The 'Last Lynching': How Far Have We Come?

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/95672737/95672733" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Last Lynching, a new film by Ted Koppel, examines lives deeply affected by acts of hatred and racism and investigates the last recorded lynching. Surprisingly, it took place in 1981. How far has the U.S. come since then, and how far do we still have to go?

'Last Lynching' Shows Racial Inequity, Advancement

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/95622632/95622626" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel, managing editor for the Discovery Channel, speaks during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour panel discussion January 13, 2006. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Veteran broadcast journalist Ted Koppel focuses on a 1981 lynching in Alabama to tell how acts of hatred and racism have affected the lives of three Americans:

Congressman Robert Filner who, as an 18-year-old Freedom Rider, was thrown into Mississippi's Parchman Prison (currently representing Calfornia's 51st congressional district); Florida school teacher Lizzie Jenkins who recalls tales of her grandfather watching the lynching of five African-Americans in 1916; and Congressman Artur Davis, who as a law student worked to hold the Ku Klux Klan accountable for the lynching (currently representing Alabama's 7th congressional district).

This year they each played a role in Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) becoming the first African-American tapped to be a national party's nominee for president.

"The Last Lynching offers a look at how far we've come on the racial front, and how recent some of the worst days of racial violence really were," said Koppel.

It's a story about how 19-year-old Michael Donald was killed in 1981 in Mobile, Ala., by two members of the Ku Klux Klan.

"Lynchings are a form of terrorism. And the particular purpose was to say to African-Americans that you will never vote or be a part of the political process in this country. And if you think you will move in that direction there will be terrible consequences," Koppel told Tell Me More host Michel Martin.

The one-hour special on race in America airs tonight on Discovery Channel.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from