August 5, 2014

Before Freedom Summer,’ A Wave Of Violence Largely Forgotten

My latest from the NPR CodeSwitch blog—about the little-known 1964 racial shooting of Richard Joe Butler, who survived to tell the tale.

Butler is 75 today, and the shooting left him with injuries that have dogged him for a half-century. I never will forget that morning,” Butler told me in a telephone interview from his Riverside, Calif., home. I was shot four times with shotguns. … I’ve got one piece of lung and one lung. I can only stand up for a little while. I have to go sit down. If I don’t, I fall.”

But there are psychic scars from the attack, too. He said he still looks over his shoulder in fear of random violence 50 years later, and says he doesn’t go anywhere, including the bathroom, without a gun. If I sit out on the stoop, this is right where I can reach and get it. It’s been that way for … years,” Butler said. I’m gonna protect me.”

I hadn’t even voted then,” Butler told me. At that time, you wasn’t allowed to vote. You didn’t do nothing but work.”

Read the whole story.

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