Black Nooses Hanging from the "White" Tree
By BILL QUIGLEY
n a small still mostly segregated section of rural Louisiana, an all white jury heard a series of
white witnesses called by a white prosecutor testify in a courtroom overseen by a white judge in a
trial of a fight at the local high school where a white student who had been making racial taunts
was hit by black students. The fight was the culmination of a series of racial incidents starting
when whites responded to black students sitting under the "white tree" at their school by hanging
three nooses from the tree. The white jury and white prosecutor and all white supporters of the
white victim were all on one side of the courtroom. The black defendant, 17 year old Mychal Bell,
and his supporters were on the other. The jury quickly convicted Mychal Bell of two felonies -
aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Bell, who was a 16 year old
sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, faces up to 22 years in prison. Five other
await similar trials on attempted second degree murder and conspiracy charges.
Yes, you read that correctly. The rest of the story, which is being reported across the world in
papers in China, France and England, is just as chilling.
The trouble started under "the white tree" in front of Jena High School. The "white tree" is where
the white students, 80% of the student body, would always sit during school breaks.
In September 2006, a black student at Jena high school asked permission from school
administrators to sit under the "white tree." School officials advised them to sit wherever they
wanted. They did.
The next day, three nooses, in the school colors, were hanging from the "white tree." The
message was clear. "Those nooses meant the KKK, they meant 'Niggers, we're going to kill you,
we're going to hang you till you die,'" Casteptla Bailey, mom of one of the students, told the
The Jena high school principal found that three white students were responsible and
recommended expulsion. The white superintendent of schools over-ruled the principal and gave
the students a three day suspension saying that the nooses were just a youthful stunt.
"Adolescents play pranks," the superintendent told the Chicago Tribune, "I don't think it was a
threat against anybody."
The African-American community was hurt and upset. "Hanging those nooses was a hate crime,
plain and simple," according to Tracy Bowens, mother of students at Jena High.
But blacks in this area of Louisiana have little political power. The ten person all-male government