The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Noose Provocateur’s Hometown Celebrated White Supremacy

By Mark Potok on April 24, 2008 - 8:14 am, Posted in Anti-Black, Extremist Crime, Hate Crime

A lawyer for the teenager who set off the largest rash of racist noose incidents this country has seen in recent decades says his client will plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor Friday. Jeremiah Munsen, 19, faced up to 11 years for conspiring to intimidate a black crowd returning from a huge anti-racist demonstration last fall in Jena, La., but now will receive no more than a year, said attorney Bill Guin. Some 20,000 people had rallied in Jena earlier that Sept. 20 to protest allegedly disparate criminal treatment accorded black and white students at a local high school.

Not much is known publicly about Munsen, other than the prosecutor’s description of his willingness to use a symbol (see photo) that “physically portended physical violence.” However, some little-known facts about his hometown may offer a clue.

Jeremiah Munsen comes from Colfax, La., a town of some 1,700 people about 40 miles southwest of Jena. Colfax is the site of the Easter Sunday 1873 massacre of 150 members of an all-black militia defending the town’s courthouse against an assault by rampaging white supremacists. To this day, the town appears utterly unrepentant about its role in the bloodshed that portended the end of Radical Reconstruction and the imposition of racist Jim Crow laws across the South. A historical marker in Colfax, put up by the state Department of Commerce and Industry in 1951, calls the massacre “The Colfax Riot” and says it “marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.” Even more striking, there also still remains an obelisk monument erected in Colfax in “loving remembrance” of the three white men who died, as the monument boasts without further elaboration or shame, “fighting for white supremacy.”

Authorities say Munsen convinced a younger acquaintance to help him prepare several hangman’s nooses and then drive to Alexandria, near Jena, where hundreds of mostly black, out-of-state demonstrators had gone to catch buses home. The pair hung nooses from the back of Munsen’s pickup truck and repeatedly drove by the crowd as part of an explicit plan to intimidate people. In the months that followed that provocation, some 75 noose incidents were reported around the nation, most apparently copycat incidents expressing hatred of black Americans. The incidents, in workplaces, schools and other venues, received international media attention.

The horrific story of Colfax’s courthouse slaughter — and the town’s remaining monuments to white supremacy — is told in an excellent book published earlier this year by Oxford University Press. Written by LeeAnna Keith, the book’s title, The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, & the Death of Reconstruction, pretty much tells it all.

  • Cathy

    Poor Patrick must not get out much. There are many of us out here – and we love Blacks and Jews and Gays and whoever else you hate – because, Patrick – the world is changing.
    And the reason you don’t hear differing opinions is that most people don’t bother trying to explain anything to a bigot – seems like a waste of breath, don’t you think? Besides, the good ones are mostly quiet – they don’t care to call attention to themselves – they’re busy out there working to make the world a better place. They’re not out grandstanding and talking trash about others.
    Well, I wish you luck. Normally, I don’t bother answering anyone who I think has a closed mind – but your comment seemed so ill-informed, I couldn’t let it go.
    Hopefully, some day, you’ll see that your hatred poisons only one person – you – it’ll flat out destroy you mentally, emotionally and physically. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Patrick

    Nobody takes this ridiculous organization (splc) seriously anyway. The only people who are writing favorable comments about the splc are the people working for it. Everybody knows they are a joke.

  • Jimmy Blood

    Mary M.
    You hit the nail on the head on this one.
    Well said.

    Freedom of expression does not mean you can tag swastikas and racial slurs on someone elses private property.
    That’s called Vandalism and its punishable to the full extent of the law. And since the Hate Crimes Bill was passed. It can also be applied to their criminal act in which the punishment can be harsher with longer sentences.

    Noose hangings is a Hate Crime.

    We must enforce the Hate Crimes Laws vigorsiouly.

  • Mary M

    To comments: when did black people drag white people out of bed, gouge out 14 year old’s eyes, tie people to railroad tracks, hang them, bomb churches killing children and so no?

    The Jena teens were not proven in court to have “savagely beat up” one guy. At least two of those charged had adult witnesses that could tesitfy they got to the fight after it was broken up. Justin Barker’s taunting of Robert Baily of getting beat up by whites, was what caused the fight.

    The whites were not facing “23 to 100 years in jail”. That is what the protest was about~double standards of justice.

    Not too long ago a black man was tied to the back of a truck and dragged around town. That is what hate crimes are. Justin Barker is the hater, much like the young man that purposely rode around town with the nooses. Like Barker he was taunting people hoping to incite violence.

    Freedom of speech was written into the constitution to ensure citizens could redress government for grievances without fear of penalty under the law. It says nothing about displaying nooses to threatening lynchings.

    Speech is not nooses, or burning crosses.

  • James T. Smith

    Lisel, how’s that double standard working out for you?

    Since we are playing group guilt by association, and dredging up the wrongs of the past, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that to this day, Jews appear utterly unrepentant about their role in the bloodshed unleashed in the USSR.

  • Liesl

    “Jews remain utterly unrepentant about their role in running Soviet gulags.”

