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Encore Presentation - The Noose: An American Nightmare

Aired November 3, 2007 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CNN Special Investigations Unit, "The Noose: An American Nightmare."
Kyra Phillips reporting.


ANNOUNCER: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was the depths of the Great Depression, this, the face of innocence, in a killing field.

Rubin Stacy, a homeless black tenant farmer, was taken from police custody by 100 masked men. Hands cuffed, he was hanged from a tree, then riddled with bullets. Rubin Stacy's crime? Scaring a white woman, Mrs. Marion Jones. And, for this, the angry mop lynched him next to Mrs. Jones' home, where he had gone seeking nothing more than food.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: That was July 19, 1935. Thankfully, times have changed. But changed how much?

This fall, I spent several weeks in Jena Louisiana, a small town that was minding its own business, until it suddenly became a reluctant symbol for the racial ills still plaguing our nation.

It started when three white teenagers hung nooses from a tree on the Jena High School campus. It was a small, but ugly episode, with enormous consequences. The following months saw fights between blacks and whites. And finally a group of black teens stomped a white boy into unconsciousness.

The stiff charges brought against one of those black kids made Jena a potent symbol of racial division. You can debate the issues of Jena Six, but there's no denying the power of the hangman's noose.

In this hour, a look at ugly reality underlying this symbol. The pictures and stories you will see will make you uncomfortable. It may not be appropriate for your children, but we believe that it's important that you, our viewers, understand the horrific history of the noose in America.

Perhaps some people who think it's funny to hang a noose will change their minds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIPS (voice-over): Just hours after 20,000 protesters marched against what they saw as racial injustice in Jena, police in nearby Alexandria stopped two teenagers in this red pickup truck. Hanging from the back, two yellow nylon ropes -- each with a hangman's noose.

In quick succession, more incidents. At the beginning of October, two kids hung a noose at a South Carolina high school. And five days later, a noose was found on the door of a black professor's office at New York's Columbia University.

MADONNA CONSTANTINE, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hanging a noose on my door reeks of cowardice and fear on many, many levels.

It's directed toward me individually, but I think, also, the community has been affected by it -- white students, students of color.

PHILLIPS: Since Jena, the noose has been displayed in more than a dozen cities around the country, placed deliberately for one reason -- to instill fear.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: At the end of the day, whatever you may know about the Klan or race relations in America, the noose means one thing -- it means death by hanging.

PHILLIPS: Mark Potok is a director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate crimes and hate groups.

POTOK: I'm not talking about people who are in the Klan or in a neo-Nazi group or who are waving Confederate flags or, in fact, participating in the noose incidents.

I'm talking about a much broader swathe of the white American public, largely Southern, who I think are very angry about Jena and what they see as a misportrayal of what happened in Jena.

PHILLIPS: In the living room of his small house in Atlanta, 75- year-old John Crawford knows, perhaps better than anyone in the country, the hatred that the noose stands for. His grandfather was lynched.

JOHN CRAWFORD, GRANDFATHER WAS LYNCHED: They threw him down the steps and out in the street. And that's where they gathered and began to, well, you say, beat him, cut him and everything else.

PHILLIPS: Crawford is talking about his grandfather, Anthony Crawford, a prosperous black farmer who owned nearly 500 acres of land and had $20,000 in the bank. In 1916, he was stabbed, shot and lynched in Abbeville, South Carolina. Anthony Crawford's crime? He argued with a white man over the price of cottonseed.

CRAWFORD: I heard they drove him through the street. They took him through the colored neighborhood, say, hey, you're a nigger here.

PHILLIPS: But lynchings in America were not just confined to blacks. Charles Commander Clay is an attorney in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta. Eighty years ago, his great-uncle took part in one of the most infamous lynchings in America, the execution of Leo Frank.

In 1913, Frank, the Jewish manager of a pencil factory, was convicted and sentenced to death for a murder and rape of a 13-year- old girl who had worked at his plant. Frank's sentence was commuted by Georgia's governor.

