Jonathan Garrett (jonathangarrett) wrote,
Jonathan Garrett


just learned today that Joseph Shoemaker, my great-great-grandfather's brother, was murdered by the KKK outside of Tampa in 1935. His crime was being a socialist and trying to organize an independent political party, the Modern Democrats, to take on Tampa's corrupt political machine. He and two others were kidnapped after being held by police, who were working in concert with the Klan. The kidnappers drove him outside of town. His right leg was held over fire. They tarred him, and beat him until he was partially paralyzed. He died nine days later. It was national news.

The Tampa chief of police was subsequently indicted as an accessory after the fact for covering up the department's involvement. Amazingly, several of the policemen were convicted, leading the American Civil Liberties Union to declare that it was "a victory for civil rights in Florida and the beginning of a new drive against the Ku Klux Klan." But the verdict was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial. During the retrial, the judge's actions were so suspect that the prosecutor requested that he be removed. The policemen were subsequently found not guilty.

This book chapter covers the story in some detail.
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