    Oh my god, y’all crack me up! You’re like puppies who see shiny things they can grab at whenever a light flashes on the wall. We could be talking about pain chips and you’d find a way to bring your hateful rhetoric against Jews into it. How’s all that hate working out for you?

  • James T. Smith

    Jews remain utterly unrepentant about their role in running Soviet gulags.

  • Liesl

    This last comment? excellent example of racism being equated with the uneducated.

  • http://aol david dawe

    what i think is we have a right to beleave are race,and why not stick together,we as whites need to know that we will be the strong,but we must know are race and stick together,see my beleaf is blacks do one right thing they stick together and suport there race,we need that and men and women of are white race will know why its good to stick with your beleafs and let the whites have rights to and not because of hate or beleafe,because of strong white fokes..

  • Liesl

    In this case, we are invited to make judgments about a person’s soul based upon the history of his home town.

    It is also, in this case, an “appeal to emotion”… another fallacious tactic.

    Not really. You don’t find monuments supporting “white supremacy” in New York or San Francisco. Instead, you find other cultural issues that can and do cause divisive, hateful rhetoric and action. In either case they are contextual and our understanding of them is partially informed by the understanding of what it means to live in a place that professes to support certain ideas. It isn’t an excuse or justification, but it certainly sheds some light on how it was even possible for this kind of ignorance to be fostered in someone so young. To deny that environment plays a role in the way we think is simply foolish.

    The appeal to emotion fallacy doesn’t work in this case, either. No one is asking you (general you) to put aside logic for emotion, nor are they asking for something that is not practically expedient. If the post had read, “Munsen’s home town was the site of a race riot in 1873,” without any other information, you could make the guilt by association and appeal to emotion claims. However, the fact that a monument to “white supremacy” still stands in the town 135 years after the incident and 40 years after the symbolic “end” of the civil rights movement is certainly enough information to supply the missing logical steps.

  • Undercover Black Man

    Regarding “Guilt by Association”, the boy’s guilt is not in question here…

    Cathy, I’m not talking about the boy’s criminal guilt.

    “Guilt by association” is the technical term for a logical fallacy. In this case, we are invited to make judgments about a person’s soul based upon the history of his home town.

    It is also, in this case, an “appeal to emotion”… another fallacious tactic.

  • Jimmy Blood

    I firmly believe that monument dipicting the 3 hooligans as something to be celebrated about is worthy enough to be taken down as did with Sadam Hussein`s statue during the fall of his tyranny in Iraq.
    The boy is ignorant plain and simple, and deserves whatever punishment that meets the standards of a hate crime law. I’m not a Black man but noose hangings is certainly a hate crime, even though justice in small towns like Colfax is almost always non-existant, where they favor Whites over non-Whites. That stupid boy will be back at it once its over with.

  • Alabama Conservative Citizen

    Hey Mark, why aren’t you outraged that those thousands of mostly Blacks were marching against justice for six Black kids who savagely beat up one innocent White? Those people were screaming, “free the Jena Six,” not “offer the Jena Six a plea bargain” or “charge the Jena Six as juveniles.” Good job standing against hatred, making martyrs out of thugs! Heaven knows Whitey’s is collectively to blame for everything, and needs to be victimized until your “New America” comes to be.

  • JustaDog

    Jeremiah Munsen was a drunken idiot charged by a racist government with a “hate crime”. This stupid person did no violence, yet his free speech rights were a crime.

    If Mr. Munsen were a black man doing the exact same actions he would have not been charged with a hate crime.

    Also, the “Jena 6″, black teens that brutally beat up a white teen, were never charged with a hate crime. If they had been white teens beating up on a black teen you can bet they would have been charged with a “hate crime”.

    Progressives (liberals) have perverted out country into a racist hate-filled environment. They use the arm of government to pick and choose their definitions of what is hate and who should be guilty of “hate”.

    So much for such constitutional concepts like free speech, freedom of expression, blind justice, and equality.

  • Cathy

    Regarding “Guilt by Association”, the boy’s guilt is not in question here – that has been established. What is now in question is how this young man could have come to the point where he believed that his actions could possibly be okay.

    Society shows what it values and what is acceptable by its monuments to history, and also by what it does not say or do. There apparently need to be adjustments in the messages this town gives to its youth, and, to actively increase the socially expected level of tolerance and compassion towards those who are different from them.

  • Brian

    I think that, rather than applying the “guilt by association” label to Munsen, the benefit in mentioning the Colfax Massacre is that it provides some context for the environment in which these people get their radical ideas.
    That’s just what I thought.

  • Liesl

    I don’t know what’s more horrifying to me: the fact that there is still a monument to slaughter and ignorance or the fact that I didn’t even know about the original incident.

    Thanks for another eye opening post.

  • Undercover Black Man

    Umm… so we can learn something about the soul of a man by the history of his home town?

    Isn’t that known as the “guilt by association” fallacy?

    The Colfax Massacre — like many other race riots — is a fascinating page of American history.

    But to present it in the context of “offer[ing] a clue” about the personality of 19-year-old Munsen is rather dodgy.