CHARLES COMMANDER CLAY, ATTORNEY: Folks then took matters into their own hands and went to the prison, took this unfortunate man out, Leo Frank, and executed him, in their mind, in accordance with the sentence imposed by the court. That doesn't make it right.

PHILLIPS: Over the years, there's been considerable evidence that Leo Frank was innocent. And, today, in Marietta, the only reminders of what happened to Leo Frank are these two tiny plaques on the corner of this nondescript office building by a busy freeway.

CLAY: If you walked out on the street of East or West Cobb today and asked somebody about Leo Frank, I suspect you wouldn't find one in 10 that could tell you what it was about.

PHILLIPS: The murders of Leo Frank and Anthony Crawford are not isolated events. From the end of the Civil War until 1981, more than 4,700 people have been lynched in America. More than two-thirds of them were black.

Up next: They're hard to look at, images from our past that we must confront.

ANNOUNCER: Of the 492 lynchings in Texas between 1882 and 1930, the most infamous was of Jesse Washington, an illiterate black 17- year-old farm hand.

Waco, Texas, May 15, 1916, Washington had just been convicted of raping and murdering 53-year-old Lucy Fryer when a white mob broke into the courtroom and dragged him out. Farms, schools and stores closed down, so that people could attend the lynching. Washington was doused in coal oil, hanged, castrated, his fingers chopped off. Then he was set ablaze. This act of savagery became known as the Waco horror.

Though lynching violated Texas law, not one member of the Waco mob was ever prosecuted.




PHILLIPS: God, this is just horrifying. He's been lynched and burned?

JAMES ALLEN, CURATOR: This is amazing. This is Sherman, Texas. And they wanted this man so badly, because he was a black criminal, in their minds.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): James Allen is a curator and author who leads a comfortable life along the Georgia coast. But he is also a man who will not let anyone forget about America's dark past. For more than three decades, Allen has amassed a one-of-a-kind collection of postcards and photographs of more than 300 lynchings.

(on camera): Why do you, a white man, even care about these lynching pictures?

ALLEN: Well, for me, the question would be the opposite. Why wouldn't any man care about these pictures? What is wrong? White Christian America somehow is desensitized to black pain. And that's what we need to find out, is how to correct that situation.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): For James Allen, each image is intensely personal.

ALLEN: I think, really, most painful for me -- and I have never talked about this -- but are the images where they have stripped the men nude. They are at your complete and total mercy. And this is constantly done to African-Americans.

PHILLIPS (on camera): You talk about these black men being stripped, whipped, lynched. Why does this make such an impact on you?

ALLEN: These are real people with lives and personalities and ambitions. They have families.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): For each of the almost 3,500 black Americans who were lynched, thousands more of their loved ones would bear lifelong scars.

ALLEN: And the problem is that violence is terribly uninstructive in America. We never seem to learn anything about racial violence. We commit the crimes; we forget them.

PHILLIPS: We forget, he says, about the horror that George Hughes endured in Sherman, Texas, in 1930.

ALLEN: I can't explain to you fully why people went to the extent that they did. Folks in the courthouse that would not surrender him put George Hughes in the vault, and escaped the courthouse. They burned it to the ground. And George Hughes was literally cooked.

PHILLIPS (on camera): And then they hung him from the tree?

ALLEN: It wasn't enough. They had to drag him through the street and hang him in the tree.

PHILLIPS: And thousands of people turned up to watch.

ALLEN: And burned him. They burned his corpse here at the tree.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): And we forget about the living nightmare of Lige Daniels in Center, Texas.

ALLEN: Lige Daniels is surrounded by white men and boys. This is an initiation for the next generation. Their fathers and grandfathers and their families want them to see what happens to a black person.

Well, Lige Daniels was accused of killing a white woman. The men broke him out of jail and hung him from this tree. And he was 16 years old.

PHILLIPS (on camera): Did they have proof that he did it?

