Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Anthony Ray Hinton Released

Anthony Ray Hinton released

“They took off the white robe and put on a black robe.”

Released April 3, 2015
Anthony Ray Hinton released
Bryan Stevenson, Anthony Ray Hinton
Anthony Ray Hinton released


An Alabama jury convicted 29-year-old Anthony Ray Hinton of murdering two  fast-food managers in separate incidents in 1985.

The evidence was weak and his defense weaker. The only evidence linking Hinton to the crimes were bullets that allegedly had markings matching a revolver that belonged to Hinton’s mother. There were no fingerprints or eyewitness testimony. After Hinton was convicted, subsequent tests found the bullets at the scene could not be matched to the gun he was accused of using.

Anthony Ray Hinton released

Death Penalty

But Alabama sentenced him to die. In 2003, a New York Times article wrote, “There are reasons beyond the firearms evidence to doubt Mr. Hinton’s guilt. He was at work, several people testified, when the third shooting happened. The car he was said to have driven on the night of the third shooting had been repossessed months before. The restaurant robberies continued after his arrest.” 

Hinton’s court-appointed lawyer had spent only $1000 on an expert witness (despite the fact that Alabama law provides reimbursement for any reasonable defense expenses.) whose testimony was so weak he could not answer basic questions. 

Equal Justice Initiative

On February 24, 2014, through the efforts of the Equal Justice Initiative group, the US Supreme Court declared that “the criminal (Hinton) defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel is violated if his trial attorney’s performance falls below an objective standard or reasonableness and if there is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different.” (full text of Supreme Court decision)

According to the EJI site, “The Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.”

The site also states that, “3170 people in the United States currently are under a death sentence. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 1314 men, women, children, and mentally ill people have been shot, hanged, asphyxiated, lethally injected, and electrocuted by States and the federal government.”


Anthony Ray Hinton greets family and friends upon his release (Credit Bob Miller for The New York Times)

On April 3, 2015, Anthony Ray Hinton  was freed after EJI and its experts undermined the Alabama’s case.

Anthony Ray Hinton released

ABC News report

Post release

Since his release, Hinton has spoken in various venues about the injustices of the Alabama judicial system and other issues related to his conviction and imprisonment. He completed a memoir entitled The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (2018), and has given readings and talks around the country about the book and his experiences.

Anthony Ray Hinton released

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

1964 Freedom Summer Riders


On March 20, 1964 the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC–“snick”] announced the “Freedom Summer” program that would train young people to go to Mississippi and help disenfranchised Blacks register to vote.

In 1962, less than 7% of eligible Black voters in Mississippi were registered to vote due to the many blatantly racist laws and customs that States had put into place and the Federal government had allowed.

It had only been on January 23, 1964, thirteen years after its proposal and nearly 2 years after its passage by the US Senate, that the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting the use of poll taxes in national elections, was ratified. The huge gap was that the amendment applied to national, not local, elections.

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

Civil Rights bill

A Civil Rights bill languished in Congress due to an 83-day filibuster by southern Senators until June 10, 1964 when  the Senate voted to limit further debate. On June 19 the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approved. Voting for the bill were 46 Democrats and 27 Republicans. Voting against it were 21 Democrats and six Republicans. Except for Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, all the Democratic votes against the bill came from Southerners. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona voted against the bill, as he said he would. The five other Republicans opposing it all supported  Goldwater’s candidacy for the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination.

Andrew Goodman

The next day, June 20, 1964, the  first “Freedom Summer” volunteers arrived in Mississippi. Andrew “Andy” Goodman, 20, from New York City, was one of them. The next morning he sent a postcard home:

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

Freedom Summer

That same day, Andrew along with James E. Chaney, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24, went to investigate the burning of a black church.

Police arrested the three on speeding charges, incarcerated them for several hours, and then released them after dark into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.

Two days later, the station wagon Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner were driving was found. Burned.

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

Other threats

Meanwhile, on June 24  thirty Freedom Summer workers from Greenville, Miss. made the first effort to register black voters in Drew, Miss., and local whites resisted with open hostility. Whites circled the workers in cars and trucks, some equipped with gun racks, making violent threats. One white man stopped his car and said, “I’ve got something here for you,” flaunting his gun.

Despite an intensive search, the bodies of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner were not found until August 4.

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

Freedom Schools

The Freedom Summer workers established 41 Freedom Schools attended by more than 3,000 young black students throughout the state. In addition to math, reading, and other traditional courses, students were also taught black history, the philosophy of the civil rights movement, and leadership skills that provided them with the intellectual and practical tools to carry on the struggle after the summer volunteers departed.

But, voter registration was the cornerstone of the summer project. Although approximately 17,000 black residents of Mississippi attempted to register to vote in the summer of 1964, only 1,600 of the completed applications were accepted by local registrars.

1964 Freedom Summer Riders


Three years later, on October 20, 1967 an all-white jury convicted seven conspirators related to the murders of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, including a deputy sheriff. The jury acquitted eight others. It was the first time a white jury had convicted a white official of civil rights killings. For three men, including Edgar Rice Killen, the trial ended in a hung jury, with the jurors deadlocked 11–1 in favor of conviction. The lone holdout said that she could not convict a preacher. The prosecution decided not to retry Killen and he was released.

None of the men found guilty would serve more than six years in prison.

See KKK Murders for expanded story of the Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner killings.

1964 Freedom Summer Riders

Change Is Gonna Come

Change Is Gonna Come

Released December 22, 1964


No Change

In October 1963 Sam Cooke was touring Louisiana. He had made reservations at a Shreveport Holiday Inn, but when he, his wife, brother, and another arrived, hotel personnel told them that there were no vacancies. 

Cooke argued to no avail and left angrily. When they arrived at their next hotel, police arrested them for disturbing the peace. 

With the rebirth of the civil rights movement, Black entertainers faced a difficult decision: make a living by catering to the tastes of the majority white audience, most of whom weren’t thrilled with black activism, or musically/philosophically join the civil rights struggle and risk their livelihood.

Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” surprised Cooke. How could a white person write such a moving song? Cooke began to use the song in his shows.

Change Is Gonna Come

His own change

And Cooke also decided to write his own.


By December 1963 he’d written “A Change is Gonna Come.” In February he performed it live on the Johnny Carson Show (no video available), but had not yet recorded it. Two days after Cooke’s performance on the Tonight Show, the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan.

Change Is Gonna Come

RCA holds off

Cooke did not record “A Change is Gonna Come” until November 1964 and RCA did not release it until December.

Sadly, Cooke had died eleven days before on December 11, 1964. (NYT article)


Change Is Gonna Come


It became one of the civil rights movement’s anthems and dozens of artists have since covered the song.

In 2005, representatives of the music industry and press voted the song number 12 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Cooke’s style and spirit continue to inspire many of today’s young artists. The New York Times Magazine recently described Leon Bridges as “The Second Coming of Sam Cooke.” (NYT article)

Change Is Gonna Come