According to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council, Israel has illegally controlled Gaza for many years. The Palestinian people live under what is effectively a military suppression in which Israel denies freedom of movement and self-determination to Palestinians. This situation is reminiscent of what American colonists faced from Great Britain before 1776 and what Native Americans faced from the United States. Resistance from the colonists and the Native Americans was called terrorism by the conquerors.
Whatever one may think of Hamas, that is, evil terrorists or patriotic resistance fighters, it is probably incorrect to believe they are stupid. They surely knew they could not defeat the fourth most powerful military, one with jets, tanks and nuclear weapons, with missiles, pick-up trucks and automatic weapons. In fact, the attack of October 7, 2023 lasted one day. So why do it?
Twelve hundred Israelis were killed but that led to 11,000 Palestinian deaths over a month and a half, so far, and the destruction of much of Gaza. Such a response was surely anticipated. The attack by Hamas appears to have been an irrational, nihilistic act of savagery, a hopeless self-destructive reaction to generations of suppression and denial of human rights.
All peoples, including Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to defend themselves and strike back at those who attack them. The defense should be specific to the attackers. For example, Custer may have had a legitimate mission of protecting settlers, but his massacre of Chief Black Kettle’s tribe at the Washita River in western Oklahoma on November 27, 1868 did not target renegade warriors but non-combatants. What Israel is doing in Gaza is illegal collective punishment, not revenge specifically against Hamas.
So, what to do? As with most solutions to difficult problems, first one should stop the behavior that is causing the damage. The United Nations, particularly the United States and Great Britain who were most responsible for creating and sustaining Israel, should enforce a ceasefire. Then massive amounts of human relief such as water, food, shelter and medical care, should be provided. A cooperative organization of international United Nations peacekeepers, investigators and courts should ferret out the members of Hamas responsible for October 7 and bring them to justice and determine and prosecute any war crimes committed by Israel.
A re-building of Gaza’s infrastructure should begin and a formal long-term goal of a true two-state solution should be instituted. In other words, first stop the bleeding then bandage the wounds then rehabilitate both Israel and Palestine with a view toward a real and permanent peace. Are these things immensely difficult, yes. Impossible, maybe. But what is the alternative? And after all, that was the guarantee when Israel was created out of Palestine on the basis of the Balfour Declaration in 1914:
“…[I]t being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …”
The Middle East is often called the Cradle of Civilization. Mesopotamia flourished between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers starting 4,000 years ago and Egypt became ascendant a thousand years earlier. During these 5,000 years there have been numerous cultures that have populated this region of Northern Africa and Middle Eastern Asia. Each of these peoples claims a part of this area of the earth as a homeland. This yearning by all involved and each’s legitimate historical claims have led to thousands of years of cooperation and conflict between and among these similar and related cultures.
If the worst war is a civil war, the Middle East has seen the yang and yin of almost inexplicable struggles countless times over countless years. The Palestinians and Jews are the latest peoples to yearn for the same geographical area of the Middle East. Each has a bona fide historical claim. And even though the two peoples are genetically and culturally first cousins whose common mythical progenitor was Abraham from the Land of Ur (Iraq), many in each group do not allow for the other group’s aspirations for a homeland. Further, because much of the rest of the world has intervened and interfered in this region, it is incumbent upon those interloping countries to act as honest brokers and facilitate a lasting peace with mutual freedom, security and prosperity for all Jews, Arabs and others in that region. Such an outcome is in everyone’s best interests.
The historical intricacies of the region are enhanced and aggravated by the interwoven religions that center upon this geographical area. The Torah of Judaism, the New Testament of Christianity and the Koran of Islam might lead an objective observer to believe each of these “People of the Book” would recognize and respect the adherents of the other faiths. However, countless often contradictory interpretations have been relied upon to justify and encourage actions that belie the egalitarian philosophies contained in these great writings. It makes one wonder if John Lennon’s call for ♪ No religion too ♪ in his anthem Imagine might have been prescient or even prophetic.
Our current crisis in the Middle East has its roots in the British Balfour Declaration of 1917 calling for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine that contained many Arabic peoplesand a small minority of Jews. The letter from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Lord Rothschild of the British Jewish community contained the following proviso:
“…[I]t being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”
Not surprisingly as the United States’ experience with generously giving Native American land to non-Indians should have cautioned, this grand plan to create a place for Jews was not well received by the inhabitants already living in Palestine.
Then in 1948 the United States under President Truman was the first country to recognize the state of Israel. The U.S. has been Israel’s most important supporter diplomatically, financially and militarily. Since Britain and America were most instrumental in the establishment of Israel in Palestine, they have the moral obligation to provide the impetus diplomatically, financially and militarily, to establish a homeland for the Palestinians Israel displaced. That homeland should include East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank as well as full and equal citizenship for all people, Jews and others, who reside in Israel.