ALLEN: No. Most likely. I don't know, because he never even had a day in court.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): And we forget, Allen says, about these nameless men murdered in tiny Watkinsville, Georgia, in 1905.

ALLEN: These men, I believe, were one of 10 or 11 men that were taken out of the Watkinsville, Georgia, jail at midnight, for no reason in particular. They took them not far to this fence, tied them up like dogs, like you see here, and a group of men just literally shot and killed them. They threw all these men to the same grave. So, within an hour of Atlanta is a mass grave.

PHILLIPS: Jim Allen wrote a book about all of this, "Without Sanctuary." And while his postcards and photos go on exhibit from time to time, the collection resides here.

ALLEN: The first thing we realized was that these men that were being killed had no identities. These were brutes. These were niggers. And, so, there became this drive to give these people names. Who are these people? I want to give them their name back. These are all crimes that are still waiting for their day in court. And they will never go away.

PHILLIPS: The horrors of the noose.

CHARLES HICKMAN, VICTIM: I walked to the door. That's when they grabbed me, put the noose around my neck, and started choking me with it.

PHILLIPS: Charles Hickman's nightmare -- when we come back.

ANNOUNCER: Duluth, Minnesota, June 15, 1920, three black circus workers accused of raping and killing a young white girl were seized from the police station.

A crowd watched as Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie were strung up on Duluth's main street. After the hangings, rumors quickly spread that 14 other African-Americans in the jail were also involved in the attack on the young woman.

Minnesota's governor, Joseph Burnquist, fearing more violence, summoned the National Guard to restore order. Because the hangings happened in Minnesota, a Northern state, much of the country was shocked. And it was later discovered that the young girl was not only alive, but had never been raped.




HICKMAN: I'm struggling, trying to get free. I was about out of it. I couldn't breathe. I just was almost choked out.

PHILLIPS: Charles Hickman is now 39 years old. But he thought that day, October 17, 2002, would be his last.

Charles Hickman was raised by his father, Joe, who taught him to treat people the way he wants to be treated.

JOE HICKMAN, FATHER OF CHARLES HICKMAN: A person is not responsible for what color they are, you know? I have always taught all of my kids that.

PHILLIPS: In 2002, Charles found work as a sandblaster at CCSI, Commercial Coating Services, in Conroe, Texas.

C. HICKMAN: From day one, it started out like any other job, try to get in there and get to know people, get the feel of the job.

PHILLIPS: He was the only black person among 100 employees.

C. HICKMAN: The second day I worked there, I started getting harassed. They would call me nigger. They would call me puto (ph), chongo (ph).

PHILLIPS: Co-workers, even supervisors, joined in the harassment. But, in the fall of 2002, the abuse took a dangerous turn.

RUDY SUSTAITA, ATTORNEY: Someone decided that they were going to create a noose and then hang it up in the warehouse, in full display for everyone to see.

PHILLIPS: Rudy Sustaita is the attorney at the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in Houston.

SUSTAITA: And it was made of a very yellow, vibrant color, nylon.

C. HICKMAN: It was there like for a couple days that I noticed. And then it wasn't there anymore.

PHILLIPS: That day was October 17, 2002.

Attorney Charles Peckham describes what happened to his client in the noisy factory.

CHARLES PECKHAM, ATTORNEY FOR HICKMAN: One of his co-workers walked by him with the noose. And, of course, it was loud. So, Charles really couldn't hear what was said. But he was holding the noose and was pointing at Charles and laughing.

PHILLIPS: Near the end of Charles' shift, his supervisor told him that someone was looking for him and was in the bathroom.

C. HICKMAN: I walked through the door. That's when they grabbed me, put the noose around my neck, and started choking me, choking me with it.

PHILLIPS: The man who actually brandished the noose, a white co- worker, was John Wrublewski.

C. HICKMAN: Once it got around my neck, it tightened. That's when everybody was coming in. And they was just -- really weren't trying to do anything to help. They were just standing there, watching.

PHILLIPS: Wrublewski and the others left him for gasping for breath on the bathroom floor.

