me for his cell phone.

- Lacy says she told state investigators the belts used

to fashion the noose did not belong to Lennon.

And Lennon's family says he left home that night

wearing size 12 Air Jordans,

but he was found wearing

these size 10 1/2 Air Force Ones.

- No one knows what happened that terrible night,

August 28-29,

59 years to the day after the death of Emmett Till.

[crowd murmurs approvingly]

- Local news covered a Ku Klux Klan rally in a nearby county

just weeks before Lennon's body was found.

- Go to work!

[shouts indistinctly]

- When I saw Lennon Lacy,

he looked as if he'd been in a fight.

I've seen guys that I've dealt with in mortuary science

that had been in barroom fights,

and that's what it looked like.

It looked like somebody

that had not survived a barroom fight.

He had some bruises along the side of his temple.

I saw lacerations.

He wasn't marked up here;

he was marked up on his forearm on the outside,

consistent with defending yourself.

I know this is a murder.

I believe it and understand it and see it.

You know, I just thought I was one of many

who'd come to the clear understanding

of what had taken place here.

[cheers and applause]

- Claudia Lacy has a right to refuse to be comforted.

She has a right. Pierre has a right.

These young babies have a right.

This community has a right to demand more investigation

and refuse to be comforted by easy answers.

This was...

this is her son.

crowd: That's right.

- We want you to hear his name.

Somebody say it. Lennon... all: Lennon...

- Lacy. all: Lacy!

- Lennon... all: Lennon.

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

- Lennon! all: Lennon!

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

- Lennon! all: Lennon!

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

- Lennon! all: Lennon!

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

- Justice! all: Justice!

- Now! all: Now!

- Don't be calm. Be concerned.

A child has died!

[cheers and applause]

- When do you want it? all: Now!

- What do you want? all: Justice!

- When do you want it? all: Now!

- What do you want? all: Justice!

- What do you want? all: Justice!

- What do you want? all: Justice!

- When do you want it? all: Now!

- When do you want it? all: Now!

- When do you want it? all: Now!

- When do you want it? all: Now!

- The FBI has announced that it will investigate

the case of Lennon Lacy

to determine whether the 17 year-old's death

was a suicide or actually the result of a lynching.

Lacy's family and friends have been pushing

for the federal investigation.

The county coroner also says he now questions

if it was a suicide.

- Lennon! all: Lennon!

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

- Lennon! all: Lennon!

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

- Lennon! all: Lennon!

- Lacy! all: Lacy!

[unsettling music]

[insects chirping]

- "October 26, 1934.

"To the Honorable David Sholtz,

"governor, Tallahassee, Florida.

"Associated Press just informed us

"that a mob will take Claude Neal,

"tie him to a stake,

"and permit the father of the dead girl

"to light fire to burn Neal to death.

"Stop.

"We urge upon you to take immediate steps

"to rescue negro from mob and place him in safe custody.

"Stop.

"Walter White, secretary,

"National Association

for the Advancement of Colored People."

[wildlife chirping]

- Oh, well, we moved to Atlanta before I turned three,

so I spent my earliest years here.

And my Granddaddy Reeves was a textile mill worker

in a textile mill in north Georgia.

He raised five children through the Great Depression,

and I found out many years later from my grandmother

something that I never would've guessed,

and that was that he had been, at some point,

a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

And consequently I got involved with a local organization

that monitored hate groups,

and I volunteered to do infiltration work at rallies

and other gatherings

to see what kind of information I could gather.

And that's when I realized

that Klan and white supremacist groups in general

had undergone a metamorphosis.

You had newer groups

that were openly worshipful of Adolf Hitler

and his whole ideology.

That indicated that we weren't talking about a moribund group

that was going to fade away.

- While we're waiting for the guys,

can you go through your speech for us, please?

- It is posted online if youwant to get an idea of it,

and there's one pointat which one of the people

in the crowd will call out,

"What about those lyingAtlanta newspapers here?"

- Who's doing that?

We gonna stop right there. Who's gonna do that?

- Well, we're looking forsomebody with a good voice--

The reason why I felt called upon

to do the Governor Talmadge speech at the reenactment

is that Eugene Talmadge was essentially the Klan candidate

for governor here in Georgia.

When I discovered that Governor Talmadge

had actually given one of his race-baiting stump speeches

in Monroe, Georgia,

prior to the murders at the ford,

I felt it was necessary that we should have

a historically accurate presentation

of exactly what the folks in Monroe would've heard.

[crowd clamoring]

[cheers and applause]

[cheers and applause] 'Cause I am dedicated.

- Just want to remind you

that the poor dirt farmer's

got only three friends on this earth.

