Letters to the Editor

An infamous event - Lacking logic - Church and state
February 19, 2007

>An infamous event

In light of Black History Month and the recent alleged Duke rape case, please allow me to share the story of the largest mass execution for rape in United States history. It is the story of the Martinsville Seven. 

In 1949, in Martinsville, Va., seven black men were arrested for the rape of a 32-year-old married white woman. Within 30 hours of this rape, all seven men had signed written confessions. Within 11 days, all seven were tried, convicted and sentenced to death by all white juries. Two of these men were tried at the same time. The youngest was only 17 years old at the time of arrest and the oldest 37, with a wife and five beautiful children. 

Two years later, in February of 1951, within a 72 hour period, eight black men were executed in Richmond, Va., seven of them for the rape of one white woman. They were the Martinsville Seven. The day before the youngest one died, he said: "God knows I didn't touch that woman and I'll see y'all on the other side." 

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Russia and China sent telegrams to the White House where President Harry Truman refused to grant clemency. Around the world, they became known as the Martinsville Seven, the largest mass execution for rape in U.S. history.

In the whole history of the United States, no white man has ever been executed for the rape of a black woman. Finally, in 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that rape could not be punishable by death. The Martinsville Seven case was instrumental in helping change the rape laws that govern this great nation.

One last thing: Every person I've ever interviewed in Martinsville, young and old alike, said that the victim was having an affair with one of the Seven. I have pictures of the Seven, and three could have passed for white. The true story of the Seven has never been told but as you can see, I'm doing my best to tell it.

And for the record, three of these men were Hairstons, relatives of mine, and I was born and raised in Martinsville. Thanks for listening.

Pamela A. Hairston

librarian and freelance writer

Lacking logic

Steven Petersen's letter to the editor, "A lazy excuse," displays more of the same flawed logic found in Andy Post's letter that sparked the debate over the smoking ban in the editorial page. Actually, calling Mr. Petersen's logic flawed would be unfair to the word flawed. Instead, Petersen displays no logic in his claims.

Petersen quotes a letter from Justin Kimmel that said it was the "responsibility of a workplace to provide a safe and healthy environment for its employees and consumers." Sadly, he did not finish reading Mr. Kimmel's letter, where he would have seen the main point that smoking is a rare consumable item that affects not just the person that is smoking, but also those around them.

Eating a greasy burger at a fast food joint does nothing to the cholesterol levels of the employee who took the order and put it in a bag or on a tray for the consumer to eat. Similarly, walking into said restaurant does not pose a threat to a consumer's health. Not until the food is actually consumed is there any damage to one's health. Petersen rightly claims, "More Americans die of heart disease each year from poor eating habits than from secondhand smoke." The lack of logic here is that people choose what they eat, they do not choose to inhale secondhand smoke.

Moving on to the points about New York's ban on iPods in crosswalks that were brought up, this law intends to protect citizens from the dangers posed to them by other careless citizens. New York already has a law banning cell phone use in a car unless a hands-free device is used. This is solely for the protection of others as several citizens have proven that they are not capable of being considerate enough of others to pay attention to what they are doing while they are talking on their phone. If people were able to prove they could take responsibility for their own actions, these laws would not be necessary. Sadly, that is not the case.

Bobby Kahn

University undergraduate

Church and state

George Washington said it best. The government of the United States is not in any way founded on the Christian religion.

Pat Robertson should know better with his considerable education. Falwell? James Dobson? Beverly LaHaye? Bah, humbug!

Why anybody gives these three people any air time is beyond me. Just throw them in the dumpster!

Every citizen of this country should fight any move toward a theocracy. Just glance at Muslim, Christian and other religious theocracies.

Peter Rosko

professor emeritus

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