C. HICKMAN: All I know is, something happened. And I was spitting up blood quite a bit, just -- just -- so, no one tried to help, nothing.

PHILLIPS: He felt defeated and destroyed, but Charles Hickman went back to work.

PECKHAM: He has five kids and a wife. He has got a family to support, and so he continued working there.

J. HICKMAN: I was taking his wife to work. She said, they hung Charles on the job. I said, they who hung him? She said, them white people hung him. I said, them white folks hung that boy? She said, yes. I said, where he at now? He gone to work.

PHILLIPS: Joe Hickman turned around and went to get his son.

J. HICKMAN: You spend your whole life raising a family up, trying to teach them the right thing, and then you got some idiot that would come and do something like that, and it devastated the whole family.

PHILLIPS: Together, father and son pressed charges.

Kevin Pullum (ph), a lieutenant with the Texas Rangers, began interviewing witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They knew that Mr. Wrublewski had the noose, and had taken it into the bathroom, and that Mr. Hickman had entered the bathroom a short time later. And, out of concern, one or more of those people entered the bathroom to check and saw that the event was occurring.

PHILLIPS: Pullum also took a sworn statement from Wrublewski, who had been fired a week after the noose attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did say that, he guessed, you know, it probably -- it could have been considered racially motivated, he said, because it wouldn't have had the same effect had he placed the noose on a white person's neck.

PHILLIPS: Wrublewski, on parole for a prior felony conviction, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault. He served nine months.

Meanwhile, Charles Hickman asked the EEOC to sue on his behalf.

PECKHAM: His supervisor, when he was clocking in, told him something to the effect that they were going to take him out in the woods and bury him up to his neck.

PHILLIPS: Once again, John Wrublewski would have to explain why he put a hangman's noose around a black man's neck.

JOHN WRUBLEWSKI, DEFENDANT: I figured, you know, he has got a real cool personal demeanor and stuff like that. So, I was like, just that one time, I was like, I'm going to (INAUDIBLE) fun with him, too. And I just -- I didn't think about it.

SUSTAITA: It takes on the connotation of lynching, and just the worst form of discrimination, racism, violence, and anger, and hatred.

PHILLIPS: Facing a substantial civil judgment, the owners of CCSI sold the company. In March 2006, the new owners settled with Hickman and the EEOC for a record $1 million.

PECKHAM: The company was also to plant a tree on their premises with a plaque that said "Charles Hickman, Dedicated Employee."

PHILLIPS: CCSI failed to comment about the case.

Charles Hickman hasn't worked since the attack.

C. HICKMAN: I think about it every day, every day, because it should have never happened. But it happened. And you can't turn that back.

PHILLIPS: Up next...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A swastika drawn on the door.

PHILLIPS: ... behind the scenes with a hate crimes detective.

ANNOUNCER: Shubuta, Mississippi, October 12, 1942, the bodies of two black 14-year-olds lay on the ground. The noose is still around their necks.

After confessing to the attempted rape of a 13-year-old white girl, Charles Lang and Ernest Green were dragged from jail and hanged from a railroad bridge.

U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle ordered the FBI to investigate the lynchings, promising a relentless prosecution. No one was ever convicted.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello in Washington. Back to "The Noose: An American Nightmare" in just a minute. Here's what's in the news right now.

Tropical storm Noel has just been upgraded to a hurricane with 75-mile per hour winds. The storm lunged in the Bahamas and Cuba today after battering Haiti and the Dominican Republic earlier in the week. So far, Noel has killed 108 people making it the deadliest storm this season.

President Bush accuses Congress of stalling on three fronts in the fight to prevent terrorism at home. Today, the president urged Congress to approve his attorney general nominee, passed a wire- tapping law, and speed up approval of a war spending bill.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is no time for Congress to weaken the Department of Justice by denying a strong and effective leader. There's no time for Congress to weaken our ability to gather vital intelligence from captured terrorists.

There's no time for Congress to weaken our ability to intercept information from terrorists about potential attacks on the United States of America. This is no time for Congress to hold back vital funding for our troops.


