Lynching Ethics: Toward a Theory of Racialized Defenses

So much depends upon a rope in Mobile, Alabama. To hang Michael Donald, Henry Hays and James “Tiger” Knowles tied up “a piece of nylon rope about twenty feet long, yellow nylon.” They borrowed the rope from Frank Cox, Hays’s brother-in-law. Cox “went out in the back” of his mother’s “boatshed, or something like that, maybe it was in the lodge.” He “got a rope,” climbed into the front seat of Hays’s Buick Wildcat, and handed it to Knowles sitting in the back seat. So much depends upon a noose. Knowles “made a hangman’s noose out of the rope,” thirteen loops in the knot, thirteen loops “around” Michael Donald’s neck, a “classic hangman’s noose.” A hangman’s noose “needs to be cut and burned right . . . so it won’t unravel.” Both ends of the rope must be “cut off and burned.” Tightly “pulled up” and left “swinging,” Michael Donald’s rope “burned into the bark.” So much depends upon a camphor tree. Hays and Knowles “went out . . . driving around looking for someone to kill.” In East Mobile, “over around David Avenue,” they “came on Michael Donald . . . kidnapped him and took him to Baldwin County and killed him, and brought him back to Herndon Avenue and hung him up” in a tree across the street from Hays’s home.