On March 28, 1958, a 22-year-old Black man named Jeremiah Reeves was executed by the state of Alabama after being convicted of the SA of a white woman.
This is the Legal Lynching of Jeremiah Reeves
In July 1951, Jeremiah, who was a 16-year-old high school student at the time, and Mabel Ann Crowder, a white woman, were discovered having sex in her home. Ms. Crowder claimed she had been raped by Jeremiah and he was immediately arrested and taken to Kilby Prison for “questioning.” At the prison, he was threatened and strapped to the electric chair, if he did not admit to the many rapes of white women reported that summer. Terrified, Jeremiah confessed to the charges, but quickly recanted and maintained his innocence. Despite this, he was found guilty by an all-white jury after a two-day trial and sentenced to death, the jury taking less than 30 minutes to reach their verdict.
The local Black community were aware of the ongoing, consensual affair between Jeremiah Reeves and Mabel Crowder. Soon the Montgomery NAACP became involved and helped attract the attention to the case, they were able to win reversal of Jeremiah’s conviction on December 6, 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Reeves' conviction, citing the trial judge's wrong decision to prevent the jury from hearing evidence of the torture police had used to get his confession.
Jeremiah’s case became a flashpoint for Montgomery’s early civil rights movement. Claudette Colvin, who was arrested at 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a Birmingham bus in March 1955, was inspired to take that protests in support for Jeremiah, who was her friend and schoolmate. Rosa Parks also exchanged letters with Jeremiah while he was jailed and helped him to get his poetry published in the Birmingham World.
During the second trial in June 1955, Jeremiah was again convicted and sentenced to death. This time, all appeals were denied. Jeremiah had spent much of his time in prison writing poetry, and he willed his final poem to his mother. He stayed on death row until 1958, when he reached the minimum age for execution.
At 12:13 a.m. on March 28, 1958, 22-year-old Jeremiah Reeves died in the electric chair.
On Easter Sunday, nine days after the execution, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of 2,000 in front of the Alabama Capitol. The issue, King said, was not Reeves' guilt or innocence.
"It is the severity and inequality of the penalty that constitutes the injustice," he continued "It is ultimately a moral issue. It is a question of the dignity of man. Truth may be crucified and justice buried, but one day they will rise again. We must live and face death if necessary with that hope."