COSTELLO: The president also compared Democratic leaders to those who ignored the rise of Hitler and Lenin.

The man who piloted the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died. Paul Tibbets was a 30-year old colonel when he commanded the mission near the end of World War Two. Tibbets died at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92 years old.

I'm Carol Costello. Now, back to "The Noose: An American Nightmare."

ANNOUNCER: CNN's Special Investigations Unit, "The Noose: An American Nightmare". Kyra Phillips reporting.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): On Tuesday morning, October 9th, a noose is discovered hanging on the door of a black professor here at Columbia University in New York City. Word spreads. Protesters take to the streets. An investigation begins, and the media shines the spotlight.

Versions of this have happened dozens of times over the past few months which has us asking, how do you investigate hate? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a noose found in the men's locker room of the Hempstead Police Department.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): On September 28, Corey Pegues, the president of a black law enforcement group became enraged after learning about a noose hanging in this small Hempstead New York police station. He immediately let the local press know.

COREY PEGUES, PRESIDENT, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT GROUP: Just look at this, what this represents. When I hold this up, when I see this, I think of my ancestors hanging off trees.

We're appalled that in 2007, someone has the audacity to put a noose in a police department where people are sworn to protect and serve.

PHILLIPS: Hempstead deputy police chief Willie Dixon believes he was the target of someone's hate and ignorance.

WILLIE DIXON, HEMPSTEAD DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF: A noose, in my mind, represents the darkest periods in this country's history. And it wasn't enough to lynch an African-American. He would castrate him to add insult to injury. And after the lifeless body was hanging from a tree, he would then set that individual on fire.

PHILLIPS: The events set off a whirlwind of activity for Dixon's boss, Chief Joe Wing.

CHIEF JOE WING, CHIEF OF HEMPSTEAD POLICE DEPARTMENT: Within 24 hours, I spoke to a member of the FBI. In the pursuing days and weeks, I had to deal with the media and media relations.

And very important, I had to deal with the morale of the officers, the morale of the department, because this is one act, and I believe it was one individual. But it had such an adverse impact on all of the officers.

PHILLIPS: Now that the initial frenzy has died down, the investigation proceeds beneath the radar of the media. A process, detective sergeant Gary Shapiro of the nearby Nassau County Police Department, knows well.

He's not involved in the Hempstead case, but he's investigated hate crimes for 12 years.

GARY SHAPIRO, DETECTIVE SERGEANT, NASSAU COUNTY: What I have here are some photos from a synagogue which was damaged on the north shore of Nassau County.

There was some anti-Semitic graffiti. At the synagogue, there were swastikas and some derogatory words. And based on the fact that certain symbolism was used, this was considered a hate crime.

PHILLIPS: Two young men have been arrested for that crime.

SHAPIRO: That symbolism is a very powerful thing, whether you're dealing with the swastika or a noose or KKK in graffiti. Somebody painted the Klan standing around a figure that's hung from a hangman's noose. These are years and years worth of copulation.

What was the motivation? Why was it done? We take it very seriously up here and, you know, we do the best we can with it.

PHILLIPS: It's a hate crime when a person or his property is targeted because of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. For example --

SHAPIRO: If there in the investigation it's found, the attack occurred because of an argument over a parking spot, a derogatory language was used, that is not a hate crime.

But during the investigation if it's found that during the course of that argument, one assaulted the other because of a dislike for that particular or hate for that particular person or their group and that's why they assaulted them, then that is a hate crime.

PHILLIPS: There are federal hate crime statutes, and nearly every state has its own hate crime laws. New York's law was recently changed, so it's now a felony to put a swastika on someone's property or to burn a cross in public view. Nooses were not added.

SHAPIRO: More graffiti and damage to the windows was found along this wall right here.

PHILLIPS: On the day we met Detective Shapiro, two nooses were found in his jurisdiction. One of them, a doll with black tar on its face. Shapiro believes that noose hanging will eventually be included in New York hate crime law and Corey Pegues is working hard to make that happen sooner rather than later.