It may turn out that the establishment of a free and independent state of Palestine will take as long and be as difficult as the establishment of Israel. But a reasonable place for the United States and Great Britain to start is the end of diplomatic, financial and military support to any entity that opposes such a truly permanent peace plan. And because the United States and Great Britain have spent great amounts of money and great efforts towards the economic, humanitarian and security needs of Israel since 1948, it is morally just that the United States and Great Britain implement a full-scale Marshall Plan for Palestine.
Peg and I saw the movie Killers of the Flower Moon Friday, October 20th. It exposes the numerous murders of Osage Native Americans one hundred years ago. The film rightly concentrates on the sins of the Killers and the victimization of the oil-wealthy Osages. I appreciate the light cast upon the deaths of the betrayed victims but, as one who was born and reared on the Osage Nation, I hope viewers realize the tribe were and are much more than victims.
As I watched director Martin Scorsese’s 280-million-dollar epic and paean to the Osage victims I thought of the Osage friends I grew up with in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s and to the Osages I live among today. On my desk is John Joseph Mathews’ book The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters and Charles H. Red Corn’s A Pipe for February. Mathews personally signed his book for my mother. Maria and Marjorie Tallchief were Osage prima ballerinas of world-wide fame. Osage artists and sculptors such as John Free are numerous and talented. For example, among Charles Red Corn’s relatives are well known painter Jim Red Corn and writer for the award-winning TV series Reservation Dogs, Ryan Red Corn.
The Osage Nation has always been patriotic and has contributed many military services people to our country, such as WWII General Clarence Leonard Tinker and my personal childhood friends, Ralph Joseph (Bud) Malone and his twin brothers Jerry and Gary. All three Malones were Osages who served in Viet Nam. Gary gave his life for his country, The United States of America, in 1966. Bud, Jerry, Gary and I played baseball and football together throughout our childhood. Bud was a fine infielder and running back. Another Osage friend of mine was Freddy Spotted Bear who pitched on our American Legion baseball team that was coached by my oldest brother, C.E. Redwine. I was Freddy’s catcher. My other brother, Attorney at Law Philip W. Redwine, for many years collaborated on legal projects involving Native American rights with Osage attorney Browning Pipestem who was called the Legal Warrior. Bud Malone’s daughter is also a practicing attorney.
I played with, went to school with and occasionally fought with numerous Osage friends. Today our family physician is Osage Matthew Cameron Rumsey. Dr. Rumsey’s uncle, Clinton Rumsey, and his grandfather, Mongrain (Mogri) Lookout, and I played football together at Pawhuska, Oklahoma High School. Mogri also helped develop the lexicon for the Osage language that was spoken by the actors in Killers. My and my sister’s and brothers’ long-time Sunday School teacher at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pawhuska was proud Osage Violet Willis
In other words, the movie is an important and relevant exposé of a great tragedy, The Reign of Terror, but I would not want the audience to be unaware of the many and varied positive contributions members of the Osage tribe have made to our society; they are legion. Osages, just as non-Osages, include competent, complex, heroic, flawed, interesting, valuable, talented and justifiably proud working members of the great tribe that is America. The Reign of Terror certainly must be acknowledged for the evil it was and I am grateful the movie does so and does it so well. However, the Osages as a culture, a tribe and full-blood citizens of The United States of America should be also recognized as triumphing over that great stain on our collective history.
Since 1990 when German born American Ilse nee Dorsch Horachek made me aware of the tragedy of 1878, my wife Peg and I have researched, spoken, written and helped produce a short movie about those events. And in our historical novel, JUDGE LYNCH!, that we published in 2008 we called for a public monument to the victims to be erected on the southeast corner of the Posey County Courthouse campus where the bones of Daniel Harrison, Sr. may still be buried. Our principal focus has always been the injustice done to the victims and the shameful failings of our legal system. Finally, thanks mainly to teenager Sophie Kloppenburg with input from numerous others a memorial marker to the victims was erected on the campus of the Posey County Circuit Courthouse October 23, 2022. Sophie also organized a one-year commemoration that was held October 21, 2023 and asked Peg and me to participate. The following is the eulogy to the victims that was published in Gavel Gamut after the monument was dedicated in 2022.
