Last month, I spoke to M.C. Robinson, a suburban elected official who migrated to Chicago from the South several decades ago. While standing outside of a polling place, he spoke about the moment when as a child in the South he witnessed what turned out to have been the scene of a lynching. The truth of that moment, however, unfolded gradually.
I came from Arkansas. I saw my first lynching or a place where a lynching was when I was 9 years old. My mother was taking me fishing with her and I was trying to figure out why anybody would build a fire around a telegram pole. I saw the sling up there, but you know, being 9 years old, you don't know why a sling would be hanging down from a telegram pole. The fire had charred the pole.
So I asked my mother. My mother said, 'You don't need to know that.'
I came to Chicago when I was about 27 years old. Back then, my thinking was, 'I'm a boy from Down South, I got to be a little better than the average guy.' So I look in the newspaper and see how much these tool and die people made. I said, 'Boy that's a lot of money.'
At the time, I didn't know the skill that went into that, so I went to trade school — American Institute of Engineering and Technology on Racine and Fullerton. I went there for two years. When I graduated, I went to work for FMC Link-Belt, where I took a four-year apprenticeship.
When I went back Down South, I was thinking about [the lynching place]. I asked my mom. I said, 'Mom, was that a lynching?' She said, 'Yeah.' She said, 'C' (she called me 'C'), you were having trouble sleeping as it is.' She said, 'If I had a told you that …'
See, I used to have these reoccurring nightmares. [I would dream] of guys like the Ku Klux Klan coming and taking my brother out and I'm screaming and hollering and they dragging him out. This was way before Emmett Till, you know.
Answer Book 2017
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