That's God, Sears Roebuck, and Eugene Talmadge.

And Eugene Talmadge.

This state was essentially run

on the basis of terrorism.

Until we come to grips with the fact

that this has happened repeatedly,

we're always going to be in danger

of relapsing into that kind of horror again,

and it seems to me, as a son of the South,

that I have a responsibility to do everything I can

to make sure that doesn't happen.

[patriotic music playing]

- I grew up in Henry County. Dad was Klan.

We had a big, black Lincoln Mercury,

and Dad had a tall, red cross

that he mounted on the hood of the car.

He had an extra battery under the hood that ran it.

And when it was not in use,

it was stored in the closet in my room.

My room was on the very back part of the house,

and my closet was the very smallest,

most personal, quiet place in the house

that nobody was likely to look.

- ♪ The cross in the wild... ♪

- My dad was part of the command of the Klan.

He worked with Dr. Green.

We went to a lot of rallies,

a lot of bonfires, a lot of parades.

A lot of the rallies were at Stone Mountain.

At time, it was kind of awesome.

You know, it was, like, lights and action,

and there were a lot of other children to play with.

That was fun.

But--but then it got pretty scary too.

This was when they were getting ready to go away

on their trip after the wedding.

I knew the Talmadges.

My dad and Eugene were friends,

so being one of the ladies

that supported the Talmadges was really easy for me.

That wasn't something I had to figure out how to do.

That's my favorite picture of my mother.

My mother was kind and gentle woman.

She didn't know how to deal with my daddy either.

There're many times that she's apologized,

after we got to be adults,

for the things she let us be subjected to.

I was three years old when I saw my father

and his friends hang a black man.

[sinister music]

It was late,

and the fire was roaring.

And the men were there in their robes.

Mother and my sister and I stayed in the car.

[crowd clamors, fire crackles]

And then some of the men arrived with the black man.

The Klan had the man's hands bound.

I could tell there was something wrong,

but I didn't understand what

until they hung him.

And when I saw it happening,

my mother reached around me and put her hand over my mouth

and pulled me to her

so that I wouldn't speak out loud.

It was hard to believe that that was really my dad

and his friends that I knew

that ate fish and hushpuppies at the house.

But it was. It was the same people.

I never knew any of the details except what I witnessed,

and I was too afraid to ask.

I never talked about it until Daddy died.

- It's all drawn from stuff that Talmadge actually said.

- Some of the people involved in the reenactment

are involved in it for the sheer purpose

of finding the guilty parties.

But for me,

something's going to alter the conversation

we have about race,

and if it's a reenactment, wonderful.

We all need to keep doing whatever it is

we think will make the difference.

- Well, who was-- who said they'd say,

"Four dead niggers are better than one"?

John? No-- - No, that wasn't me.

- Not you. Who's the one that said it?

Not you.

You need to talk to me. Do you want to say it?

- Uh-uh. - Okay. You scared me.

Okay, so I need somebody that will say,

"Four dead niggers are better than one."

You gonna say that? Yeah, say that.

I mean, let's--yeah, that makes it easier.

Okay, Roger?

[upbeat music]

- Move it out. Thank you.

Thank you for your cooperation.

We have over a hundred cars in the motorcade.

- I'm Martha Dorsey.

My grandfather and George were brothers.

- I wish I had came before, but this is my first time.

And I am tremendously enjoying myself

to learn about my history.

- I don't know if it's a good thing or not.

I appreciate what they're doing,

and hopefully, they'll eventually,

one day bring the remaining killers to justice.

- The hurt is still there.

[overlapping chatter]

- We want that nigger Roger!

You is a dead man, boy.

- No! - Take him down!

- Let them go!

This isn't right! - [crying]

- Please give me everything y'all got.

Every emotion. Everything.

Okay? - Yes, ma'am.

- Because these were people's lives that were lost,

and I need everything you all got.

Okay.

Action.

- All right, boys, take 'em down there.

[women screaming]

[angry shouting]

[screaming continues]

- What are you doing? [indistinct shouting]

- We're making an example to all the niggers in Georgia.

You don't touch a white man.

- Leave Roger alone. - What are you doing?

[screaming continues]

[gunfire]

- Let's go see. Check 'em out. - Check the other one.

- Hold on. All right, now.

- Roger!

[women gasping]

[gunfire continues]

- [screams]

[gunfire and screaming]

[woman sobbing, final gunshot]

- That's victory for white Christianity.

Good job.

- Whoo. - Good job.

- Whoo-ee. - Good job.

- Good work. Good work. - That'll teach him!

That'll teach him! - Where is he?

