NPR logo The Last Lynching

The Last Lynching

Lynching, true lynching of the heinous, rope-and-tree variety, sounds like something that only happened long ago. But, in fact, it's happened in my lifetime, to a young man named Michael Donald. In 1981, at an informal Ku Klux Klan meeting, James "Tiger" Knowles became preoccupied with a question: "Wonder what people would think if they found a n—-er hanging in Mobile?" Two nights later, he and Henry Hays came across Michael Donald walking down the street, pulled over, and asked him for directions. They put a pistol in his face, made him get in the car, drove him to the woods, put a noose around his neck, and killed him. Then they took his body back to Mobile and hung his body from a tree for all to see. Ted Koppel spoke with Tiger Knowles and others about the crime, digging into America's ugly history of race relations. It's so horrifying, and so recent, that one can't help but wonder what's happened to the message behind lynchings... At a time when a black man is just one election away from the White House, is the hate and fear that built the Klan really gone, in the past? Is it something you still think about, still worry about?