You can read a whole lot about Lena Baker here at Wikipedia, but let me tell you the story from my point of view.
Lena is the only lady electrocuted by the state of Georgia. She was also unconditionally pardoned by the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board in 2005…60 full years after she died.
In the 40s, Lena was living with and working for a mean ol’ white man in Cuthbert Georgia. They had an arrangement worked out. He would keep her supplied with whiskey and she would keep him supplied with, well, companionship.
One night he came home drunk intending to rape Lena Baker. She took the gun from him and shot and killed him in self-defense. Then she walked to town to let the Sheriff know what had happened.
Lena was tried by an all-white, all-male jury and found guilty. Since there was no women’s jail in Cuthbert at the time, she was held in the courthouse clock tower until she could be transported to Reidsville where the state’s electric chair was kept.
After she was electrocuted, her body was returned to Cuthbert and she was buried in a back corner of the cemetary at Mt Vernon Baptist Church. That’s where Elizabeth and I went yesterday.
So why am I writing about this today. I’m not sure. But somehow and someway the wrong that was done to this lady has gotten under my skin. I can’t shake it. She was a human…imperfect yes…just like we’re all imperfect…but she was still a human. Somehow and someway the people that sat in judgement of her looked at the color of her skin and forgot that she was human.
She had hopes for the future. She had dreams of what could be. Yah, she probably also had fears of what might happen. But she was still a human being and had every right to be treated with the honor and respect due any human being.
As I look around me today, it seems like there’s still alot of people that are being abused and used only because of the color of their skin. I’m not sure the racism that took Lena Baker’s life is gone today…I think it’s just gotten more “polished” and gone underground some.
If you’re ever in Cuthbert, drive a little ways out of town to Mt Vernon Baptist Church. Take a stroll through the cemetary to a spot in the back left corner and pause at the grave that is Lena Baker’s. Then reflect on how you can make the corner of the world that you occupy just a little better.