April 13- Day 44 of Lent

OPENING PRAYER: A PRAYER FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY (Revised Common Lectionary, 2002)

Eternal God, in the sharing of a meal
your son established a new covenant for all people,
and in the washing of feet
he showed us the dignity of service.
Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit
these signs of our life in faith
may speak again to our hearts,
feed our spirits, and refresh our bodies.

Make us ever more like your Son,
whose self-giving love inaugurates a new order
marked by love, peace, and justice.

Amen.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: APRIL 13, 1873

Colfax Massacre in Grant Parish, Louisiana

Trigger Warning: This post details acts of mob violence.

One of the largest racial massacres in U.S. history occurred on Easter Sunday of 1873. On that day, white, Southern, Democrats, who had grown increasingly threatened by recently freed African Americans, stormed the Grant Parish courthouse armed with rifles and a small cannon. In the wake of losing a contested election, the white mob decided to take matters into their own hands by murdering black Republican freedmen and state militia (also black) on their way to the state courthouse.

Upon arriving at the courthouse, they found 60 more African Americans surrounding the building, trying to protect it and defend the democratic process. The mob was enraged because they were not use to African Americans having the power of the ballot, and they could not accept the fact that their candidate John McEnery, an ardent white supremacist, lost. The mob of more than 300 armed white men attacked the 60 black men, firing a cannon at the courthouse. When the cannon discharged, many of the African American defenders fled, and others surrendered after the courthouse was set on fire by the white lynch mob. However, the mob pursued and shot the unarmed African American men who attempted to flee, and killed 37 of the men who surrendered execution style. In the end, three white men and 150 black people were killed.

This was, in the words of historian Eric Foner, “the bloodiest single act of carnage in all of Reconstruction,” yet the Supreme Court eventually held that the federal government had no power to protect the newly freed slaves from outright murder, even though the State of Louisiana had done nothing to redress these brutal murders. Federal prosecutors indicted a hundred members of the mob under the Enforcement Act of 1870, a Reconstruction-era law intended to protect newly freed black voters from the Ku Klux Klan. Yet only three defendants were convicted, and they were all freed on appeals when the United States Supreme Court dismissed the charges against them.

Several years later, the Supreme Court case The United States. V. Cruikshank grew out of the Colfax massacre, and severely limited the power of the federal government in protecting the rights of newly freed slaves. Although the right of protection clauses in the 14th Amendment required Congress to secure the right of  civil and criminal protection for all citizens, the Supreme Court ruled in Cruikshank that the Fourteenth Amendment only protected African Americans against intentionally discriminatory acts by government officials, not the acts of individual citizens. This made African American citizens vulnerable to racially-motivated violence, especially at the hands of white terrorist groups intent on restoring whites’ racial dominance in the South. It also set precedent for severe hindrances in the upholding of the Civil War amendments – the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments- which were specifically ratified to protect the rights of freed blacks in the face of daily “acts of cruelty, oppression, and murder.”

The Constitutional Accountability Center later said that The United States. V. Cruikshank was “one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history.”

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: AMOS 5:6-7, 10-12

 “Seek the Lord and live,
    or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;
it will devour them,
    and Bethel will have no one to quench it.

There are those who turn justice into bitterness
    and cast righteousness to the ground…

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
    and detest the one who tells the truth.

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
    and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
    you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
    you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
    and how great your sins.”

RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day44

You may close with the following:

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

CLOSING PRAYER: A Prayer at Westminster Abbey (James Theodore Holly, 1878)

“O Jesus, son of the Living God; who, when Thou wast spurned and rejected and delivered in the hands of sinful men, by the Jews, of the race of Shem; and who, when Thou wast mocked and cruelly ill treated by Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers, of the race of Japheth; hadst Thy ponderous cross borne to the summit of Golgotha on the stalwart shoulders of Simon of Cyrene, of the race of Ham; remember this poor, forlorn, and despised people when Thou art come into Thy kingdom. And give me, not a place at Thy right, nor at Thy left, but as a door keeper, that I am see the redeemed of my race sweeping into the new Jerusalem, with the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Amen.

From Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans

 

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