- That'll teach him. - Good job, men.

[overlapping voices]

- Is this good, boss?

[crowd gasps]

- That's real nice, Johnny. That's real nice.

- What'd he do? - Pulled the baby out.

[actor cackling]

- That's why. Because it's history.

To bring the history to them.

[mournful humming music]

- "First they cut off his penis,

and he was made to eat it."

[pigs squeal]

"Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives,

"and every now and then,

"somebody would cut off a finger or a toe.

"From time to time, a rope would be tied around his neck,

"and he was pulled over a limb

"and held there until he almost choked to death.

After several hours, they decided just to kill him."

"Then the crowd came by,

"and some kicked him and some drove their cars over him.

"After slashing and shooting him into mincemeat,

"the mob hanged him on a tree

"on the east side of the courthouse lawn.

"Photographers said they would soon have pictures of the body

for sale at 50¢ each."

- I think what most people have a hard time appreciating

is if you were black and alive in many parts of this country

in the 20th century, you were always at risk.

You were always a target.

You were always an object to be victimized,

to be humiliated, to be taunted,

to be sexually exploited, to be killed.

And there was no respite.

There was never a moment when you were allowed

to feel like you can be safe for just a little while.

You were always in season.

- Most black men were lynched because they were accused

of having sexually assaulted a white woman,

for murder or some violent act

committed usually against a white man.

But sometimes it could just be having violated the rules of,

you know, not having tipped one's hat

or having left the side of the street

when a white person was walking past.

It could be being regarded as uppity.

And it really involves a process of dehumanization

that the black man had to be physically restrained,

that he was over-sexualized,

that he was naturally and inherently violent

or something that's not human.

And it's this very insidious process of dehumanization

that begins always with words

that allows average individuals

to stand and watch

and to participate and sometimes cheer

while another human being is brutally murdered.

[applause]

- I had taken a job over at the grocery store

right here in the neighborhood at the deli,

and I was waiting on a customer,

and I had turned around with his order,

and it dawned on me

as I looked to the dining area that--

that somewhere in this crowd, there is a murder,

and he knows what he's done--

or she or they.

And that day was the day that I realized

there is still someone out here that is responsible.

- Well, there's a lot of things we would like to be able to do,

but with such a small staff,

there's things that we just aren't able to do

because we still have all the other things

going on in this county.

I have honestly not heard anyone talking about the fact

of whether there's still a murderer on the loose

in regards to this.

Honestly, I think that the majority of the folks

have just come to grips with the fact

that this is gonna be ruled a suicide in the end.

It's been several months

since the one-year anniversary of it.

But it's been quiet,

and everybody's just kind of waiting now.

And I think the sooner, the better

to get this behind us.

I honestly don't believe that the investigation

has been lacking from the very beginning.

I don't think that there's been any kind of cover-up

by the local law enforcement folks.

Nobody wants to believe that their child

could do such a thing,

and I would probably want to go to all ends of the Earth

to make sure that any and all possible investigations

and questions were answered.

But to that end, at some point you've got to--

you've got to realize that they've done all they can.

There is another side to the coin as far as,

you know, the family unit and negligence

and that kind of thing.

You know, the fact that this teenage boy at 15,

16 years old was involved

with a 30-year-old woman in the neighborhood,

that he was regularly out after midnight on school nights.

So those are the kinds of things

that started to percolate

as this went on during that first year.

- I was 32 when I met Lennon.

Lennon and I didn't really look at our age difference.

From the time I met Lennon,

it felt like it was meant to be.

I mean, you don't choose who you fall in love with.

- Mm-hmm. - Oh.

- Yeah.

This is the only thing of his that I have left.

They came over and told me they wanted everything of Lennon's.

So I hid this.

- So did you--did they take everything but that?

- Yes.

- His mother says 17-year-old Lennon had been dating

a 32-year-old white woman.

The age of consent in North Carolina is 16.

Still,

some people in this small Southern town did not like it.

In the wake of his hanging, some wondered if he was killed

because he was in an interracial relationship.

- We never talked about the race thing.

We talked about the age thing...

because of the simple fact

I knew that she was a woman of experience.

She had three kids of her own.

My son was not compatible with her.

I said-- I asked her, as a mother--

I said, "So you need to end this.

Either you end it, or we will end it."

She continued to see him

as if I hadn't even said anything to her about it.

- Michelle and Lennon were involved about seven months,

but Lennon didn't want nobody to know for a while

because that whole-- that whole Michelle situation,

I--I--I knew it was too much for him.

There was still stuff

that I didn't know about Michelle myself.

- I had left my husband.