EULOGY FOR THE VICTIMS OF OCTOBER 1878
JUDGE JIM REDWINE
FIRST PUBLISHED THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 23, 2022
ACCORDING TO JOSEPH CAMPBELL, TO BE UNAWARE IS THE ULTIMATE SIN. FROM THE AUTUMN OF 1878 UNTIL TODAY, OCTOBER 23, 2022, IN SPITE OF NUMEROUS EFFORTS TO BRING THE CARNAGE TO LIGHT, MOST OF POSEY COUNTY, INDIANA STAYED WILLINGLY UNAWARE OF THE MEMORY OF THE SLAUGHTER OF DANIEL HARRISON, SR., THE BURNING ALIVE OF DANIEL HARRISON, JR., THE SHOOTING OF JOHN HARRISON, THE LYNCHING ON THE COURTHOUSE CAMPUS OF JIM GOOD, WILLIAM CHAMBERS, EDWARD WARNER AND JEFF HOPKINS AND THE POGROM THAT CAUSED ONE-HALF OF THE REMAINING NEGRO RESIDENTS OF POSEY COUNTY, INDIANA TO FLEE FOR THEIR LIVES.
THIS MEMORIAL RESTS WHERE LOCUST TREES ONCE BORE THE STRANGE BLACK FRUIT WITH ELONGATED TONGUES, BULGING EYES AND NUMEROUS BULLET HOLES FROM THE GUNS OF WHITE CITIZENS WHO USED THE BODIES FOR TARGET PRACTICE.
FINALLY, WE CAN DEDICATE CONCRETE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE WHITE CITIZENS’ ORCHESTRATED AND DISCIPLINED CAMPAIGN OF TERROR AGAINST THE BLACK COMMUNITY AND THE SHAMEFUL COWARDICE OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM AND THE NEWS MEDIA TO NOT ONLY CONDONE THE TERRORISM, BUT TO ACTIVELY HELP HIDE IT FROM HISTORY.
WE DO NOT CELEBRATE TODAY AND WE CANNOT ATONE FOR YESTERDAY. WE CAN, AND DO, ACKNOWLEDGE WRONGS LONG IGNORED AS WE GATHER ABOVE WHERE THE BONES OF DANIEL HARRISON, SR., MAY STILL LIE MOLDERING, AND WE CAN AND DO SAY TO ALL THOSE VICTIMS FROM OCTOBER, 1878, WE AS A COMMUNITY, FINALLY, ARE PUBLICLY AWARE.
This past Saturday, October 21, 2023 Posey County, Indiana held a vigil to honor the memories of Daniel Harrison, Sr., Daniel Harrison, Jr. John Harrison, Jim Good, William Chambers, Jeff Hopkins and Edward Warner, all Black men who were murdered the week of October 12, 1878. The vigil began at 10:00 am Saturday morning at the Alexandrian Public Library in Mt. Vernon and concluded at the courthouse square that evening. The commemoration was organized by Mt. Vernon teenager Sophie Kloppenburg and, much as the lynchings themselves, was a public event.
The underlying circumstances leading to the lynchings were set out on the front page of the October/November 1878 editions of Mt. Vernon’s Western Star newspaper. Owner and editor John Leffel was an eyewitness to the murders. The following account of the matter comes from editor Leffel and was first published in Gavel Gamut November 07, 2005:
“When ‘three white women living in a quiet and lonely part of Mt. Vernon’ claimed they had been raped by several African-American men on Monday, October 7, 1878, a Posey County Grand Jury quickly returned indictments against Daniel Harrison, Jr., John Harrison, Jim Good, Jeff Hopkins, Edward Warner, William Chambers, and Edward Hill.
On Tuesday, October 8, 1878, three white vigilantes took Daniel Harrison, Jr., from his father’s home and lynched him or threw him into the furnace of a railroad steam engine. On October 9, 1878, these same men returned to the Harrison home looking for John Harrison. They put a revolver to Daniel Harrison, Sr.’s, head and threatened to kill him. The men did not find John Harrison at the Harrison home, but did later dispose of him by putting his body into a hollow tree just east of Mt. Vernon.
Four white lawmen went to the Harrison home at 2:00 o’clock a.m., on Thursday, October 10, 1878, to arrest Edward Hill, who was rumored to be hiding at the Harrison home. At the time the lawmen arrived, Daniel Harrison, Sr., was home in bed, fully dressed and sleeping with a loaded shotgun due to the earlier instances at his home. During a melee at the home, Deputy Sheriff Cyrus O. Thomas was shot and killed, and Harrison, Sr., was charged with the shooting. Harrison, Sr., who had been shot during the melee, turned himself in that same October 10th morning. He was lodged in the Posey County Jail which was then located on the campus of our present courthouse.
Also, Jeff Hopkins, Jim Good, Edward Warner, and William Chambers had been taken into custody and were incarcerated with Daniel Harrison, Sr., in the Posey County Jail.
On the front page of Posey County’s Western Star newspaper edition of October 10, 1878, editors, John C. Leffel and S.D. McReynolds, stated:
“‘Jeff Hopkins, Jim Good, … and … other Negroes…forced an entrance into a house of ill-fame on First Street, Monday night, and raped the inmates there. …Jim Good is not as good as his name, this being the second time he has been guilty of this crime. …The girls raped were all white. A little hanging would do Jim Good a great deal of good.’”
