March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan
There are few of us who haven't seen this iconic photo of young folksingers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performing
at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
on Aug. 28, 1963.
What isn't often remembered is that on the very same day of the march, in the neighboring state of Maryland, a judge handed down a six month sentence and a fine of $500 to William Devereux "Billy" Zantzinger for causing the death of Hattie Carroll.
Dylan would see the small newstory, write and record "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."
The main incident of the song took place in the early hours of February 9, 1963, at the white tie Spinsters' Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Using a toy cane, Zantzinger drunkenly assaulted at least three of the Emerson Hotel workers: a bellboy, a waitress, and—at about 1:30 in the morning of the 9th—Carroll, a barmaid. In addition to her work at the hotel, Hattie Carroll, at 51, was the mother of 11 children (the song says "ten") and president of a black social club.
Already drunk before he got to the Emerson Hotel that night, Zantzinger, 24 years old and 6′2″, had assaulted employees at Eager House, a prestigious Baltimore restaurant, with the same cane. The cane was a 25-cent toy. At the Spinsters' Ball, he called a 30-year-old waitress a "nigger" and hit her with the cane; she fled the room in tears. Moments later, after ordering a bourbon that Carroll didn't bring immediately, Zantzinger cursed at her, called her a "nigger" also, then "you black son of a bitch," and struck her on the shoulder and across the head with the cane. In the words of the court notes: "He asked for a drink and called her 'a black bitch', and 'black s.o.b'. She replied, 'Just a moment' and started to prepare his drink. After a delay of perhaps a minute, he complained about her being slow and struck her a hard blow on her shoulder about half-way between the point of her shoulder and her neck." She handed him his drink. After striking Carroll, he attacked his own wife, knocking her to the ground and hitting her with his shoe.
Very soon, within five minutes from the time of the blow, Carroll leaned heavily against the barmaid next to her and complained of feeling ill. Carroll told co-workers, "I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so." The barmaid and another helped her to the kitchen. Her arm became numb, her speech thick. She collapsed and was hospitalized. Hattie Carroll died eight hours after the assault. Her autopsy showed hardened arteries, an enlarged heart, and high blood pressure. A spinal tap confirmed brain hemorrhage as the cause of death. She died in Mercy Hospital at 9 a.m. on February 9, 1963. Zantzinger was initially charged with murder. His defense was that he had been extremely drunk, and he admitted to having no memory of the attack. His charge was reduced to manslaughter and assault, based on the likelihood that it was her stress reaction to his verbal and physical abuse that led to the intracranial bleeding, rather than blunt-force trauma from the blow that left no lasting mark. On August 28, Zantzinger was convicted of both charges and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
Follow me below the fold.
Here is a clip of Dylan interviewed by Steve Allen, followed by the song. The refrain in the song's lyrics:
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears
I've been following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin for "walking while black" since it occurred, and the media campaign of George Zimmerman's defense attorneys and his family members—father and brother—both named Robert Zimmerman (Sr. and Jr.). It wasn't until recently that it struck me why the name "Robert Zimmerman" rang a bell, not related to this case. I often forget that Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman.
One Robert Zimmerman (Dylan) will be remembered for writing and performing songs pointing out racism and injustice in U.S. society, while the other (Zimmerman Sr.) has just penned what can only be described as a racist screed blaming black people and black organizations for his son's "persecution" and calling them "racists." In tandem, Robert Zimmerman Jr has been making the media rounds and sent out racist tweets.
I shed no tears for George Zimmerman, and can only state that the apple hasn't fallen far from a racist Zimmerman tree when watching his father.
Let's examine Robert Zimmerman Sr's list, as reported by ThinkProgress. I am not going to buy a copy of his rant so I'll just have to trust their quotes.
The most striking chapter is called “Who Are The True Racists,” an apparent effort to rebut claims that his son’s actions were racially motivated. Previously, Zimmerman Sr. “believed generally racism was a thing of the past.” He says that, personally, he hadn’t encountered much racism, even though his wife is Hispanic. But after his son shot and killed Trayvon Martin, however, Zimmerman learned that racism is “flourishing at the insistence of some in the African American Community.” He then goes on to list various black leaders and organizations that he believes are racist:
Congressional Black Caucus. “[A] pathetic, self-serving group of racists… advancing their purely racist agenda.” He later adds that “all members of Congress should be ashamed of the Congressional Black Caucus, as should be their constituents.” And finally: “They are truly a disgrace to all Americans.”
The NAACP. “[S]imply promotes racism and hatred for their own, primarily finical, interests” and “without prejudice and racial divide, the NAACP would simply cease to exist.”
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “[W]hat I would expect of a racist.”
Trayvon Martin’s funeral director. A “racial activist and former head of the local NAACP.”
Benjamin Crump, Natialie Jackson and Darrly Parks, attorneys for Travyon Martin’s family. “The scheme team.”
The National Basketball Players Association.
Black Chamber of Commerce.
National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers.
National Black United Fund.
United Negro College Fund.
From Robert Zimmerman's perspective, his son shoots and kills an unarmed young black man, and when there is an outcry, those who have something to say about it are racists. Too often the response to racism is to label those who address it as racists.
If his list wasn't so blatantly bigoted, I might even laugh. Except this isn't funny, and looking at racist reviewer comments at Amazon.com where he is selling the e-book makes it even more disgusting.
The tin-foil list at first glance doesn't contain any references to anyone other than blacks. Except when you think about it "the NBA" has players other than blacks, and as a player's union was founded by Bob Cousy. The NAACP has always had white members and was founded by blacks and whites.
The NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909 by a diverse group composed of W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Henry Moskowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling (the last son of a former slave-holding family), Florence Kelley, a social reformer and friend of Du Bois, and Charles Edward Russell, a renowned muckraker and close friend of Walling who helped plan the NAACP and served as acting chairman of the National Negro Committee (1909), a forerunner to the NAACP.
Obviously, from Zimmerman Sr.'s perspective only black people push back against the racism that is embedded in the foundations of this society.
But wait. That "other" Zimmerman (Bobby) isn't black.
As the news just announced a jury selected for the Zimmerman trial without a single black person on the panel, my thoughts move again to another song by Dylan/Zimmerman, on the murder of Emmett Till and subsequent trial
And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind
I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin’ down the courthouse stairs
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free
While Emmett’s body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea
Bob Dylan's lyrical power has influenced a host of other songwriters and his body of work will be remembered long after he leaves this mortal plane.
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, last year by President Obama, Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman will hold a place in our hearts and history.
One young singer has taken the melody and lyrics of Dylan's Hattie Carroll tune and revised it to "The Lonesome Death of Trayvon Martin."
Robert Zimmerman Sr. will be remembered for fathering a son who took the life of someone else's son. And for blaming the victim for being black.