My children and I had just came back from Illinois

and moved back to North Carolina.

I was living with Trey's mother,

Carla Hudson and Dewey Sykes.

There was probably, I would say,

a hundred feet at the most from Lennon's back door

to Dewey Sykes and Carla Hudson's door.

Lennon was always at Trey's house whenever I was there.

The first time I met Lennon,

I didn't think that he was a teenager.

He looked a lot older than what--

what he was.

He carried himself like a gentleman.

He came over with Trey, and they was hanging out,

and I was there with Carla, hanging out.

I think my kids had went to bed,

and Trey, he was probably in the bedroom

with his girlfriend.

He was always in there with her.

And Lennon was always out there with us.

And then he...

started kissing me on my neck,

and that's how it started.

- Now, this is where Lennon lived,

and we'd go to Trey's house

and play football, basketball,

anything you want to play.

Walk through this little path right here.

This is where Trey and them lived, right here.

The house would be right there in front of them bushes.

Carla Hudson's and Dewey Sykes and Trey Hudson's.

This is the front door.

I'm walking right here in the front door.

You know what I'm saying?

I thought it was real funny.

After a couple months after Lennon died,

they moved everything out and left the pool.

Left their dead dog there.

You know what I'm saying? I would've dug my dog up.

You feel me? I'd at least dug my dog up.

But no, they moved everything out. Fast, too.

Real quick,

like they were running away from something.

You know what I'm saying?

- Look, look-- no, it's too late. Come on.

Yeah, man's in court. [indistinct]

Probably shake hands and all of that, man.

[drum music]

- Carla and Dewey Sykes were pill poppers.

People would come and go,

buying and selling narcotics,

and I believe they even

supplied Michelle with narcotics at times.

- There you go, Trey.

Work him! Work him! Work him!

- Hell, yeah!

- Dewey Sykes? Oh, he known for being racist.

About 2005, he hung a KKK flag right there on the fence.

Hung the flag right there that said, "Don't tread on me."

Rebel flag. Stuff like that. He was known for it.

- Dewey didn't like the fact that I was seeing Lennon,

and he would use the N-word more than often.

There was one night, Lennon got upset,

and he walked out of Carla Hudson's house

and Lennon punched the fence and he broke the wood.

And Dewey had threatened Lennon with a gun.

- Dewey Sykes had a cousin

that is on the Bladenboro police force

but never seemed to arrest his relatives

for the apparent illegal activity

going on in their home.

That was the party spot.

[all shouting]

- What happened at Carla's house

stayed at Carla's house, basically.

It was like Las Vegas.

Yeah. [laughs] It was.

- Yeah, we was--Lennon and I was committed to each other.

Yes. Yeah.

- Michelle Brimhall had a drug problem,

and to support her drug habit,

she would have quite a few companions,

and Lennon would get very emotional

and upset about this.

They broke up in June.

He goes to Virginia,

spends a couple of weeks with family, has a good time,

tries to get her out of his head.

By the time he comes back, he realized,

you know, she was still seeing other people.

And even though they had broken up,

I think Lennon was in love with her,

and I think he felt like this relationship

was going to turn into something bigger.

But that night, there was another man

that arrived at her house,

and his first name was Maurice.

He does have a criminal history.

Lennon saw Maurice go into the house,

and he was quite distraught about it.

- He was pacing from his house and Trey's house.

Every now and then, he would come back to the house

with different information that Carla and Trey

was feeding him about Michelle.

So it was kind of like they were fueling the anger.

But in the process of all of this going on,

he still was preparing for the next day.

The last thing he pretty much did was pack his bag

for football practice.

- I don't know what happened.

I've thought about it and thought about it

and thought of so many different things.

It doesn't make any sense

because Lennon has never done anything to anybody.

I mean, who would want to hurt him?

It's just--I don't know.

It doesn't make any sense to me.

- I don't know what happened,

but I wish he came and knocked on my window

and asked me to walk on that night

instead of walking out alone.

- We have been very careful to proceed

in the search for truth.

If Lennon was white

and found hanging

in a predominantly black neighborhood,

would there have been a rush

to determine that the cause of death was suicide?

What happens those first few hours at a scene of death

has extraordinary impact

on how we are able to ultimately find the truth.

They ought to be following the standards of law enforcement

in every case regardless of race, creed, class.

One standard of justice.

- Lawyers working on behalf of Lennon's family had information

which they believed was critical for our determination

which they did not want to give the SBI.

- It's very disappointing that

instead of actually conducting any investigation

that would've made any sort of forensic testing fruitful

and reliable,

this district attorney allowed rumors in the community

to become so rampant instead of searching for the truth.