Editor Leffel attended the jail break-in and the summary executions that took place two days after his article appeared. Much of the information in this article came from his accounts.
In the early morning hours of October 12, 1878, a mob broke into the jail, cut Daniel Harrison, Sr., into pieces and threw his body into the jail’s privy. Jim Good, Jeff Hopkins, Edward Warner, and William Chambers were dragged out of the jail and hanged from the locust trees ringing the courthouse. The four bodies were left hanging on the square until after the funeral of Cyrus O. Thomas, which took place the afternoon of October 12, 1878.
It was not unusual, especially in the south, for Negro lynch victims to be left hanging for an extended period of time as a “warning” to others who may have, also, “deserved hanging” but who had not been caught.
“By leaving the young men hanging on our public square all day, it would have been practically impossible for our law enforcement and judicial communities to be unaware of the lynchings.
However, even though the Posey County Prosecuting Attorney, the Judge and, in fact, most of Southern Indiana knew the men indicted for the rapes of the women and the murder of Officer Thomas had been killed in 1878, the legal system kept up a charade that the cases were going to be tried. Every term of court from 1878 to 1881, the cases were called, then “set over to the next term.”
During these three years, no action was taken against the people involved in the deaths of Daniel Harrison, Sr., Daniel Harrison, Jr., John Harrison, Jim Good, Jeff Hopkins, Edward Warner, and William Chambers. In 1881, the Prosecutor, without fanfare, dismissed the indictments against the dead rape defendants. I have not been able to determine the ultimate fate of Edward Hill [he may have escaped to Indian Territory].
This was not our legal system’s finest hour. Of course, injustice is not the sole province of days gone by. Today, “lynchings” are usually more procedural than literal and can involve letting the guilty go free as well as convicting the innocent. Or they may involve imposing Draconian or effete punishment instead of justice.”
As for now, the month of October has almost come and gone again and the spectres that have haunted my mind since first learning of these horrific events in 1990 are less demanding due to the erection of the memorial in 2022.
In October 2022 Posey County, Indiana finally erected a memorial to the murders of five Black men on the courthouse campus the evening of October 12, 1878 and two more Black men earlier that week. For years numerous persons called for such a monument but it took the hard work and dedication of a Mt. Vernon, Indiana teenager, Sophie Kloppenburg, to get it erected. A one-year commemoration ceremony has been organized by Ms. Kloppenburg for 21 October 2023. The public is invited.
Of the thousands of lynchings that have occurred in America over the years most have been the result of mob violence. A group of men, it was almost always white men fueled by prejudice and often alcohol, would rather spontaneously agree to “exact revenge” or “solve a problem” or some other ill-conceived motivation and proceed to use Judge Lynch instead of asking the legal system to address the situation with due process of law.
However, occasionally some of a community’s citizens would organize and carefully plan the murders and a coverup. That truly frightening situation is what occurred in Posey County, Indiana the autumn of 1878. As reported in the October 17, 1878 edition of the Western Star newspaper by owner and editor John Leffel who was an eyewitness to the events:
“Your reporter and one or two others privileged to enter the jail ran out into the beautiful Court House yard, shaded with heavy locusts. The night was clear, and a bright moon pouring its light down, made the scene ghostlike and impressive.
The crowd, consisting of two or three hundred, fell back across the street. For ten minutes it appeared to be a false alarm. But then was heard the steady tramp of two hundred feet, and a few minutes later fifty men entered the east gate and fifty men entered the north gate. The miserable guilty wretches on the inside began to pray and call on God to save them. But the one hundred men, the best of the county physically and probably in reputation, marched into the yard in files of two. Every man had on a long black mask, falling from forehead to chin, like the inquisition of old. All had changed their coats, some were turned inside out. Not a word was spoken until the leader demanded the keys to the jail.”
After the murders, Posey Circuit Court Judge William F. Parrett, Jr. convened a Grand Jury that returned a verdict that the seven Black men had been murdered by “a person or persons unknown.” Such a denial of justice defied credibility but was given lip service and silence by Posey County’s entire legal system as well as much of the populace.
While the actions of a disorganized mob would have certainly been awful, the well planned and disciplined murders and cover up bring to mind the terrifying evils of governmental power corrupted. When editor Leffel printed that JUDGE LYNCH had held court, the irony remains poignant. To judge in a court of law is everything a lynching is not. It is an oxymoron that the events of October 1878 and judging were juxtaposed.
However, thanks to the memorial marker that now stands where the locust trees upon which four of the seven murdered Black men were lynched, at least the great injustice is now publicly recognized.