PEGUES: We want federal legislation. The hanging of a noose should be a hate crime. Just look at this picture. Imagine this around my neck. This is not a game. This is serious. We're talking about human lives.

We don't take this as a joke. And we want it to stop across America, now.

PHILLIPS: When we return, Hal Turner doesn't see the noose as a joke either. He says it's an important symbol of white justice.

Danielsville, Georgia, April 28, 1936, in an effort to protect accused rapist Lynn Shaw from an angry white mob, the National Guard was called to escort him to Atlanta. Shaw had slipped the noose but only briefly.

One week later, his body was found swinging from a pine tree in a creek bed. Lynn Shaw was the 468th African-American lynched in Georgia.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS (voice-over): He's a man with a message, trying to appeal to our very worst instincts.

HAL TURNER, RADIO TALK-SHOW HOST: No more savage black crimes.

PHILLIPS: Hal Turner markets his message of hatred at white supremacist rallies and on his Internet radio show.


TURNER: Welcome to the Hal Turner show.


TURNER: I say publicly what most folks already know and think but dared to do so only in private. My radio show is the only radio show in America, where people could call up and say whatever they want about racial issues.

PHILLIPS: Turner is the latest in a long list of extremists who have played to fear an ignorance. People like David Duke, formerly of the Ku Klux Klan.

CROWD: White revolution?

PHILLIPS: Tom Metzger, a neo-Nazi.

TOM METZGER, NEO-NAZI: We're racists and we make no apology for it.

PHILLIPS: George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American- Nazi party.




PHILLIPS: And Father Charles Coughlin, who in the 1930s used the airways to preach anti-semitism and fascism.


FATHER CHARLES COUGHLIN, PREACHED ANTI-SEMITISM & FASCISM: Drive the money changers from the temple and you did it.


PHILLIPS: They have laid the ground work for Turner and his contemporaries. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks violent extremist groups.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Hal Turner is, first of all, a straight-up neo-Nazi. He's kind of a soul ideologue, but he is very much the violent public face of the white supremacists movement.

It's difficult for me to believe that any relatively sane person could listen to Hal Turner and think anything but the man is a maniac. Listen to what he's actually proposing.

PHILLIPS: You might be wondering why we'd even give Turner the publicity. We asked ourselves that question, and we asked Mark Potok.

POTOK: When you get a guy like Hal Turner, who is out there in public, who is spouting his incredible vitriol, you know, it's actually preferable or at least it could seem preferable to have him where you know where he is.

You know what he's doing. You can see the effect he's having or not having on the movement. Then God forbid, you know, running around in dark alleys and planning something that really could leave people hurt, seriously dead.

PHILLIPS: And so I sat down face to face with Hal Turner.

PHILLIPS (on camera): Who is Hal Turner?

TURNER: A talk-radio host from metropolitan New York City that smashes political correctness every Wednesday night.

PHILLIPS: Come on, now, you're a little more abrasive than that.

TURNER: Oh, sure, I have to be because political correctness in America today is a fanatical ideology, and it requires fanatical ways of punching through it. A lot of people call it hate, racism, bigotry.


TURNER: Brown-skinned animals.


PHILLIPS (voice-over): Turner said his racist beliefs were born when Republican voters in New Jersey passed him over as a Congressional candidate in favor of a Latino woman.


TURNER: I'm being discriminated against because I'm white.


PHILLIPS (on camera): So you're bitter?

TURNER: I am offended that the culture that developed and built and paid for this country is now being put at the back of the bus, so to speak. Because for some reason or another, all these lower cultures and lower races are more important, and I find that disgusting.


TURNER: So the choice is yours, blacks. Are you going to rein in your young hoodlums or are you going to radio (INAUDIBLE) or are you going to find them swinging from a rope?


PHILLIPS: Turner's become a master at knowing how far he can push the envelope.

