The Murder of James Earl Green
from Jackson Chapter 10-7
James Earl Green had been walking home from his after-school job sacking groceries at the Rag-a-Bag when he had heard loud noises like there was a party going on. James had the face of a charmer. Smiling always came easy to him, even though he didn’t have a lot of spare time for the kinds of things in life that made you smile. After school, he worked at the grocery store six days a week till 10 at night. He gave his 12 dollar a week salary to his mother to help care for his younger brothers and sisters since his dad had left.
His youthful curiosity must have caused him to alter his route that mid-May night so he could see what all the fuss was about. It seemed to be coming from the college, Jackson State. He was going to be one of them soon, one of the college kids. That idea made him swell up with pride. James had big plans. He had been working hard at Jim Hill High School to make his vision become a reality. He was going to apply to UCLA way out in Los Angeles, California. People would smile at him and kind of roll their eyes when he’d tell them, but he was going to school there. Just like when he ran the mile and won, he was going the distance. They would see. They would all see.
It was right before midnight. He looked at the other people in the crowd and asked somebody what was going on. The guy just shrugged. A line of blue-helmeted armed officers faced the crowd at a standoff. Some of the girls up in the dormitory were looking down from the high windows. A coke bottle fell off and hit the ground with a pop. The police opened fire as the crowd parted and tried to run away.
Everybody started to scatter right and left in front of the dining hall. James began to run, too. He could run fast. He was a star miler at Jim Hill. Everybody always said he was the best runner on the track team. ‘Most often, he won,’ they all said. For some reason, his feet wouldn’t move. All the other people were taking off, yet, he just stood there, frozen in his spot. He felt cold and that’s when he looked down and saw the blood. It was spreading all over the pavement. It was his blood. That was his final thought when he looked up at the sky for the last time. James Green, unarmed and only seventeen years old, had been shot to death with a shotgun.
The newspaper published one photograph of James Green. When I saw it, I felt like the wind got knocked out of me. It was the same boy I’d seen turned away that day with Grace at the Downtown Sweets restaurant in Jackson. Remembering that hurt almost worse than the other news. It was that kind of hate that caused it in the first place. All they wanted, that young couple, was to be treated like other people. And, the three of us had sat and watched it in silence.