Today in Black History

May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998 James Byrd, Jr.

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act


Former President Barack Obama greets Louvon Harris, left, Betty Byrd Boatner, right, both sisters of James Byrd, Jr., and Judy Shepard, center, mother of Matthew Shepard, following his remarks at a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 28, 2009

James Byrd, Jr. was an African American man who was brutally killed by three men of which two were confirmed to be white supremacists in Jasper, Texas on June 7, 1998.  Bryd was dragged behind a pick-up truck for three miles on an asphalt road.  During the unthinkable ordeal, one of Byrd’s arms and his head were cut off.   Byrd was conscious most of the time while being dragged behind the truck.  His torso was dropped off at a African American cemetery by the men. 

All three men, Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John King were convicted of murder.  Brewer and King were sentenced to the death penalty and Berry to life in prison.  In 2011, Brewer was executed by lethal injection.  This hate crime led to the passage on October 22, 2009 of the Federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  President Obama signed the it into law in 2009.

More Events On This Day

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Jordanian-born Iraqi militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—the self-styled leader in Iraq of the Islamic militant group al-Qaeda, thought by many to have been the mastermind behind numerous terrorist acts—was killed in a U.S. military air strike.
Graceland—Elvis Presley's home in Memphis, Tennessee, where he died in 1977—was opened for public tours and became one of the top tourist attractions in the United States.
Martin Haase
E.M. Forster
English novelist, essayist, and social and literary critic E.M. Forster, whose acclaimed novels included Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924), died in Coventry, Warwickshire, England.
BBC Hulton Picture Library
Gwendolyn Brooks
Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, whose work depicted the everyday life of urban African Americans and who was the first African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize (1949), was born.
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Authored by Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, the Reform Act of 1832 came into effect—the first of the British parliamentary bills that expanded the electorate for the House of Commons and rationalized the representation of that body.
Sir Martin Frobisher
English navigator Martin Frobisher, seeking a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean, departed England, and weeks later he reached Labrador and Baffin Island and discovered the bay that now bears his name.
The New York Public Library Digital Collection (EM14618)
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France and their entourages gathered at the Field of the Cloth of Gold near Calais, France.
Treaty of Tordesillas
The Treaty of Tordesillas—an agreement between Spain and Portugal aimed at settling conflicts over lands newly discovered or explored by Christopher Columbus and other late 15th-century voyagers—was signed.

Umojami Native

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