- I should not have had to wait as long as I have

to get to the answers that I wanted.

To me, that makes me think there was something

that had to be fixed up, doctored up.

Tell me. Show it to me.

Your saying it means nothing to me if you cannot prove it.

I want to know,I deserve to know,

and I have the right to know.

That's all I've askedfrom day one.

[thunder rumbling, rain pattering]

[livestock chittering]

- "My mother was traumatized when her brother,

"Claude Neal, was lynched.

"She went through total hell,

"and she put us through total hell.

"She'd start talking about

"what the men did to her brother.

"She smoked Camels and drank moonshine.

"She'd kick her daughters

"and she'd make the kids read the 23rd psalm out loud

"while she drank and cried.

"She just couldn't take what happened.

"She would leave her five children with relatives

"and disappear for months-- sometimes years.

"She'd return out of guilt and whisk us off

"to some tiny house where she'd try to make a home.

"When she was sober, she was okay,

but she always slipped back into dark places."

- One of the most disturbing legacies of lynching

is generational trauma

within the black and white communities.

And yet, very different reactions

to the stories in the two different communities.

Both communities were covered in a shroud of silence:

blacks out of fear, whites out of shame, I think,

and fear also.

And that silence was never lifted,

and so people are acting out

in the context of that passed-on relationship,

and they don't know what's at the heart of it.

And there are all these institutions

that need to come clean about this history.

This is true of the legal community.

It's true of journalism. It's true across the board.

Communities for themselves have to come together

and talk about what they think would repair the harm.

But if, together, we face that history,

it leads to an opening for dialogue;

it leads to an opening for reconciliation.

- Now, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the last scene.

We will return to First African Baptist Church

for food and fellowship.

We have food waiting on you.

- The Moore's Ford Memorial Committee

was started September of 1997.

We have a load of people here for the reenactment,

but you can go around and count the ones

from Walton County that'd be there.

So this stigma does still touch people in a negative way.

[somber piano music]

Certain areas of Walton County,

you can go through these subdivisions,

and you look at the names of the streets,

and it matches the names

that the FBI report says are the suspects.

So it would really be important

if we could get justice brought

on this particular case.

If we get a break, you know, I'll make sure

I've got your phone number before you leave here,

and, you know, I'd be willing to call you

and let you know what's happening.

Hopefully, you know, we'll have closure

on this thing pretty soon.

[cheers and applause]

- Is Reverend Sammy still out here?

Tell him we want him to bring some words of closure, prayer,

and a message.

[pages flipping slowly]

[dignified vocalizations]

- ♪ Precious

♪ Memories - ♪ Precious memories

- ♪ How

♪ They linger

♪ Ah, how

♪ They ever - ♪ Burn

- ♪ Burn my soul

♪ In

♪ The stillness

♪ Of

♪ The midnight

♪ Precious

♪ Secret

♪ Scenes unfold

♪ Scenes unfold

♪ Ooh

- "The United States Attorney's Office

"announced today that, following its investigation

"into the death of Lennon Lacy,

"there is no evidence to pursue

"federal criminal civil rights charges.

"Officials from the Justice Department's

"civil rights division,

"the U.S. Attorney's Office

"with the Eastern District of North Carolina,

"and the Federal Bureau of Investigation met today

with Lennon Lacy's family to inform them of this decision."

[vocalizations continue]

- ♪ Under

- "The FBI assessment has confirmed

"my initial opinion

"that the investigation conducted

"by the State Bureau of Investigation

"and the Bladenboro Police Department was complete,

"thorough, and professional.

"I would like to take this opportunity to highlight

"the hard work and dedication of the SBI special agent

"who went above and beyond the call of duty

to see that justice was done in this matter."

- ♪ Precious

♪ Memories

- [exhales loudly]

- ♪ How

♪ They linger

- "After a careful and thorough review

"by a team of experts,

"the Justice Department found no evidence to suggest

"that Lennon's death was a homicide.

The investigation into the incident has been closed."

One page for 17 years

of a person's life.

- Although the federal authorities found

there was no evidence of foul play,

that's not conclusive that there was not foul play.

They're saying there was no evidence of foul play.

[somber music]

The biggest reason that we're never gonna be able

to know the truth

is law enforcement just did not do their job adequately.

It was a cursory investigation,

and they jumped to a conclusion,

and that was all she wrote.

- His friends, his neighbors,

the kids that he interacted with

looked at me with disbelief.

That's what made me push.

And I'm gonna continue until I get the answers

for them as well as for myself.

The more people know about it, that's my way of grieving.

The more they understand and hear his story,

that's my way of grieving.

♪♪

♪♪

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