POTOK: Turner is very aware of precisely where the first amendment ends. So that, you know, he can say things like, it would be a good thing. Wouldn't it be nice if some judges, some more judges were murdered. But he's quite careful as a general matter, not to say "kill that judge."

PHILLIPS: It's no surprise that virtually all hate groups have become masters of the Internet, although we have no way of knowing how many or how few people Turner actually reaches.

POTOK: They figured they could finally get past the editors of the "New York Times, the producers at CNN. They could go right to the people.

PHILLIPS: Going right to the people is exactly what Turner did with our interview. When he talked about it on his Web site and where you'll also find this, a Jena six style hangman's noose for sale.

TURNER: It's a cute little figure (ph). You couldn't hurt a fly with this. But the point I'm trying to make is, this is a simple way for white people to say they are fed up with black crime.

PHILLIPS (on camera): Do you know what those nooses mean to African-Americans?

TURNER: I have no clue.

PHILLIPS: Do you care? Do you care what it means to an African- American?

TURNER: No, I'm tired of caring about what things mean to different people of different races.

PHILLIPS: Doesn't a noose symbolize hate, bigotry, division?

TURNER: Justice.

PHILLIPS: What do you mean, justice?

TURNER: That's what a noose symbolizes, justice. Rapists, justice. Child molesters, justice.

PHILLIPS: You're saying this is not a symbol for the way black people were treated years and years ago.

TURNER: Maybe they deserved it, and I don't care. This is a symbol of justice, and you're going to see a lot more of this in the United States.

PHILLIPS: When we return -- he was a racist who shared Hal Turner's beliefs, but not anymore.

ANNOUNCER: Okemah, Oklahoma, May 25th, 1911. Black men weren't the only victims of the noose. Laura Nelson and her 15-year-old son L.W. (ph) were hanged from a newly constructed bridge.

Nelson was accused of murdering a deputy sheriff after he discovered stolen goods in her home. They were dragged six miles to the Canadian river and lynched, but not before Laura was raped by some in the mob. Like so many lynchings at the time, there was no investigation of these murders.


QUAY HANNA, FOUNDER OF QUAY'S CLUB: Remember, we're talking about how these two guys had hung nooses off the back of their truck and they had gone --

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Welcome to Quay's club.

HUNTER MCBRIDE, QUAY'S CLUB MEMBER: I don't really think they knew what kind of racial stigma it had behind it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They knew it was even though they were 12.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last time that we met --

PHILLIPS: It's a discussion group about race at Penn Manor High School in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

NATE IRWIN, QUAY'S CLUB MEMBER: They were showing a threat to people of different race, because they don't like them. That's got to be as simple as it can be.

PHILLIPS: Today, the conversation is about the young men arrested right after the huge protest in Jena, Louisiana, for hanging two nooses from a pickup truck.

HANNA: We've got black and Puerto Rican. We've got a full- blooded southerner. We've got just our local home grown rednecks including myself.

PHILLIPS: The group leader is 37-year-old Quay Hanna, a self- proclaimed redneck and former racist who changed his views 15 years ago during a bus ride across America.

He grew up in this mostly white, largely agricultural county. Today, he believes students can change their minds about hate and racist symbols.

PHILLIPS (on camera): What changes them?

HANNA: Well, again, they become confronted with what they've always thought was true. They're confronted with what seems to be the case and then suddenly, it throws everything out of whack.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Quay remembers one student, a skin head, who sat through weekly club meetings for three years but never said a word.

HANNA: I have a book that all my students sign when they're leaving. In there, he said, I never thought anyone could change my mind about racism but you seem to do that.

PHILLIPS: After one club meeting, I sat down with some members. Nate Irwin (ph), the self-proclaimed country boy. Hunter McBride, who grew up in the south and wants to teach history. Amber Kitch, the ex- city girl, who now lives in the country. And Elaine Odiambo (ph), originally from Kenya.

PHILLIPS (on camera): How has this club made an impact on your life?

ELAINE ODIAMBO, QUAY CLUB MEMBER: I used to see (INAUDIBLE) and him and think that they're criminals --

PHILLIP: People like Nate, the country boy.

ODIAMBO (ph): Yes, the country boys, the rednecks or whatever, and think they're really racist.

PHILLIPS: So Nate, Elaine stereotyped you. Did you stereotype Elaine because she was black?

NATE IRWIN (ph), QUAY'S CLUB MEMBER: No, I did not, due to the fact that this club has been a big intrical part of my life. Eighth grade, Quay caught us.

You know, there were a few minority students in our middle school. And it got to the point where we were just being mean to this people on principle, and he nipped it in the bud.

PHILLIPS: You were a bit racist.

IRWIN: I admit, yes, in middle school. I do agree.

PHILLIPS: When you saw what was happening in Jena, Louisiana, did you sit back and think, oh, my gosh. That's how I was?

IRWIN: That's how I used to be. Not because I just didn't just stumble upon this mentality, I was immersed in it.

PHILLIPS: Could a noose ever be used as a prank?

MCBRIDE: I don't think the noose could be used as a prank just because of the stigma behind it. You know, a lot of people know that it was used in lynchings. And there was a lot of lynchings that occurred all throughout the United States.

PHILLIPS: Amber, when you think of a noose or you see a noose, what comes to mind? AMBER KITCH, QUAY'S CLUB MEMBER: Every time you think of a noose, you automatically think of someone being hung. And most likely, it always leads to death.

PHILLIPS ((voice-over): In Pennsylvania, what students learn about slavery, lynchings, and the segregated south is largely left to the individual school districts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day, after you learn about these lynching and hangings and all kinds of these prejudice things, it's just another fact in the text book.

People don't really think about it much. So in my opinion, it is pretty easy for people to just shove it off and say, you know what, that happened in the 1800s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TEACHER: This is where racism begins in America.

PHILLIPS: But 70 miles east, the Philadelphia school district teaches black history in a way that's hard to shove off. An African- American history class is mandatory for graduation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TEACHER: So if the mother is a slave, the children will be slaves.

PHILLIPS: It's a unique curriculum covering the great work of Ida B. Wells, the anti-lynching crusader and the story of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955, for simply talking to a white woman.

Teachers may also use Jim Allen's remarkable resource, "Without Sanctuary." It's a collection of photographs and postcards from America's dark past.

HANNA: Before I say anything else, I want to let you know that yesterday I was at Warwick. .

PHILLIPS: And Quay Hanna is now a remarkable resource for students at another Lancaster County school.

HANNA: It was tense. I felt tense going in there.

PHILLIPS: He's working at Warwick High School, where students reportedly threatened to bring in guns after an incident in early October.

About 12 students known for wearing confederate flags, threw paper balls and hard candies at a small group of minority students, including Eric Chora (ph).

ERIC CHORA (ph), MINORITY STUDENT: And I call f.u. nigger and stuff like that. Like niggers these days are too loud and outspoken.

HANNA: It was a great assembly. I was pumped up. I was cranking. PHILLIPS: Quay Hanna held an all-school assembly and has spoken separately with the students involved in the skirmish. He's hopeful, but it's an uphill battle.

CHORA: I think that was stupid because, I think, how are you going to bring in a former racist to teach other kids, rednecks, kids that are racist to be good. They are not going to listen to them.

PHILLIPS: They might. Others have before.

HANNA: What I do is come in, and I say, I will build with who is willing to build. So if that's the students of color, I will build from there. If that's the students from poor white America, I will build from there.

If that's people who are unrelated to that incident from outside, then I'll build from there.

PHILLIPS (on camera): In this remarkably diverse nation of 300 million people, are two dozen nooses cause for concern? And in a country that cherishes freedom of speech for everyone, should we sound an alarm over one voice of hate like Hal Turner?

Well, most of those responsible for hanging those nooses will never be identified. What we do know, is that as America's dark history recedes further into the past, it's more important than ever that young people understand the horrors of the noose.

I'm Kyra Phillips.